A few days ago, I had a conversation with someone who is very dear to me. She’s in crisis, BIG crisis, and the Holy Spirit nudged me to broach a very hard subject. Had she asked God about this? Tearfully she replied that she hadn’t, “but I know what He’ll say.” BOOM. I was enormously convicted by this response, and my vehement response was as much to myself as it was to her: “NO, YOU DON’T KNOW!” And in that moment, as I considered the sheer magnitude of the crisis we were discussing, I saw with greater clarity than ever before just how frighteningly vital it is that repentance is initiated by the Spirit—and not US.
On the very best of days, my life circumstances include consequences from past choices, the responsibilities of the present, and an often-palpable tomorrow. It’s a tangled web, a knotty weave, an egg so thoroughly scrambled that it makes Humpty Dumpty’s predicament look optimistic. God alone knows what thread to cut, what knot to loosen, what piece of eggshell to separate out. Yet I regularly jump into the fray of my life, identify a troublesome knot and then attack it, slashing and straining and pulling and wrestling until I’m exhausted. Then I have the gall to get angry with God because the mess remains. And God replies:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the daily paradox of sanctification. Are my sins forgiven? Yes. Have I been cleansed by the Blood of Christ? Absolutely. Am I born again from above, a new creation indwelt by the Life of Christ Himself? Check and check. But when I was born again, I wasn’t airlifted out of my life circumstances, even though I had entered the true Reality. What do I mean by this? Well, for example, if you’re in jail for murder when you’re born again, you don’t immediately get teleported out of prison. You could, but it’s not the norm.
For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.
Romans 6:6-7 HCSB
I am no longer enslaved to my flesh, nor ruled by my past, but that doesn’t mean that every difficulty I incurred simply disappears. Some does! And some doesn’t. This is why repentance initiated by the Holy Spirit is an issue of life and death – there are obstacles to God that only He can even see, let alone remove.
Further, only God knows the order in which I am to be convicted, and of what, and when. He will not violate my choice to run around convicting myself, but He also will not move when I am the initiator. When I ask Him a question and presume to know the answer, I go nowhere and nothing gets solved. He loves me enough to wait until my desperate need grows large enough to shut up my presumptuous reasoning. And when at last I am quieted, eyes and ears fixed on Him as the sole source of solution, THEN He can and will provide.
He is the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE—the solution to every problem, the prescription to all that ails.
For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.
Rom. 8:29-30 HCSB
He will keep this promise to us (He WILL unscramble the egg-that-is-me), but notice the implicit condition of this amazing scripture: HE is the One doing all that needs doing. He leads, and I follow. He gives, and I receive. He initiates, and I respond. He promises, and I believe.