Doing 360s

The 260 Journey
The 260 Journey
Doing 360s

Day 156

Today’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 7

A man wrote to the IRS, “I haven’t been able to sleep because last year on my income tax report, I deliberately misrepresented my income. I am enclosing a check for $150, if I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.”

If we are going to repent of dishonesty and do the right thing then let’s do it all the way—not like this fellow in his IRS letter. Today’s chapter reminds us what real repentance is. In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson wrote, “Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision.” True repentance is not just feeling bad about what we have done, it’s about getting it fixed. Repentance is best defined by a little girl who said: “It’s to be sorry enough to quit.”

The word repentance is so important because it means a change of mind, a 180-degree turn from something. It carries the idea that you are heading one way, a change comes, and you turn around and head in the right direction.

The problem has been that God’s people have been doing 360s most of their Christian lives. Remember what a 360 is? As a teen you go in the parking lot with your month-old driver’s license and step on the gas with the steering wheel turned. And your car goes around in circles, burning rubber. There is movement but no forward movement.

False repentance is a life of 360s. We need to break the cycle. We are good at the sorry part, it’s the quitting part that comes hard and comes with a price. I think victory over sin has been far from some of us because we have misdefined repentance. We have put crying and feeling horrible in the definition. The apostle Paul seems to define repentance a different way. Listen to his profound words on repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

He lists seven things that describe repentance. None of them include feeling bad or tears; they’re all about 180 decisions:

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11, NIV)

Paul says true repentance has earnestness, eagerness to clear yourself, indignation, an alarm, longing, concern, and readiness for justice to be done. These are all important things to stop the 360s so we can have 180s. Paul says when it is real repentance, certain attitudes attach to your feeling badly. The IRS letter guy felt a $150 bad but not enough bad to do what’s right.

Paul says when we repent, we pull out of the 360 by indignation, hating what we have done. Hating the sin that got us there. Longing to make things right, that’s the readiness of justice. The willingness to do whatever it takes to make it right with the IRS, our spouse, our children, whomever. In fake repentance, we just want to say, “I said I’m sorry. Can’t we just move on?” In real repentance, we say, “Tell me what I have to do to win over your heart and trust again?”

Paul says it produces an alarm in us. It’s a wake-up call of the sin in us that is longing to be in control. The King James Version uses the phrase, what carefulness. Real repentance makes us careful not to put ourselves, our marriages, our families in any compromising position that could take us into a 360 spin.

In I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior. . . . It is revival without reformation, without repentance.”

When we remove repentance from our Christian life, we add 360 cycles. Let me remind you of someone who has been in a 360 spin for a long time. Her name is Lucy.

Several years ago, the Peanuts comic strip had Lucy and Charlie Brown practicing football. Lucy would hold the ball for Charlie’s placekicking, and then Charlie would try to kick the ball. Every time Lucy held the ball, Charlie kicked with all his might. At the precise point of no return, Lucy would pick up the ball, and Charlie’s momentum, unchecked by the ball, which was no longer in place, would cause him to fall flat on his back.

This comic strip opened with Lucy holding the ball, but Charlie Brown refusing to kick. Lucy begged him to kick the ball. But Charlie Brown said, “Every time I try to kick the ball, you remove it and I fall on my back.”

They went back and forth for the longest time, and finally Lucy broke down in tears and admitted, “Charlie Brown, I have been so terrible to you over the years, picking up the football like I have. I have played so many cruel tricks on you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways! I’ve seen the hurt look in your eyes when I’ve deceived you. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Won’t you give a poor penitent girl another chance?”

Charlie Brown was moved by her display of grief. “Of course, I’ll give you another chance.” He stepped back as she held the ball, and he ran with all his might toward it. At the last moment, Lucy picked up the ball, and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back. Lucy’s last words were, “Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!”

Wow! The Peanuts gang is telling us exactly what 2 Corinthians 7 is telling us. I hope Lucy gets out of the 360.