Pornography, money and pills
150 years ago, dance, alchohol and gambling (poker), were things preachers called on people to repent of. For good reason: they saw so many lives and families were being destroyed by them. But what do we need to turn away from nowadays?
2000 years ago the world was changed forever. Historians agree that Jesus was brutally executed by the Romans. The Bible has one central message: that Jesus rose from the grave three days later. Millions of people are convinced that this is reliably documented and actually did happen.
The Bible says that Jesus is alive and with God the Father right now. One day he shall return to the Earth so that all people shall have to stand and make answer and take responsibility for how we have lived. By his death on the cross he gives forgiveness, reconciliation and freedom to anyone who relies on him. This good news has lifted people and challenge them all over the Earth for the past 2000 years. No other individual has inspired so many to turn their life around through the love of God, and with the Holy Spirit as their driving force.
Facing the consequence of the world's most important message is called repentance.
The word translates the Greek metanoia and actually means "to change your way of thinking". It's not about feeling sorry for everything and trying to live a different way, or about everything from now on being and fine and dandy. This total turn-around starts by understanding who Jesus actually is and what he has done for us whatever our lives are like at the moment. Whether you're weak or strong, wordly or religious, repentance means admitting God is right, whatever other people may think about it.
You see: It's God's goodness leading you to repentance, to a changed heart. (Rom 2:4)
Repentance is also about receiving God's love so that you also learn to love yourself. Many go through a great big struggle with the dark powers within them. But when you reconcile yourself to who you actually are in the eyes of God, the longing and the power grows to get your life in order, take care of yourself and those you love. You take responsibility for your own life instead of becoming a victim of your own feelings, your own past, or to other people's demands and pressures. You replace egoism and self-pity with the love of God and of all the things He has made - which includes yourself.
Are we willing to say “no” to position and popularity because we believe something is right and true?
150 years ago, dance, alcohol and gambling were the things preachers told people to repent of. What about today? What areas do we need to turn away from now? Here are seven things I'd like to look at:
- Pornography. Pornography warps our fantasies and thoughts about what sex is meant to be about. That undermines the real intimacy you have with your partner. Don't let it be a dark secret making you ashamed. Confess it to a friend and and start your journey away from its destructive power.
- Social Media and Tech. What is your SnapStreaks record? Are you a bedtime surfer? Screen addiction will make you a distance parent, marriage partner, and an absent friend. "Un-Social Media", as Nils Arne Eggen calls it. The people around you need your undivided attention. Instead of attending to your inner meditations or to the things happening around you, you get drawn into a digital world where you can easily lose touch as you meet with other people's glossy images and their demonisation of imagined enemies. Set up limitations. take control of when you are logged in - and when you're logged off.
- Pills. Norwegians top the statistics of pill-abuse. Part of this is unfortunately about challenges that are hard to admit - both to one's self and others, such as stress, lack of sleep, unresolved conflicts and the pressure to succeed. Some of the medicines we take are addictive and hard to break with, even after the problems we took them for have been fixed. And many people are too ashamed to talk about their misuse, or for that matter about drinking problems, for that matter. Should they to be left to their own devices or is anyone ready to be a friend indeed to them and help them restore their dignity by taking up the fight?
- Money. Materialism is one of the greatest enemies of the Gospel. It gets Christians to join in the rat-race to collect status-symbols in case they lose face with their neighbours or colleagues. Must have a holiday-home, a boat, car, sports-equipment, fancy furniture, selfies of our success. What do we use our money on? And for what reason? There's an uncomfortable pep-talk many of us need to have with ourselves if we want to follow Jesus for real.
- Status. It is easy to point at people who never say anything contraversial, so they can be accepted, or to be included among the in-crowd. Fortunately the #metoo campaign put a searchlight on a culture of cowardly silence that is nothing to be proud of. But what about you and me? Are we willing to say no to status and popularity because we think something is right and true? Do we stand up for truth even when it costs us? Are we willing to go against the mainstream so we can build a society built on real fairness and real truth?
- Passivity. It is easy to end up in victimhood without meaning to. "So unfair on me, and it's all everybody else's fault." "Everyone else should be fixing my problems for me." Staring at my own miseries is a shortcut to self-pity and bitterness. The Bible describes a devil who wants to snuff out our courage. We see him trying to do it with Jesus and with many others in the Bible. We first have to get up and resist the devil before he's going to run away. (James 4:7). The decision to get up and fight starts with me and you.
- Polarisation. Media and comments sections are filled with factional hostility and mud-slinging, be it about politics, identity, religion or anything else. But God has long ago objected to that kind of behaviour. He operates with one kind of person: Humans created in His image, all needing His Salvation. More than ever before, the World needs Christians that love their enemies. (Matthew 5:44). So as Christians we can't allow ourselve to rant and rail and make hateful comments about people we disagree with, whatever they say to us. We are called to overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21).
Repentance is about living in the light and taking up the fight against sin.
No doubt the list could be longer, but I hope the point is clear. Being a Christian is not about being flawless and perfect. The fight against sin doesn't disappear once you become a Christian, but God will help us towards the life of freedom. Repentance therefore is about living in the light and taking up the fight against sin. Be humble, open and honest about our struggles, when we break bread together and confess what we are struggling with. That way we can live more and more the way we actually want to by accepting the new life God pours into us. I think that actually many non-Christians also are longing for this.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Do you want to find the most important verses in the Bible about repentance? Then try: Hebrews 6:1-3, Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15, Romans 2:4 & 6:13, Philippians 3:7-8, James 5:16 and 1 John 1:7.
The text is used by kind permission of Sennep.net