The Nature of Sin and Repentance
When I take a really honest look at my life, having been raised in church, and the lives of the majority of believers that I have known over the years, my life especially, comes up woefully short when I compare it to what the bible teaches and promises when it comes to what we should expect about the experience of the redeemed. Something is missing and this is exemplified by the fact that the body of Christ is not unlike the world in far too many ways. The church all but mirrors the world when it comes to divorce, spousal abuse, addiction to both illicit and prescription drugs, pornography addiction, depression and the list goes on. Something is dreadfully wrong and we simply cannot go on playing church and pretending like we’re all ok. WE ARE NOT OK!! The question is what’s wrong and how do we bring healing and restoration. This isn’t a new problem. Jesus told us “greater things than these will you do.” Jesus actually said that we would surpass Him and the last time I checked, especially in my own life, I look more like Judas than Jesus. I believe that our brokenness, our lack of wholeness comes from the lack of God’s manifest presence in our lives individually and as a body. The life experience of the redeemed was never intended to be a religion. It was meant to be a daily experience of actually knowing, feeling, tasting and seeing a very real God, not as an idea, but as a living being with feelings and intentions. We can talk at length about this sin in the church, but if we never identify what it truly is, the pattern of brokenness will only continue. Part of the problem is that we have been so hung up on the word “sin” that we have forgotten why God said it was bad in the first place. I believe that our approach in the way we have viewed sin is either incomplete or maybe even altogether backwards. We tend to think of sin as a cause and I would like to propose that it is actually a result. If you have been in church for any length of time you have probably been taught that sin
causes separation from God. This is important because it lays a foundation or provides us with a lens that affects the way we see or perceive the nature of God, our identity and His intentions towards us. Most of this effect is not evident on the surface but tends to be more of an undercurrent or a subconscious system of thinking that governs the rest of our experience of being alive.
So what exactly is sin, where did it come from, what is original sin, and why does the church seem to be so powerless against it when Jesus paid to reverse it. Here we must establish or resurrect a fact that is mostly glossed over or intentionally misrepresented. Sin did not originate in the heart of man. It has its birth in the heart of the father of lies. Yes, God did create the potential for sin, but having said that, we must understand that by its nature love requires the freedom to choose. If that freedom is removed love ceases to exist.
Let’s start by turning the base idea right side up again. It is not sin that causes separation from God; it is separation from God that causes sin. These are some of the sacred cows of Christian doctrine that have been passed down from generation to generation that simply must die. They must be identified and then sacrificed on the altar of intimacy. Here’s another bovine methane dispenser that is not unlike the first…”God
cannot stand to be in the presence of sin because He is holy”. Balderdash! God is limitless. Here’s the truth, “sin cannot stand to be in the presence of a holy God”. The manifest presence of our loving Father by its nature consumes, destroys and cancels sin. This effect of His presence on sin is better understood when we understand what sin actually is.
A.W. Tozer in his classic “Pursuit of God” explains that Adam and Eve were created and designed to have God enthroned in the center of their being. When they believed the liar God was removed from His place and all of creation is still reeling from the monstrous upset. The bible tells us that God breathed into Adam and he became “alive.” It was the very Spirit of God that originally animated the man, and if this is true, what animates the man when God has been removed from the throne of man’s heart? At this point it is the “void” that animates mankind, the emptiness created by God’s absence. That void, that emptiness, is sin. Adam and Eve had already left the Father in their hearts when they chose to believe the liar. The outward act of eating the forbidden fruit was just the manifestation of the sinful state in their hearts, the emptiness created by God’s absence. Sin is a state of being not just an outward act. This is further shown when we understand that the Greek root that we get the word evil from is also the root from which we get the words pain, poor and poverty. On its face it denotes a state of lack.
Blaise Pascal said “In the heart of every man is a God-Shaped vacuum”. This God shaped hole is the original sin that we are all born into. This vacant state drives us to all manner of destructive behavior in an attempt to FILL ourselves. This is how religion was born. It was born in the garden and was the enemy’s idea all along. Adam and Eve believed a lie that drove them to try to obtain by their own self efforts something that God had already given to them for free. This is the very definition of religion. Satan said “you will be like God” …..THEY WERE ALREADY LIKE GOD… (”Let us make man in our own image”). The spirit of religion keeps you constantly aware of your knowledge of good and evil and where you fall on that favor line between those two boundaries. When God became man he destroyed that whole system, but believe it or not, this is something that His bride is still struggling to understand. God does not say you are innately bad, He says you are innately empty. Even before you were redeemed, God’s view of you then is probably better than your view of yourself now, even after being saved.
The typical response to sin that you hear given in the church is usually performance based. “We don’t fear the Lord enough…we don’t hate sin enough…we need to read our bibles more…we need more accountability ….etc. All of these responses seem good on their face and they sound like spiritual, responsible answers. The problem is these answers tend to fold like a wet paper sack when faced with real brokenness like divorce,
depression or addiction. In the church the standard response seems to roll right off our tongues…”well they just need to repent”. This is usually thrown about quite carelessly. However, if we understood what repentance really is, that response might carry some life with it and our heart’s motivation for saying it would almost certainly change.
Most of us have been taught that to repent means to “change, to stop sinning and go the opposite direction”. This is not an accurate definition. If sin is a state of emptiness how does one stop being empty and fill themselves? The change of direction is the result of repentance. To “repent” means to “change your mind”, and some would add “and agree with God”. If we change our mind what then are we changing it to? If we are agreeing with God what is He saying? Jesus was God in the flesh and when He Himself explained why He came, He brought up three main points. Interestingly enough He did not say “I came to atone for your sins” or “I came to save you from eternal damnation”. It is absolutely true that He accomplishes both of these things, but He never really majored on these two functions. It’s as if these were natural byproducts of His nature but not the main focus (so why is it ours?). When Jesus explained why He was here He said “I came to bind the broken hearted…I came to set the captives free” and “ I came that you might have life and have it to the full”. So if “repent” means to change your mind and agree with God, what is God saying here. “Bind the broken hearted”…He says your heart is broken. “Set the captives free”…He says you’re a slave, you’re caged, and you’re not free. And finally “I came that you might have life”…He says you’re empty, dead, lifeless. We are not saved because we raised our hand “with every head bowed and every eye closed” after a particularly scary sermon. We are saved at the point we come to a true self-realization of our emptiness, our bondage, and our desperate need for the life Jesus promises. It is interesting to note that it was the prostitute, the thief and the demoniac that recognized Jesus for who He was…they got it. It was the religious who couldn’t see Him. There is something about knowing your own emptiness that gives you the eyes to see the real Jesus when He shows up. The church of the day accused Him of being evil. (Selah) Religion actually blinds us to our desperate need for Him by teaching us to hide or to stay disconnected from the true state of our hearts. Our church pews are full of people who are literally dying inside but are afraid to face it for fear of being looked down upon, or for fear of the disappointment of being let down when the practitioners of religion offer them yet another powerless Jesus. The antichrist spirit is not anti Jesus. I heard Kris Vallotton say “the enemy would love nothing more than to introduce you to a powerless Jesus”. The enemy is “Anti Christ” anti anointed one. The one who carries the very power of the living God to save, heal and deliver. He is “anti supernatural Jesus experience”.
The first recorded salvation in scripture is the thief who hung next to Jesus on the cross. What did he do to receive salvation? He didn’t say the magical sinner’s prayer. He said “we deserve to die, but this man is innocent” …he recognized his empty state. Then he said “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom” and with those words, he was saved. He didn’t even have the chance to “prove it by his fruits”. Jesus knew something about the thief that we tend to miss. He wasn’t lifeless, broken and empty because he stole from his fellow man; he was a thief because he was lifeless, broken and empty. So Jesus had no problem telling him “Today you will be with me in paradise”.
Sin is the result of being separated from God, not the reverse.