Life can get messy. If you’ve lived more than a few years, you know that’s true. Much of that messiness is the result of our own choices. Those messes, the consequences, are often what God uses to get our attention. As a result we experience sorrow and regret. But not all our responses are what God desires.
What does God desire in the midst of our messes? A feeling of sorrow or something more? And what kind of response leads to real change?
Genesis 5 & 6
Is it regret or repentance?
Verse 3.8 says, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
When we sin we are to repent and go to God and anyone else we have sinned against and seek forgiveness. When we do 1 John 1.9 says:
“He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But what is repentance? Genuine biblical repentance includes sorrow over our sin and a willingness to admit and take responsibility for our actions. We don’t earn forgiveness because we do things to somehow atone for our sins, but when we have genuinely repented, there will be a change in our behavior. At times, that should include making restitution for wrongs done.
Sorry Because of Consequences
Too often we are only sorry because we don’t like the consequences of our sin (broken relationships, punishment, or losses of different kinds), rather than experiencing godly sorrow and genuine repentance. Godly sorrow is a brokenness over our sin. Like David, it’s a realization that we have sinned, first and foremost, against God.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight (Ps. 51.2-4a).
Sin is a failure to trust and obey God and a sign of rebellion against Him. We’re going our own way, trusting in ourselves, determined to have life on our own terms. Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change of direction. We turn 180° from going our way to going His way. So while change does not earn us forgiveness, it is the fruit of genuine repentance.
Today’s Other Readings:
It didn’t take long for sin to take its toll, did it? Chapter 6.5-6 says:
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
This is sometimes called “total depravity.” Even though sin doesn’t make us all as bad as we could be, it makes us all as bad as we need to be to deserve an eternity separated from Him.
God is still grieved over sin today. All too often we mistakenly believe that when we sin, we are only hurting ourselves, or, at worst, another person. But as I said earlier, sin is always against our Heavenly Father!
Backing up to chapter 5 we see the genealogy of Adam. Satan had told Eve in the garden, “You will not surely die.” (Gen. 3.4) Yet as each generation is recounted, it is followed by the words, “… and he died.” One more proof that Satan is a liar.
Death means “separation from something.” Spiritual death (separation from God) took place instantly. And though physical death (separation of the spirit from the body) took longer, the process of physical death began as a result of sin’s entrance into the world.
Verse 12, “… Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”
This theme permeates all of Scripture.
Sowing & Reaping
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
17 Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.
Here is the law of sowing and reaping in action. Those who sow violence and wickedness will ultimately reap the same.
Is there an area in your life where God has shown you that you need to change? Go to God and seek His forgiveness and help. Then humble yourself and seek forgiveness from any others you have sinned against. Then the real work begins.
It’s not enough to express sorrow and see the need to change. If that’s all we do, we run the risk of becoming the forgetful hearers James talked about:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (Jas. 1:22-25).
We can look into the mirror of Scripture and then go away and forget what manner of man or woman we are. We must keep looking daily into His law. We must renew our minds on an on-going basis. Then we must become doers of His Word. The scary part is that if we do not, James says we are deceived or deluded. We actually think we are OK and can even become very self-righteous about it! That’s what happened to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day.
Becoming a doer of the Word involves two things. In counseling we call it “the put-off put-on process” (Eph. 4.22-24). We must put-off the habits of the old man—our sinful nature. Then we must put-on new godly habits. Without both we will not truly change.
While we are to do our part to obey God, both by putting off the habits of the old man and by putting on the habits of the new man, we aren’t to do so out of a legalistic attempt to earn God’s favor or get our tickets punched for heaven.
Instead, we must first come to Him as sinners in need of a Savior and accept His forgiveness. When we do, He gives us a new heart and begins to change us from the inside out. Our obedience should be a response to His love and grace. It’s the fruit of a changed life. And even then, can only be done in dependence on Him.
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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.