We are in exile.

We live outside the promised land.

Our hearts yearn for it.

Our eyes weep.

...We collapse by the river and lament.

Exiled from our mothers womb.

Expelled from the garden.

Memories of the promised land

Haunt creaky corridors in my heart

...I thought freedom was the path I chose.

The womb is heaven. Heaven is confining.

My ego was to large for that place.

I crawled out head-first into the cold,

Screaming and crying and covered in blood.

...Reality deals it's crushing blow.

The garden is heaven. I am never content.

How could God keep any tree for Himself?

I'll show Him. I'll take it. I'll survive.

He's holding out on me. My way is best.

...If only I'd known.

The promised land was ours.

Yet here we sit mourning.

Living in the past. Hoping in idols.

We've exiled ourselves-our chosen path.

...But the way back has been opened.

Paradise lost was ours all along

There is nothing in this world quite like standing in the reality of your need for God.

Growing up in church, I have been a fervent participant in this thing called repentance, with it's various nuances and forms. I have groveled. I have self-justified. I have self-loathed. I have tried to hold out without repenting, because I knew I was inevitably going to fall again and I wanted to wait... I wanted to be truly sorry... I wanted to wrap all of my repentance into one "big" moment of sorrow. There have been heartfelt moments where I found myself gripping the carpet with my teeth as hot tears burned their way down my cheeks, and I could scarcely utter a sound. There have been other moments where a simple "sorry" was all I felt I needed to say

I am a sinner. I am well-acquainted with repentance. It is an everyday reality for me.

But... sitting here in this moment, once again preparing for a time of sincere repentance... I am realizing something for the first time. There is beauty in this moment; a beauty I have never noticed before.

As the gospel sinks down deeper into the inner-recesses of my heart, like a spelunking adventurer repels himself downward into a dark cave, I feel the gospel shining its light on unexposed areas and revealing truths about this place in my heart I never realized.

Over my life I have repented for many different reasons: Because I feel bad.. Because I have sinned... Because I want to save myself from hell...

I have looked at repentance through many different glasses: I have seen repentance as a work of salvation. I have repented to get God to forgive me... To twist His arm. "If I'm this sorry you have to forgive me... You must!" I have even carried my guilt around with me. I have struggled with fear that in those moments I didn't really repent, because I find myself repeating sins over and over. I have stood at the foot of the cross and said "thanks for carrying the weight of my sins, but it's not enough... I need to carry them too... then I will earn what you have already given me." Sounds crazy right! But many of us do that, and I think it's because somewhere down deep, maybe we want a bit of the credit, or maybe we just don't understand how good the news of the gospel is... that we can not save ourselves... and no walking around carrying our own guilt can or will ever add anything to our salvation. He already paid it all.

Other times I have looked at repentance as a formality. I have taken the gospel of grace to the other extreme, knowing full well that He took on the complete payment of my sin and that I am free. So when I would find myself sinning, I would move on, barely feeling the need to repent, knowing that without Christ in my life I would always sin... In those moments I understood grace, but took advantage of it. I used His amazing grace as a license to sin and to feel free from remorse.

What is so beautiful about this moment is that I see repentance for the what it truly is. Repentance is not the legalistic, guilt-ridden extreme that I have experienced in the past (although it does involve viewing my sin and brokenness for what it is). At the same time Repentance is not the lawless, "cheap-grace" view of the gospel (although it is realizing I am freed from the penalty of my sin and that I don't need to carry the weight of that sin anymore). What has freed me from these broken forms of repentance is the gospel.

I am learning that repentance is a time I sit in the realization that I am a great sinner. I remind myself that this moment of sin I have just experienced is what I will perpetually experience without Christ. My self-bent heart perpetually leads to actions that bring sorrow, destruction, and death into my life. I allow that truth to sink deep within my heart... I experience it. I don't shy away from the brokenness deep within the recesses of my heart. In this moment I am gripped by the overwhelming realization of my great need for God.

But that is only part of repentance. If I stop there, I begin to fall into the legalistic, self-deprecating and simultaneously self-glorifying trap of carrying the burden of my own sin, thereby becoming my own savior and missing out on the gospel transformation that is mine through Christ.

I haven't truly repented until I have experienced the full gospel in those moments... that although I am more selfish and broken and vile than I could ever imagine, He loves me more than I could ever dream! He has forgiven me and washed me and sanctified me already and He does not see my sin! He looks at me and does not see a sinner! He sees me through Christ, victorious and blameless and worthy!

In that moment grace becomes truly amazing. But, it will never be amazing unless I realize the huge divide that exists between me and God… the divide between my brokenness and His holiness. I must sit in the shadow of the cross and take the time to meditate on my need for him, in order for the grace and forgiveness to impact my heart and bring the realization of the joy and peace that I have with God because of what Christ has done.

A preacher friend of mine says we don't need to actually repent to get forgiveness... that if we are in Christ we are forgiven already. But he also points out that we do need repentance to remind ourselves of the forgiveness that is ours in Christ... that we need repentance to allow that truth of His grace to sink deeper within our hearts and transform us from within. I am not sure If I could go that far with it. Scripture tells us to repent over and over... but I think he has a really good point when he discusses our need for it: We all need true gospel-centered repentance. We all need it to be a daily reality for us. We need it to draw us away from our addictions and rapture us up into a glorious place where we see our God in His beauty and grace... that place where everything else melts away and we are once again overwhelmed by His love.

There is nothing in this world quite like standing in the reality of your need for God.