John’s posts on the stronghold of anxiety are a very realistic picture of discipleship. I’m amazed at how they’ve so perfectly marked his dealings, and how much God is using these insights to pierce me. These posts are cataloguing all that God is showing John about fear and anxiety, and he’s seeing more and more because he keeps saying, “Yes, that’s true of me,” and taking complete responsibility for it. Sometimes repentance is a contained, relatively brief encounter with the Holy Spirit. And sometimes, like John is now experiencing, it’s a journey.
I would LOVE to tell God when I’m done with repentance. I really would! But it doesn’t work that way, not for me and not for anyone else who is truly following the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is no part of this Christian life that doesn’t smack up against His sovereign Lordship. Who’s in charge: me or God?
“I want to say to you that repentance is the work of the Spirit.
You can search your own soul only so far;
the nuances and depth of your sin, you will never see.”
Martha Kilpatrick, Foundation of Repentance
If I don’t follow Him to the bitter end, then it’s not done. The rot stays buried, and I don’t change. And that’s totally my choice. I can tell God that I don’t want to see anything else, that I don’t want to go any deeper. I can absolutely say, “No more.” At that point, I have two options. I can be honest with myself and the people in my life and say, “I’ve decided that picking up my Cross is too much, and I’m done with obeying God.” Or I can become a liar, trying to atone for my “no” to God by working very hard at everything else.
Either way, not only do I miss out on the rewards of repentance, I am now in a very dangerous place. There are consequences for refusing to repent, and God gives us fair warning.
God is a righteous judge
and a God who shows His wrath every day.
If anyone does not repent,
God will sharpen His sword;
He has strung His bow and made it ready.
He has prepared His deadly weapons;
He tips His arrows with fire.
Psalm 7:11-13 HCSB
I am grateful to John for following the Holy Spirit all the way down; it encourages me to stay on the floor, even when things get really rough and I don’t think I can bear seeing one more thing. That’s the bitter end, the death throes of my sin. I always forget that sin fights back, but God knows. He knows that my heart is deceitful, and He warns me: “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26a NKJV). God knows what it will take to bring me through, and He’s faithful to do so when I say “Yes.”
So I’m cheering John on, and I’m blessing him and thanking God for him. It’s not easy to stay the course when the whole world joins your flesh in saying, “We got it, dude, let’s move on already!” To the bitter end, John. I can’t wait to meet the free and clean and joyful you on the other side!
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him…
Isaiah 57:18 HCSB