Friday, April 11, 2014

Repentance - A Doorway To Intimacy

Lately, I have been dwelling on the concept of being restored in my soul. So much of this work is God's doing. Psalm 23 says that HE RESTORES my soul. However, as we prepare our hearts for this wonderful work of restoration, we may come upon issues where repentance is required. You can always be assured that He will bring you to this place with the utmost kindness and grace. 

Look at this precious piece from Cindy McKenna, an artist from Canada (Paisley, Ontario). Cindy describes this process perfectly on the back of a card she painted, called:

He reaches his hand into hearts
like a farmer gathering eggs from a nest.
He is gentle
and does not ruffle the feathers
of the timid bird that he loves.
With great skill and grace
he removes the stones which have built up there.
He removes them with compassion and truth
and fills that void with his love
so that the little bird can snuggle deeper into her nest.
Resting peacefully his love.
He will not wrench the stones from under her
as she has spent years adjusting to the place they have in her nest.
He gently removes them...

Cindy's painting on the front of this card, shows a bird's nest in the shape of a heart with a couple of eggs and a few stones that could be mistaken for eggs, but are definitely out of place in the nest.

That's how it often is with sin...we can become comfortable with it and rationalize its presence in our "nest." The Master Farmer, however, waits patiently as we come to the conclusion that all sin must be removed no matter how comfortable we have become with its presence in our lives.

I am certain that the Lord will make us aware of these 'stones" that must be removed, and will grant us the perfect time and place for their removal. He is firm but gentle; clear but patient; honest but kind; insistent but tender - all at the same time. The bottom line is that He is unwilling for anything in our hearts to keep us from the intimacy and fellowship that He desires with us.

The prophet, Joel is not as gentle as Cindy in his call to this process, but he issues a powerful call to repentance: 

Joel 2:12 (Amp)  
Therefore also now, says the Lord,
turn and keep on coming to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning
[until every hindrance is removed
and the broken fellowship is restored].

The Lord wants us to turn back to Him - not because He has caught us out, but because He is not willing for any degree of sin to keep us from Him - We come to repentance based on relationship, rather than rules.

Joel goes on in the next verse:

Rend your hearts and not your garments
and return to the Lord, your God,
for He is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness;
and He revokes His sentence of evil [when His conditions are met].

A few steps as we rend out hearts and return to the Lord...

Turn back to God – This is the secret to the heart of repentance (turn and keep on turning - turn as often as is required)
Confront yourself

Forgiveness – This is the secret to the release of repentance (forgive others and yourself)
Wash yourself

Be restored to God – This is the secret to the depth of repentance (As we are restored, He takes us deeper into relationship with Him - this is what He really wants all along)
Know yourself

Obey God – This is the secret to the power of repentance (walking in obedience reveals that repentance is at work in our hearts, and its fruit is growing)
Die to self

Fear of God – This is the secret to maintaining repentance (the fear of God involves relationship with God at its core. It is not so much about being afraid of God - rather, it is the foundation of intimacy with Him)
Abandon yourself 

May we find Him near and run back to Him - the One who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness!