Sin Tastes Good, Repentance is a Gut Cleanse

This week I’ve been thinking about how revival is birthed from repentance. Repentance, I learned recently, is not just “turning away from sin,” but also “changing your mind about sin.” When you change your mind about something, your actions follow. 

The problem with sin, however, is that it’s always been deceptive. It’s never been blatantly, “Defy God!” It’s been, “Well, perhaps you know better.” It’s never been “Curse God and die!” like Job’s weary wife, but a sticky-sweet whisper like, “Hey girl, you look like a fine judge of right and wrong.” (Substitute “hey man” if needed there–this is for all of us.)

Sin begins with deception and leads to deterioration, which leads to death. 

When we embrace the lie that God is not trustworthy and that our judgment is more right(eous) than His, our actions veer from faith and invite fractures and factions to the abundant life we are supposed to enjoy.

But that’s a hefty statement to start with, so I’ll back up. 

Before the world began, God existed. Before we hit the scene, God was already there in His fullness. He separated light and darkness, formed land between the oceans, flung sun and moon and stars, gave day and night their boundaries, brought forth trees and plants and vegetation, creatively distributed birds and fish and animals, and handcrafted people as His image-bearers to represent Him in this beautiful garden they lived in called Eden. 

God set up the world and set His people up for success: Be fruitful, multiply, enjoy every good thing I’ve given you. This whole wide world is for your pleasure. This one tree in the middle of the garden is off-limits–but the rest is yours, enjoy!

And for awhile, Adam and Eve did enjoy. They flourished in all the good things God had given them. They walked around fully confident in the naked bodies He gave them, doing things that naked and married people should be fully confident doing. They trusted each other, they worked well together. They were happy naked gardeners living their best happy naked gardening life. 

And it was good. 

Until it wasn’t, because they chose what wasn’t good–because someone else tried to define what was good, and it wasn’t God.

And every time we bite into the lie that God isn’t good enough to be trusted, we miss out on the good things He already has surrounded us with. And things always get worse. 

Not always quickly. Sometimes it takes awhile before we see the deception unraveling. Sometimes the forbidden fruit looks good and tastes good, but until the poison hits our guts we don’t really recognize that it isn’t good. We’ve been duped, and now we have diarrhea.

But the effects of sin run deeper than gastrointestinal distress.

Sin always hurts us and others. Just like our love for God should be reflected in community, sin deflects and destroys His goodness in community. 

Again, sin says we determine what’s right and wrong. Even though God is the true Life Giver, Rule Maker, and Judge of all, sin convinces us that we can still do things our way and get away with it. And for a time, we can.

But while we’re sinning, we’re skinning others alive. 

We are to love people, but when we choose to be selfish, the people around us miss out on seeing God’s love for them in action.

We are to be joy-filled, but when we dwell in our bad moods and cynical attitudes, the people around us see less of the joy that could be theirs. 

We are to be peaceful, but when we are arrogant and divisive and hostile and rude, people around us miss experiencing God’s peace that surpasses all understanding. 

We are to be patient, but when we stomp over people and yell and get offended, people around us don’t get to experience how God is slow to anger and abounding in loyal love.

We are to be kind, but when we respond harshly or with stinging, snarky remarks, people around us can’t see how God’s kindness leads to repentance–because we stood in the way.

We are to do good things for others, but when we are more worried about the effort it will require on our part than how it will benefit someone else, people miss out on experiencing the good-ness of God. 

We are to be faith-filled, but when we are prone to worry and wander with every wind of bad news, people around us miss the opportunity to see that God really is the anchor for our souls.

We are to be gentle, but when we are overly critical, the people around us miss seeing how tenderly God cares for them.

We are to be self-controlled, but when we are lazy, ignorant of others, always living with decisions that say “me first!”, everyone else is treated second-rate. And the people around us miss seeing Jesus, who took the biggest step of humility in coming down from royalty in heaven to live like a common servant with dirty shoes.

Although we’re really good at seeing these flaws in our friends and family, until we come before God humbly in prayer, we won’t easily recognize the sin within us. Because like I said, sin is deceptive. When it stays around for awhile, it begins to feel comfortable and look normal. It’s like the billboard you drive by every day–it’s huge and visible, but after it’s no longer new you don’t even notice it. 

But just as sin stands between us and God, our sin also stands between others and God. When we confess our sins and are right with God, others can see Him clearly, too, because holy people radiate God’s glory. When we hold on to our sin with a clenched fist, the world sees us for the empty, religious people we’ve become.

When Jesus died for our sins, His sacrifice was one time for all people. That means our sins, all of them, were forgiven on the cross. When we come to Jesus for the first time, we repent of sin and living for ourselves, and we receive His forgiveness. But while Jesus already paid for everything and forgave even our future sins, we still need to confess any new sin as we’re confronted by it. New sin doesn’t mean we’ve lost salvation, it means we’re going to take full advantage of our salvation and not be bound by sin again. We are saved FROM sin, so when the Holy Spirit convicts us of what “ought not be,” we can triumphantly carry these burdens back to the cross and say, “Jesus! Here! I don’t want this!” 

When we give Jesus the rotten fruit growing on our branches, the Holy Spirit comes in and cultivates good things in their place: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Repentance is a reset to where we’re meant to be.

Just as our baptism represented Jesus washing us clean–let’s celebrate daily the God who shows us where sin would stain, who rescues us from floundering in our own filth. When we come to Jesus, He is thrilled to forgive our faults and purify our hearts. He’s already begun His work of making all things new, and it begins with His people.

May we be a people with clean hands and pure hearts. 

May we hear from God clearly, because we are no longer deceived by sin’s distortion.

May our prayers be met with power, knowing that God stands in opposition to the proud but favors the humble.

May we be a holy witness for the God whose grace reaches even the vilest offender who would see Him and believe Him. 

May we always remember His forgiveness runs that deep. 

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