Now That I Am Cured…
Luke 3:7,8 You brood of vipers! …Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.
For better or worse, I have frequent reminders of my addiction. Consequences persist and memory is long. These reminders can take me down one of several paths. I can wallow in shame over my destruction. I can be thankful that I am no longer living in slavery. Or, I can start to feel that since I have dealt with my disaster, I am justified in pointing out the defects of others.
As Christians, we so often do this. We correctly believe that we have been forgiven and we may have even dealt with one or two major defects. We incorrectly believe though, that we are delivered from all our defects. We would never claim perfection, but forgiveness, instead of making us thankful and gracious, makes us arrogant.
I recently found myself in this position. I was talking with a brother about how my continued need for God keeps me dependent on him. I quickly turned to those who cannot see their need. I felt like John the Baptist, pointing out those snakes who claim to be Christians but remain blind to their own pride. They can easily see the sin in others but cannot see their own defects. Those people are so annoying to people like me…
My hypocrisy hit me square. I was engaging in the exact behavior that frustrated me in those people. I was indulging in my own pride while pointing out the pride of those I found more prideful than me. I hope God smiles on the irony.
John the Baptist had the authority to speak in such a manner. He told his audience that they were snakes, claiming repentance without living it. They claimed to follow God but their behavior betrayed the reality that they still followed self.
When the crowds asked what they needed to do to truly repent, John said that their behavior needed to radically change. This is what repentance means, a complete change in behavior. Repentance is not just an apology. Repentance is living differently.
When I stopped using drugs and profoundly changed my behavior, that was repentance. The addiction though, was but a symptom of the ongoing problem of following me. It would be a mistake to think that because I turned from that one defect that I am cured. I still suffer from my persistent flesh nature and I need to continue in repentance.
How often do I need to repent? As often as I turn from God to follow self. How often do I do this? A hundred times a day. Repentance is not a once-for-all action that I did long ago. I am not cured from following me and I am not made perfect in this life. John said I must continually bear the fruit of keeping with repentance.
Does this need for introspection mean that I can never help those around me who are struggling? No. It is only in humbly acknowledging my need for God and continually repenting that I can begin to help those around me. It is when I turn from self to follow God that uses me in the lives of others.