A Guide to Staying Happy: Repent, Refresh, Renew!

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.“ (Psalm 51:10-12, NIV) David was not a man of half measures. When he fell into gross sin, he did so dramatically and completely by committing first adultery and then murder.

Is It Really Such A Surprise?

Does it surprise you that David could fall so far even when he knew God’s law so well and loved God so much? How did that happen? Christian take note: none of us is ever immune to sin. Bible knowledge and perfect church attendance do not create a guarantee that you won’t ever follow your heart into stupid choices. Every Christian I know is a dirty rotten sinner, including me.

The Apostle Paul, who was certainly one of the most spiritual men who ever lived, said that he struggled mightily with sin, and followed his fleshly desires against his own better judgment: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:15; 19-20)

It Wasn’t Just a Paul Problem…

Paul describes an internal spiritual battle that all believers experience when the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit does battle with our selfish, carnal nature. It’s something every one of us deals with. The flesh wants to slide into sin, and the Spirit wants to renew. David gave in to his fleshly desire and fell deeply into sin. When he came to his senses and repented, he did that deeply too. He not only acknowledged his sin and felt remorse, he begged God to restore their fellowship.

In David’s great prayer of confession in Psalm 51, he asks the Lord for several things. I’m thinking that this passage would be a pretty good one to pray through every day, and not just when you are battling sin. Here are David’s requests: 1) “Create in me a pure heart”. David understood that God was the only source of purity, and he asked God to sanctify him.

renew heart

2) “Renew a steadfast spirit within me”. David didn’t want to return to the Lord for a moment or a day, but for a lifetime. He had already proven that he could follow his own evil desires. David, who once pursued God as the deer panted for the water, had wandered into the desert. Confronted with his sin, he asked the Lord to make him steadfast, consistent, and persistent. Having tasted once the Spirit of the Lord, he understood that only God’s Spirit could renew his heart and restore his fellowship.

Headed the Right Direction

3) He wanted to hang out with God all the time. David had traded God’s eternal presence for temporary delight, and found only disappointment and heartache. He now understood that only God’s presence offers true delight, and only God’s Spirit sustains. David wanted to exchange the regret and remorse of sin for the renewal and refreshment of forgiveness.

4) “Restore to me the joy of your salvation”. Do you remember being relieved, glad, secure, content, and joyful in your first knowledge of salvation? Return to that moment. The honeymoon is never over, and the great romance continues! Rejoice anew in your salvation. As John says in 1 John 1:4, “These things we write to you so that your joy may be FULL.”

5) “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” David did not beg for wisdom, discipline, or for the ability to control—he begged God for sustenance. What sustains you? How willing is your spirit? If you ask God to purify and dwell in your heart, to grant you the JOY of your salvation, and to sustain you, and MEAN IT, I think that you will find that your heart is willing indeed. Repent. Renew. Be restored. Be sustained.

The King’s Lament

I don’t know why I ever thought myself above reproof,
When I saw Bathsheba bathing as I walked upon the roof;
She brazenly displayed herself and all her worldly charms,
And I knew that as I watched her, she would soon be in my arms.
I didn’t see where it would lead, or all the consequences,
And every day I wish I would have come back to my senses.
I might have kept from taking steps and breaking Yahweh’s trust,
Instead of giving in to sin and falling into lust.

I’m sorry, Lord. Forgive me for my wicked, selfish sin,
Create in me a brand new heart. Renew me from within.
Be present with me, Lord, and make my heart a new creation,
And please restore within me all the joy of my salvation!
Grant me a willing spirit, let me walk in all your ways;
Sustain my soul, and let me humbly love you all of my days…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Repentance May Mean More Than Doom and Gloom. How Refreshing!

When your hear the word “repent”, what comes to mind? I always think of a guy holding a sign, urging us all to be sorry for our sins. Peter didn’t have a sign, but he certainly urged people to take action: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NIV)

Dramatic Exhortation

Peter’s exhortation to onlookers in Acts 3 echoes his sermon in Acts 2:38, and it contains a simple message that resonated through the prophets, the Gospels, and the book of Acts: Repent! It’s the kind of dramatic message that calls us to make drastic changes and live differently. But do we really like listening to this kind of sermon?

I know he preached repentance, and I know we are supposed to turn away from our sin. It’s what Peter preached, it’s what John the Baptist preached, and it’s even what Jesus preached as he initiated his public ministry. (So, it’s in the New Testament a LOT.)

Maybe like most people, I don’t always embrace repentance the way I could or should. If somebody tells me I need to repent then it means I am doing something wrong, and if I accept the admonition to repent it implies that I need correction, and am failing somehow. It seems like a drastic admission and a drastic move, especially in a public setting where I have to broadcast my failure to everyone.

Hard Words

And for the record, these sermons weren’t feel-good platitudes, they were personal challenges that shook people up and called for immediate response, right there in front of God and everybody. Peter meant business. The image of the crazy guy with a beard holding a sign on the street corner comes to mind: REPENT! Do we take repentance as seriously as they did in Acts? It’s really kind of scary to consider making a public statement like Peter did… Would YOU want to tell everyone else to repent?

refreshing

Like Homer Simpson, I’ve always been focused on the negative side of that equation. I’m doing wrong, so I have to change. I need to do business with God. God is mad at me and I better give up my evil ways or I will pay the price. But I hadn’t really noticed part “B”—the result of repentance, “so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Taking that into account, our motivation to repent doesn’t have to focus exclusively on the negative.

A Different Approach, a Refreshing Outcome

Above all, we need to humble ourselves, to keep it real, and to be honest before the Lord. But, instead of thinking about repentance as what we need to turn FROM, maybe we should remember who we are turning TO. Peter says that we should repent to clear the decks, to have our sins wiped out, to BE REFRESHED. What, exactly, does that mean? “Times of refreshing from the Lord”?

Think about the upside of repentance: a cold drink in the shade in the middle the desert, or a taste of mint after something bitter. Imagine a delicious breeze on a muggy day, a freshening wind that invigorates and cools, blowing away the humidity and the stale, stagnant air of inactivity… Imagine newborn joy, fresh delight, first love… those are the refreshing fruits of repentance. Maybe the crazy guy on the street corner needs to be holding a sign that says, REFRESH! That’s what awaits us. Had a tough week? Repent! Been slogging through a hard time? Repent! Bored, tired, stale, impatient, dissatisfied? You know what to do…

Repentance is Refreshing?

When I think “repent” I think of brokenness and sin.
I think of feeling guilty for the mess I’ve gotten in.
I often think of standing there before the Righteous Judge,
Afraid that in my sentencing, from judgment He won’t budge!
I think about repenting, (I confess it has me stressing),
Forgetting that the Prodigal Father loves to offer blessing,
And loves to throw away my guilt to offer me refreshing!
When we approach the Father with a heart of true repentance,
Remember that He longs to put refreshment in your sentence.
No matter where you’ve run from God, if you will just repent,
He’ll offer you His open arms, and you’ll be glad you went.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Preaching What People Need, Not What They Want

When John the Baptist heralded the coming Messiah, he was preaching a pretty simple sermon. Apparently, it was pretty hard to follow. Even though crowds came out to hear him, there was confrontation with the Pharisees and controversy about his methods.

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” (Matthew 3:1-3 NIV) John the Baptist was a fascinating character. He didn’t approach religion the same way the established teachers did.

preaching

Not Your Average Rabbi

His sermons were direct, convicting, and powerful, full of exhortations and pointed advice about reform. In his preaching he called the religious Pharisees a “brood of vipers”! He challenged his listeners to humble themselves before God, confess their sin, and turn away from it. He didn’t teach in the Temple in Jerusalem, as did the outstanding Rabbis of the day. John lived out in the wilderness, preaching far away from the centers of commerce and power. He dressed in rustic simplicity and ate locusts and wild honey. Farm to table restaurants are in vogue now, but John was more natural than that: he went straight up wilderness to table.

John the Baptist didn’t unpack Scripture, he exhorted people with it. He challenged the status quo. John prophesied. In spite of his apparent eccentricity, large crowds came out to hear him preach and many stepped forward to take the radical step of baptism, signifying that they hungered to commit to the Lord in a new way. When asked who he was, he quoted Isaiah 40:3: “He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

Not What Everyone Expected

Although he was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, his message was simple: “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” John didn’t call for the overthrow of government, no matter how much they hated Roman occupation. He didn’t call for a new building. And he didn’t advocate revolution or reformation to prepare for the Kingdom. He called for personal repentance.

He knew that for the kingdom of heaven to be present anywhere, it first had to be present in the hearts of those who hungered to see it. Is it present in yours? I think we all avoid repentance a little bit, and associate it with wild-eyed Mystics holding signs by the road. But probably, if you’re honest, you are doing something in your life that is taking you down the wrong path–something motivated by pride, or selfishness, or greed…

If John the Baptist showed up in your neighborhood, would you go listen? Would you like his preaching? Would you repent? The very Kingdom of Heaven is waiting! Confess. Turn away from your sin. Perhaps THIS devotional is just getting you ready for your REAL one. IYKYK. Make straight the path of the Lord.

Simple Preaching

Of all the sermons ever preached,
From all the sinners ever reached,
There’s just one message you should hear,
So let me make this crystal clear:
(Jesus preached this, so did Paul;
Stephen, Peter, really all
Great preachers throughout history
Have emphasized this mystery.)
Every preacher God has sent
Said this: Repent. Repent. REPENT!
I’m pretty sure that’s what they meant.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread