Thursday, December 28, 2006

Random 2006 reflections 2

A few months back at a Q&A session after a sermon, someone asked my pastor, "what does a relationship with God really look like? What does it mean to be to have a relationship with God?" There was a pause, and in measured tones, he answered: "I think the foundation of it all is in Jesus' statement 'Repent and believe'. That's the essence of a relationship with God." He went on to add more remarks, but it's this statement that really struck me. I've thought about it a lot since then.

The phrase needs some explaining, as I think these are terms that people often get confused about. To repent is to turn away from a lifestyle which does not have God in the centre, but more than that, it is also to turn to God and give him the worship that He rightfully deserves. As I understand it, to believe, in terms of how it is often used in the Bible, is closer to what we would now normally take "trust" to mean. So, to believe is not merely to give assent to a set of propositions, but is also bound up with notions of confidence and faith. In some ways repenting and believing overlap, since turning to God requires us to put our trust in Him. In other words, I don't think you can separate the two, not neatly, anyway.

It seems to me, especially as I thought about how hard it is to follow Jesus this year, or any year really, that these words ring true. As I wrestle with my sin and my own shortcomings, I can often lean towards two responses, both of which are wrong. There is one whereby we tell God how terrible and guilty we are and promise to do better next time. Or there is the other where we immediately thank God for his grace and don't give our sin a second thought. In both responses I show that I don't understand yet what it means to have a relationship with God.

But if I hear Jesus afresh, when he tells me that the kingdom of God is at hand, and therefore to repent and believe - it really is good news! For Jesus was not only announcing the reign of God, he was also declaring that his subjects could have an intimate relationship with the King and trust Him, especially since we know Him to be trustworthy. And to trust him includes recognising that I can't manage my own sin. By that I mean any barometer of righteousness, any contract I attempt to draw up with God on my own terms will inevitably fail. It means that I come to Him, saying I have absolutely nothing to offer by way of restitution or compensation, and all I can do is trust in your cross. And as I come to trust you, I also commit myself to being faithful, so that I keep following in your footsteps. And when I stray again, I consciously turn to You, asking for forgiveness, joyfully accepting it knowing it to be real forgiveness, and keep persevering.

Nothing I've mentioned here is new at all. But the fundamentals always get lost whenever we just assume them. (I'm certain to forget this in the future, and need to be reminded.) And it seems to me that more than ever, we need to learn to put our trust in Jesus (and in doing so, stop placing our trust in something, or someone else) because He has already brought us into God's presence (Heb. 10:22).

What do you think?


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