“Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
How Do You Come to Church?
It’s all too easy for us to come to church without paying any mind to the true condition of our hearts.
Think about it, how often do we show up to a worship gathering only to go through the motions and leave without being truly impacted by God’s presence, His Word, and the witness of His people? Too often we walk into church with sin festering in our hearts, and then walk out in the exact same state. Which reminds me of what A.W. Tozer once said, “It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.” Indeed, when the church is tolerant of sin it will ultimately flounder in its worship and witness. Or to put it another way, a church without repentance is a church without Spiritual life.
But what if, to guard ourselves against this, we took some time to quiet ourselves and truly seek the Lord in a spirit of repentance before gathering with His people? I believe we could see the life-giving power of God poured out more richly in our midst. After all, the psalmist said as much when he wrote, “You who seek God, let your hearts revive” (Ps. 69:32).
Therefore let us do the difficult work of identifying those sins that grieve the Spirit of life—our fear of man, sexual immorality, grumbling, arrogance, and the like—in order that we might thoroughly repent of them. For if we are ever going to experience a greater measure of God’s reviving work among us, we must crucify everything that impedes our relationship with Him.
An Old Prayer & The Greatest News Ever Told
To help with that, I’d like to share a prayer with you. It’s a very old Puritan prayer from a well-known book of prayers called The Valley Of Vision. I believe, if we will truly consider its example, this prayer will encourage us to engage in redemptive self-examination. Notice that I used the word ‘redemptive’ there. This kind of self-examination does not make us into neurotic, self-focused navelgazers; rather it is for the ‘redemptive’ purpose of putting sin to death within us in order that the life of Christ might have its full effect in our church.
So take a moment—don’t move too quickly here!—and quietly open your heart up to the Lord, sincerely asking Him as the psalmist did, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Now, read these words to yourself:
Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
All the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of morose, peevish and angry tempers,
of lip, life and walk
of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,
of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,
of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,
of deficiency in outspoken zeal for his glory,
of bringing dishonor upon thy great name,
of deception, injustice, untruthfulness in my dealings with others,
of impurity in thought, word and deed,
of covetousness, which is idolatry,
of substance unduly hoarded, improvidentially squandered,
not consecrated to the glory of thee, the great Giver;
sins in private and in the family,
in study and recreation, in the busy haunts of men,
in the study of thy Word and in the neglect of it,
in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,
in time misspent,
in yielding to Satan’s wiles,
in opening my heart to his temptations,
in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,
in quenching the Holy Spirit;
sins against light and knowledge,
against conscience and the restraints of thy Spirit,
against the law of eternal love.
Pardon all my sins, known and unknown,
felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed,
remembered or forgotten.
Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.
LifePoint, as you consider this prayer, the most important thing is that you remember Jesus—that He really did live, die, and rise from the grave two thousand years ago. And that today He really does reign as King over heaven and earth. The person and work of Jesus are indeed historical facts. But not facts only; they also constitute the greatest News ever told.
Because of the Gospel of King Jesus, what we lose when we repent of our sin pales in comparison to what we gain. By repenting, will we lose a life of worldly comfort and indulgence? Yep. Will we lose safety and predictability? Definitely. Will we lose our reputation and status? Perhaps. The apostle Paul certainly experienced many such loses when he began to follow Christ. But he also had this to say about it, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
When LifePoint Church starts to see Jesus as our all-surpassing treasure, you can be sure that we will experience more of His life-giving power among us. But to get to that point, we must first get real with Him about our sin. To be sure, that’s much more than praying a prayer of repentance. Without any real accompanying change in the patterns of our lives, such a prayer is essentially meaningless. We must “bear fruits in keeping with repentance,” as John the Baptist taught (Lk. 3:8). That is to say, our lives must reflect in actuality what we are praying. That requires ongoing transformation. And yet, at the same time, we must realize that frequently observing the practice of repentant prayer is pivotal to such transformation.
Therefore, we must begin with prayerful self-examination if we are going to be revived through repenting. It all starts in the prayer closet (Matt. 6:6). But are we willing? Will we repent and seek His forgiveness? Will we refuse to settle for anything less than Christ? If not, we will remain, as Tozer said, in a half-dead condition. And that’s no way to worship a King.