“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – (Matthew 3:2 NIV)
Repentance is actually a good word, even though it seems to have taken on a negative meaning these days. It’s a gift Jesus offers to us, so that we can turn from those things that hinder our relationship with Him. To have a vibrant and meaningful relationship with God requires us to be honest about our failures. To know God rightly, we must know our own weaknesses and limitations. It’s up to each one of us to make a practice of inviting the Holy Spirit to search our hearts.
Many times when we pray we offer our ‘false selves’ to God. But, He’s never fooled by these vain attempts to cover-up who we really are. It’s our natural tendency to avoid the searchlight of the Holy Spirit from exposing our hearts.
God loves the real you, but he can’t transform your false self. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, we tend to hide from God when we sin. Real inner transformation of the heart begins only after we stop hiding from Him.
Much of what we call Christian values can be carried out in our own strength. Those acts of outward righteousness can merely be learned behavior. But the inner transformation of the heart is a supernatural act of God. This necessitates a complete turning to and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Kyle Strobel sums this reality up well:
“Only in the grace of God can we open the depths of our depravity before him. Unfortunately, many people try to live in the grace of God and project a false self to him (Ps 32:3-4). Many try to know God without allowing that knowledge to penetrate to the depths of their hearts. Rather, our call is to have a healthy self-awareness so we can hold open our failures to God: how we praise him with our mouths only, pray to him out of guilt and use relationships to build ourselves up rather than glorify Christ. Without the self-awareness to unveil how much of our Christian practice is built on our flesh, we inevitably fail to recognize how our “virtues” are simply vices in disguise.”
Strobel, Kyle C.. Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (p. 98). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.