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Ascending the Hill of the Lord: An Outline for Repentance (Part 1)

who-may-ascend-the-hill-of-the-lord

In yesterday’s post, we saw that sin can prevent God from hearing our prayers. If we want God to hear our plea as we fast, we must repent—confess our sins to Him, ask His forgiveness, and forsake our sin.

I was going to write on another topic today, but I felt led to pause here. It’s critical that we let God give us clean hands and a pure heart, if we want to enter His presence with our causes for fasting.

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.”

Psalm 24: 3-4, NKJV

 

Prayerful Self-Examination, Not Movie Trailer Praying

The first step toward repentance, toward clean hands and a pure heart, is self-examination. This consists of looking at our lives and considering our motives and actions. We are to look back over our past history and consider our individual sins one by one.

We don’t casually glance over our lives, see a multitude of sins flashing before our eyes like a 30-second movie trailer, then go to God with a general prayer of forgiveness—“God, I’m sorry. Forgive all my sins.”

No, to truly repent, we must turn from our sin, which requires reflecting on our sins in a specific way. When we gloss over the whole of our sins in one, quick glance, we:

  1. Fail to let the Holy Spirit convict us about each sin, help us grasp how deeply each has grieved and hindered God, and help us receive God-given mourning and sorrow.
  2. Fail to confess each sin and ask for God’s forgiveness, thus leaving unconfessed and unforgiven sin.
  3. Fail to deal with each sin thoroughly enough to actually repent—to forsake the sin and truly change going forward.

Sorrow Leads to Repentance

Charles Spurgeon writes:

Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.

J. I. Packer writes:

Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.

If we truly want to repent, we must let God give us His feelings about our sin. We must allow Him to show us how odious and sickening our sin has been to Him and how destructive it has been to our lives. We must linger long enough for Him to infuse us with godly sorrow.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance…” (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV).

True repentance is seeing our sin as God sees it, hating it as He (a holy God) hates it, and forsaking it because we love Him and want to live in obedience to Him.

We must linger long enough before God in prayer and honest reflection that He has time to help us love what we once hated and hate what we once loved.

Look at Each Sin, One by One

Our sins were committed one by one. And as much as possible, we should review them and repent of them one by one.

We should perform a thorough, honest accounting of our sins, much like a businessman or accountant goes over their books.

If you thought you would receive a sum of money, a refund owed you for overcharges—if only you would go through your accounts thoroughly enough to review each charge and determine the total amount due—you would pour over the charges tirelessly, accounting for every penny you were owed. You would get specific, even producing documentation to hand to the other party.

Last year, my health insurance overcharged me on a series of copays and payments. I made dozens of calls to the company, spoke with a host of representatives and supervisors, and ultimately asked for a copy of the ledger containing all the charges for the year. I went through each charge and credit attempting to identify the exact amount they owed me. But will I pour over my actions, thoughts, motivations for that year with the same effort and attention to detail? Will I linger in prayer and give that many hours to an honest accounting of my sin?

Like many people my age, I help my parents with their affairs. I logged into my mom’s bank account last night and noticed that she was overcharged on two drafts. I spent hours on the phone today trying to get the two entities to refund it. (And sadly, I committed a few sins in the process, like losing my temper and yelling at the music and the automated lady while on hold … being impatient and rude with the representatives…)

I didn’t have the time or energy to be dealing with those overcharges, but when it comes to money, I will go to great lengths. Will I do that in my spiritual walk? Will I let God go to great lengths to show me my sin and help me forsake it? Ouch. The answer to that stings…

Get Honest with God

Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”

To walk in agreement with God, you must get honest with Him, and let Him get honest with you. You must let Him change you, from the inside out.

Will you let God change you in every area where you have not been obedient and pleasing to Him? Will you throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles you in order to run toward Jesus? (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

The next post contains a brief list of sins of omission. The post after that, a brief list of sins of commission. These are intended to serve as prayer starters and memory-joggers.

As you pray over each list, ask God to show you your sins. When a sin you’ve committed comes to memory, write it down.

Be sure to name your sin to God specifically. For example:

  • “Father, I’m harboring bitterness and unforgiveness toward _____”
  • “I have robbed you of the tithe.”
  • “I have not put you first. I have neglected You. I have made idols of ______.”
  • “I have been dishonest and lied about ____”

Don’t make the least excuse for sin of any kind in your life.

“The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13, HCSB).

Ask God to forgive you. But also ask Him to free you from the power the sin habit has on your life. This can only be done by the power of the cross. In Jesus alone is the power to live a holy life.

Questions:

  • Are you lingering before God in prayer, letting Him show you your sins and help you grasp how deeply each has grieved and hindered Him?
  • Has He given you godly sorrow and mourning over your sin?
  • Are you naming your sins specifically and repenting of them one by one?
  • What things do you now hate that you used to love? What things do you love that you used to hate? 

 

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