Many of us bemoan losing our society to wickedness. We see the direction that our nation is heading and we grieve. We did not lose everything overnight and we will not gain it back that way either. We gain or lose ground by inches. I believe this is also true in our walk with God.
Let’s define the term incrementalism:
The method used in which desired changes are implemented gradually or in small steps instead of giant strides.
After we are saved, the Bible uses the term “walk” to describe our journey. Most of us would agree that the life we live after we meet the Lord is a day by day experience. This walk has been described as a marathon and not a sprint. The Bible presents our journey this way:
- 2 Corinthians 4:7 – For we walk by faith, not by sight
- Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- Ephesians 4:1 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called
This sampling of verses indicates that our walk is by faith, can either be in the Spirit or in our flesh, and that we can walk in a worthy manner, or not depending on what we do.
We walk in a direction each day. I also understand a bit about losing a day or even a season through illness, depression, or a major trial. We certainly can get turned around so much we don’t even know which way is up, let alone forward. The direction is not always clear, though it is clearer than we think sometimes.
God’s view of us is important to understand in our journey. One of the primary pictures used in the Scripture referring to you and I is that of sheep. We are the sheep, God is the Shepherd.
- Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
- Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
- John 10:11 – I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Each of us are sheep, God’s words not mine. Sheep tend to stray and wander. From what I read, sheep don’t really back up well, they tend to become entangled in thorn bushes, they often put their heads down and just wander away from the flock. Sheep are led not driven, and the picture of the Lord being our Shepherd is one of the most familiar ones in Scripture.
Because of our sheep nature, many times we turn away from God’s revealed will, His Word, His leadings, and follow our own choices and self-dominated instincts. I am sure that 2013 was a year that was both successful and also full of failure in this manner. It is easy to get distracted or to not pay attention to the Shepherd.
As we mature, we desire for our walk to be more Christ-like, our choices to be grounded in wisdom, maturity and to demonstrate growth. I am not the same man I was when I began this journey. By God’s grace, I will not be the same man when I finish it. My desire is to walk on, live a life pleasing to the Lord, to complete the works that He has planned for me, and it comes day by day.
With these two thoughts in mind – we gain and lose ground in small increments, and that we are sheep, how should we enter a new year?
We need to understand two principles – God is good, and He expects us to do something with our choices. First, we are told in the Scriptures, almost 200 times, that God is good, has steadfast love, unending mercies, and is great in faithfulness.
Consider these familiar passages:
- Lamentations 3:22-23 – The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
In the midst of extreme judgment on the nation of Israel, the weeping prophet Jeremiah shares these deep truths about our God. In addition, Jeremiah instructs us what to do about them.
- Lamentations 3:24-26 – The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
We are told to wait upon the Lord, seek Him and do it without complaint, or quietly. We learn to wait in trust realizing that the Lord is our portion, or He is enough for every need, desire, dream, or problem.
When we look to the Lord, we will quickly realize that many times we have made wrong choices. We soon understand that we have followed our own way, have not sought His will first and with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We, like all sheep, have wandered away from the Lord in some fashion.
So, we look to the Lord and we realize that we need to do something. This something is almost lost in our day, but I assure you it is a frequently used Biblical word representing a necessary action. The word is repent, which means we change our minds, our actions and the direction we are walking.
This concept, while not especially popular today, is the first step to spiritual growth and change. Consider just a sampling of verses:
- Matthew 4:17(b) – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
- Mark 6:12 – So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.
- Acts 3:19 – Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
- Luke 13:3 – No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
- Acts 2:38 – Repent and be baptized
- Acts 17:30 – He commands all people everywhere to repent,
- Revelation 2:5 – remove your lampstand if you don’t repent
Day by day, and moment by moment we are faced with two possible directions. If we want to grow in spiritual maturity we begin by repentance. We walk away from our wandering, our sinful choices, and yielding to our own will, and we return to the Shepherd. Repentance was the message of the early church and it should be ours as well.
If we keep walking in the wrong direction no matter how much we care, no matter how fast we may be going we will never get to the desired destination. The only way is to repent – to turn around and walk in a different direction.
And, because of our repentance we are commanded to bear fruit, and to understand that it is because of God’s kindness that we are drawn to change our mind:
- Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
God is kind to us and wants us to repent, to align our will, minds and actions with His. God loves us so much that He will not leave us wandering, sinning, and hurting ourselves for long. His kindness will draw us, convict us, and even put great pressure on us to return to Him. God sent His Son to redeem us from our sin and our own choices, and it begins with repentance.
As we close out 2013 we should pause and spend a bit of time and reflect. As the Lord shows us our wanderings, we should repent. As we enter 2014 we can begin anew. Every breath we have is a gift and a new chance to walk in a way worthy of our calling.
We do not have to remain trapped, guilt ridden, and walking in the wrong direction. God’s grace, mercy, love and the Holy Spirit are available for us to choose a different life and path. God loves you and I so much He send Jesus to pay the price for our sin.
We enter into this forgiveness by confessing, and repenting. If we want to grow, to learn to know the Shepherd better, to hear is voice, we must return to Him.
If you think we have nothing to repent of, I would beg to disagree. The Scripture lists many sins that believers commit. Here is a partial list to consider:
- Pride/Arrogance, Envy, Deceit, Judgmentalism, Phariseeism, Hate, Bitterness, Unrighteous anger, Selfishness, Lust, Coveting, Greed, Gluttony, Sensuality, Fraud/Flirtation, Hypocrisy, Laziness, Disobedient to parents,
This list does not even include taming the tongue and sins of omission – failure to do the right things. If we honestly reflect on our lives, we will agree with God’s Word – all we like sheep have gone astray. We must return to the Great Shepherd, and the doorway is repentance.
I understand that there is grace and that we are forgiven for our sins. Paul understood those concepts as well I assure you, yet he still wrote out those lists of sins that believers commit.
Repentance is not all there is, but it is a necessary starting point on our spiritual journey. If we want to be in a different place spiritually at the end of next year, we need to do something different than we did this year. Grasping the need to repent and make better decision is a good launching point.
In the next post I will explain what we should be doing, so if you read this far, hang on…for now, I would suggest some quiet time with your Shepherd and His Word to reflect.