Heading northbound on I-5 a few days ago, heading back home from San Diego, I was thinking as I looked around at creation. I saw trees and mountains and the sky and all kinds of beautiful formations of color and matter, yet my mind was thinking about something else. I was stewing inside, soaking in the Person of Christ. It was a very particular way -not just a general, "Ooooh. Isn't Jesus great?!" I was reflecting upon my role as a husband, head of household, and father. It is a difficult role -one I struggle with. But then I began to reflect upon Christ, the Head, the Husband of the Bride, the Head of His people, the Priest, the King. I caught a glimpse of some things, of His majesty, of His humility, His grace...
See, in particular I was still cooling down from an argument with my wife. I was feeling hurt and disrespected, especially in front of the children. "She does not respect me," I dripped. "How can I get her to respect me?" Then I saw in my mind's eye the Lord Jesus. I saw Him being reviled, being disrespected, being treated as dirt, yet being Lord of the universe, being King of Kings. I saw Him not reviling back, not complaining that people do not treat Him as they ought, but instead entrusting Himself to the Father all the more. Suddenly, it was like rays of heaven were streaming down. They were penetrating my bitterness and exposing sin. It was then that I wrote this:
"It is not just that I recognize sin in myself. It is that the sin is
shown to be cheap and ugly because righteousness strikes me as being supremely
beautiful and desirable. I think this is what repentance is. This is
an act of God."
This is repentance. It is an awesome thing -a change of mind, a change of heart. I am seeing very clearly how specific it is, also. One can be convinced that something is bad in a general sense, but being convinced in particular detail about what is bad about it because that which is right and good and pure and holy shows itself in brilliance to our souls -as being lovely and Christ-exalting and beautiful and desirable- is something different. The radiance of this light shows the blackness of the sin to be ugly and dirty and worthless and undesirable.
I know it is an act of God. The Word of God tells us this, and my experience tells me as well. It is God applying His Word in a special way. I wish I could grasp the secret operation of the Spirit of God, but all I can do is see it witnessed to in the Scriptures, see the fruit of it in the lives of other brothers and sisters in Christ, and experience it in my own life.
This brings to the forefront a few things about repentance: 1) it is an act of God upon the soul -not a thing man decides about, 2) it is always in reference to something specific, and 3) it is borne through content -information reaching the mind and then the heart. It may be through hearing the Word proclaimed or remembering it, but it always involves the Spirit of God applying the truth of God.
There is something very sweet about repentance that I cannot put my finger upon. That may seem strange because we often think of repentance in the context of judgment. When people are commanded to "repent!", it is normally in the context of our sin and failure against a Holy God. What I mean about repentance being sweet is that what we are turned to is always sweet to the taste and glorious over the soul. That holiness that emanates from God, the specific "right thing" revealed to us has a sweet aroma. In that moment we lay prostrate before God, yet what we see that is right that shows us as being so wrong is just too glorious to not bring us to exult in God and praise and worship Him. How or why this happens I do not know. Perhaps it is because there is also the apprehension of mercy, that we shall not be condemned. The specific reason is a mystery to me right now. Maybe some day I will grasp it, but for now I can just admire the splendor.