I could only imagine the dancing, laughter, and shouts of joy heard throughout heaven the day I surrendered my life to Christ. But I also thought I heard one of the angels say, “Finally!” I let my stubborn self linger in my old life way too long before I asked for forgiveness and turned the reigns of my life over to the only One who knew how to lead me on the right path and soothe all my hurts.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines repentance as “the deeply seated and thorough turning from self to God” (Brand, 2015). Furthermore, it is an experience in which we recognize God as the most critical factor in our existence. This came for me when I hit rock bottom in what some might call the worst year of my life, and rightly so. But I can now see the good God brought out of it and am grateful for the wake-up call it ignited inside my soul. It was the worst and best year of my life.
The act of repentance and forgiveness of sins wipes the slate clean to begin afresh. The first time we accept Christ and allow God to take control of our lives, the weight is lifted, and indescribable freedom ensues. Luke tells us there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than the ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance or are best understood as those who think they don’t need to repent (Luke 15:7, ESV). Repentance is not just for unbelievers or a one-time coming to Jesus moment. For believers, it is a daily conformity to the will of God where we must constantly engage in self-examination and allow the Holy Spirit to point out where we need to change to make more room for Him in our hearts.
I believed in God and Jesus; I was baptized when I was nine but didn’t know how to put Christ first in my life or that a relationship was possible. It is not about religion and checking off boxes; it is about an intimate relationship that is only possible by the grace that comes through the blood of Christ Jesus. Through this relationship, I experienced complete healing from all my past hurts and had hope for the first time. When I tried to control my life, it was a complete shamble. But God…
Justification is an act that happens in a moment, but sanctification is the ongoing process and work of God’s free grace. Our goal as saved sinners is to become like Jesus in every way (Romans 8:2, ESV). If we are on this earth, we are still sinners needing repentance. The sanctification process continues until we die; then, we will be made entirely in the image of Christ. The sanctification process begins the moment we receive Christ. If the Holy Spirit is within us, we have the assurance that Christ’s atoning work will continue to intercede for us.
We are forgiven forever by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, and He intervenes for us to the Father on our behalf. But this does not mean we can or should continue in sin. As Paul writes, this is not an excuse to continue sinning. We were buried to death in baptism just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father so that we too will walk in newness of life, set free from the enslavement of sin (Romans 6:1-4, ESV). It may seem like hard work to give up the things of comfort and our old habits, but our suffering, in this way, produces endurance, which builds character, and character strengthens our confident hope for salvation (Romans 5:4, ESV).
I was a mess when I came to Christ. I didn’t need to wait until I cleaned myself up; there was not enough soap in this world to do that. But once I surrendered everything to God, the Holy Spirit helped me by changing my heart and shaping my character.
This verse has become my daily prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10, ESV emphasis added). I also pray for God to reveal any areas in my life that I need to change so I can walk in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:25, ESV) and align myself with His will. Working on my relationship with God improves all my other relationships and is the best decision I have ever made.
Do you have an intimate relationship with your heavenly Father? What are you waiting for? To conform our lives to Christ and put away our old selves can seem challenging, and we put it off because we aren’t ready for the change that will occur. I know because I put it off, and at one time, I wouldn’t even take the abusive relationship to God in prayer because I wasn’t ready for Him to change it. I was gripping it with white knuckles. That is until I realized God wanted a better life for me. One I couldn’t see for myself. We tend to stay where it is familiar, even if the situation is terrible but take it from me, I am grateful I took that one step of faith towards God. As soon as I did, He scooped me up in His arms like the long-lost sheep and probably said, “Finally! Come home, my daughter; you are safe now.”
If your life is anything like my old life – knowing what I know now – I would run to Him! It is your choice, but know this…God loves you fiercely and wants the very best for you. In my book, Jesus Christ is the very best.