Repentance and the Conscience (7)
Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it. Psalm 141.5
One big obstacle
We’ve been talking about the importance of repentance, which is a gift of God’s grace, accomplished in us by His Spirit, as He convicts us of sin and leads us along the path of restoration to righteousness. Repentance is essential for faith to flourish, so we need to keep this discipline primed and ready, and to practice it whenever the Spirit alerts us through our conscience that something is not quite right in our lives. Repentance originates in the conscience which, grounded in God’s Law (Rom. 2.14, 15), piques the heart (affections) and mind (thoughts) to seek a path more in line with the righteousness of Christ.
Because temptations confront us daily, and we are still affected by the law of sin within us, we’ll need to master the practice of repentance as an ongoing practice in our walk with the Lord. If we will do so, we can be certain that the Lord will bring growth in grace and in making us more like Jesus.
But repentance begins with acknowledging our sins and desiring to turn from them. And just here a real obstacle to a life of repentance can arise.
It’s simply this: we are inclined to sin.
We like to indulge in wickedness and evil, and this is because we’re not yet wholly sanctified. The Law of sin continues active within us, and we must be ever vigilant to keep it in check. The Christian life is described as warfare, a struggle, a distance race, even a boxing match. There’s a struggle for our souls, and, more than we might like to admit, we’re sometimes fighting on the wrong side.
How can we overcome this reluctance to give up the practice of sin? This can be particularly difficult if the sin we indulge is something known only to us – and, of course, to the Lord. God sets our secret sins before His eyes (Ps. 90.8); but because others don’t see them, we may continue to indulge that which can throttle our prayer life (Ps. 66.18; 1 Pet. 3.7), sear our conscience (1 Tim. 4.2), trip up our feet, and send us hurtling uncontrollably into more and more sin (Ps. 73.18, 19).
How can we prevent this?
One way is by having friends in your life with whom you feel comfortable, because of their love, to share your innermost struggles – soul friends. If you’re married, your spouse is the place to begin. By sharing together and nurturing one another in your walk with the Lord, you’ll not only further the work of sanctification in each of your lives, but you’ll grow closer to one another as well.
Another place to turn for a soul friend is to someone of the same sex with whom you are willing to share your plans, fears, challenges, and struggles, and with whom you can enjoy a relationship of mutual accountability and edification.
Think of Jesus and His disciples. He loved them fervently, spent time with them, talked about the Kingdom of God and their role in it, and encouraged them to develop a big vision for the life of faith. But He also confronted them in their sins – as Peter had to learn the hard way. Jesus warned Peter that he would betray Him. When he did, Jesus cast a withering glance at him, and Peter collapsed in tears. Then, after the resurrection, Jesus came to Peter and restored him to his place as a follower of the Lord and keeper of His sheep. This is what soul friends can do for one another in helping repentance realize its full flowering in our lives.
Having a soul friend
You’ll need to spend time with your soul friend, and to share from your time with the Lord – what He’s teaching you, the temptations you confront each day, how you prepare for them, how you meet them, how the Lord is helping you to grow, and so forth.
Encourage one another through prayer and by ministering the Word of God. Challenge one another to identify specific areas where repentance might bear good fruit in your lives, then hold one another accountable for specific areas of growth or ministry (Heb. 10.24). And be ready to deal with lapses into sin whenever they become evident, not in a judgmental and condemning manner, but with the kind of grace Jesus showed to Peter on the shores of Galilee.
Soul friends should be free to challenge one another regarding attitudes or behaviors that don’t quite fit the profile of a Kingdom citizen. And they should accept one another’s challenges and rebukes before the Lord together in prayer.
A soul friend can bolster your efforts to achieve a good conscience and a strong soul. Find a soul friend to help you in making repentance a way of life. You’ll both benefit from such a caring and edifying relationship.
1. Why is having a soul friend such a good idea?
2. How can husbands and wives become better soul friends for one another?
3. How should soul friends conduct their friendship, to gain the most benefit through this commitment?
Next steps – Transformation: If you do not have a soul friend, don’t let another week go by without identifying at least one person who will help you watch over your soul for repentance, growth, and fruitfulness in the Lord.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.