One of the topics of late that I've been dealing with in my own life is repenting for the sins I have committed against God, both big and small. Failures to trust. Failures to obey. Failures to do. It's something we should all do whenever we are in prayer to God. As humans we fail so regularly that it's become a sad testament to the world of where our hearts really are. Why do you think so many want so little to do with God? If our lives don't speak the love of Christ, why would they want anything to do with Him?
Most reject Christ, not because they truly hate Him or want nothing to do with the Son of God. They instead see our customized, shrunk down, pocket sized, powerless version of Christ and want nothing to do with Him. We are the ministers and ambassadors of Christ. How we live our lives is the billboard to a dying world telling them of who Christ really is. If we are torn, stained and soiled, would anyone want anything to do with Him? Nope. My life is no exception. I want to present the perfect Christ of Calvary to the world. Instead I regularly succeed at showing them something that looks like a dog chewed raggedy Anne doll becuase I don't live my life the way Christ demands that I do.
I was just praying this morning and asking Christ to forgive me for that, for being a poor mirror of Him and asked His forgiveness and repented of living this way. What I did was right and proper before the Lord. However, it then begs another very important question that a lot of people should be asking themselves when in prayer. Has my prayer of repentance fallen short, and have I truly repented, or is it merely words said in a vain effort to please the Lord? What do I mean by this?
Matthew 15:8 (NIV) - "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."
As human beings, and I'm fully guilty of this myself, far too often our "repentance" is merely lip service to God and IS NOT actually repentance. Why do I say that? How many times have we said, "Lord, I'm sorry for this and that." and then went right back out and DID THE SAME THING ALL OVER AGAIN? Honestly ask yourself that question. If you can't say, "Yes I've done that.", then you're deluding yourself as we've all done it. As is a famous saying in Christian circles, "They missed Christ by 18 inches." So what is this 18 inches they talk about? That is the approximate distance from your brain to your heart.
In other words, when applying this to repentance, it essentially means you've expressed your thoughts and your words claiming that you've repented (your head) from your sin, but in your heart (your soul) nothing has changed. That is the eighteen inches of repentance mentioned in the title. We're too prone to miss real, true, honest repentance by eighteen inches, only expressing it in our minds and our words, but never in our lives. Repentance is primarily a physical action, and less so a mental one. Yes, some of this has to be mental, but ultimately true repentance occurs where the rubber meets the road.
It's like love. True love is expressed. It's physical. It's tangible. It's actions, not words. Repentance is the same thing. We never truly repent until we are willing to put physical action to spoken words. And not just a little action. We have to go all in, with everything, holding nothing back until that sin is no more in our lives. This is otherwise known as radical amputation. Not physically cutting off a part of your body, as your sins emanate from the soul, but rather radical amputation of the sinful elements that are in our souls.
Matthew 18:7-9 (KJV) - "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."
That's what Christ says about radical amputation. Yes, He's speaking of physical body parts, but He's speaking figuratively and allegorically to create an example of how we must go about repentance. Once we know it's sin, we must completely and absolutely cut off that sin from our lives in its entirety. We must not partake in it, see it, think it, or have anything to do with it. Now be aware, Satan will try to take those same sins and pour them back into your life. But once you repent of something you must give it up entirely.
Do you suffer from lying and dishonesty in your life? You must destroy it with all prejudice so that only truth comes from your lips, no matter what. Do you have a problem with greed? Then become a giver, even to the point that it hurts. And not just a little. I'm talking outright painful giving if necessary. Is your car an idol? Do you swoon over it or treat it with higher respect than God's word? Get rid of it and go with a lesser vehicle, or none at all for a while if necessary. Do you have a problem with honesty? Do you have a problem with forgiveness? Are you holding a grudge against someone? I'm sure you do and don't even realize it, because I can guarantee that most everyone who has looked at those last couple statements has said to themselves, "Nah, that's not me."
Given the society we live in, and its demand for everyone to partake in everything and anything they can that is anti-God, combined with our human nature, it's easy for sins like this to sneak in, because Satan tempts us with subtlety. He doesn't come up and shove an idol in your face and demand you worship it. He does it slowly, gradually, a little here, a little there; innocent steps that lead to a greater evil. It's like the old parable that says, "It only takes a little river to make a mighty sea." In other words, even though it appears to be tiny, "innocent" and demure, it's anything but that. Those tiny sins need to be killed in our lives with the same degree of prejudice that the big ones do. Because it only takes a tiny crack to cause a gigantic dam to fail, or one stone to create an avalanche.
So we must always strive to ensure that our repentance doesn't fall eighteen inches short. It must always be more than just words. It must be actions, and efforts of change as to repent is to turn 180 degrees away from the direction we were going and towards the direction we should be going. So don't be eighteen inches short of repentance. Always repent both in word, and most importantly in deed. God will be pleased when you do.