Thursday, November 6, 2008

Doing a Complete 360

Perhaps you've heard it too. I've especially heard this statement in regard to sports. An athlete speaks of his personal (or team) turnaround and credits it to "doing a complete 360." While I totally get the intention of the speaker, the statement is rather funny.

If you do a "complete 360" you end up just where you were before.

Often, repentance is simply spoken of as a "180" or a "U-turn," but genuine repentance is more than that.

As Luther reminds us in his very first of the 95 Thesis:

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
Genuine repentance is a turn from self to Our Savior, it is not merely a turn from "Self Plan A" to "Self Plan B." Such forms of "repentance" are not making a "180" but instead, are a "360". We start and end at the same place: self.

One of the largest churches in America recently claimed to repent. But their new initiative shows a 360. They are still caught up in their plans, their research and their solutions.

Barna is famous for this as well. One perspective is touted, materials are marketed and pastors are trained to think in a "new paradigm." Yet, eventually results are not as drastic as originally anticipated, or the movement becomes stale and worn out and must be replaced. Time to regroup, reassess, repackage and call it repenting. But the truth is, the movement was not from self to Savior, but from self plan to new self plan.

This post from a friend prepares us for the regrouping, restrategizing and the replenishing of resources for a Christian political agenda. Who knows, the language of repentance may even be invoked. However, the above post (and this one) reminds us that deeper repentance is necessary. It's one thing to shift from Plan A to Plan B. It's another thing to shift from man's plans to God's.

True repentance cannot blame the failure on a changing culture or exterior circumstances. True repentance can't be defined as a "tweaked strategy" or the result of more complete research. True repentance can't be a slight misreading of information or tainted research. In the end, true repentance cannot put the blame on anyone or anything else.

True repentance requires that I say, "I was wrong and God is right. It was sinful for me to desire to do it my way, rather than God's way." It is such an abandonment of my ways that I'm left to turn nowhere but to God.

But this kind of repentance is not popular. It's seen as harsh, confining and demeaning. It betrays our quest for self-esteem. However, Paul reminded Timothy that repentance is a beautiful thing:
The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses {and escape} from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.--2 Timothy 2:24-26
Repentance is:
    1. Not to be demanded for arguments sake, but for restoration.
    2. A gracious gift, granted by God.
    3. Is essential to arriving at the knowledge of the truth.
    4. Is liberating from Satan's schemes.
May God grant us His favor, allowing us to do much more than a "360." May He allow each of us to turn from self and to Him.

And may we as pastors realize that calling our people to repentance (and humbling displaying it ourselves) is such a beautiful gift.


Margaret said...

i much prefer the visual of doing a 180- turning my back on self and looking to (facing) Jesus Christ.

JanAl said...

I agree with Margaret.
I never want to go back from where I came!
Great visual Danny!

David Mohler said...

Thanks for this post. Who who says it simplest, often says it best - which you have done.

These thouhgts will be the basis my personal devotions for this week.