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“Yeah, I know, I know…Repent.” [Sigh]

Want to bum people out who come to you for spiritual guidance when they have sin in their life which becomes a barrier to their spiritual growth? Tell them they should rid themselves of those sins by turning away from them and strive to follow Jesus. That’s right, call them to repent.
Do that and I can almost guarantee you won’t be the “cool’ pastor in their eyes anymore. It happened to me this week. I spoke with a guy who stumbled into our church and asked if I (and a few others) would pray over him and ask God to “pop” him with the Holy Spirit. “I really need a strong one,” he told me. Apparently he wanted some of the pastors to pray over him and be “slain in the Spirit” or be delivered from the demonic because his life had gone south and he wanted God to intervene. In the past I probably would’ve strategically suggested he try a different type of church but I felt the need to spend more time with him to get to the bottom of where he was coming from.

A lengthy dialogue revealed some serious pockets of rebellion in his life, areas he knew to be wrong but didn’t really want to give up. It was at that point I humbly suggested that in order for him to find greater “deliverance” in his life he needed to turn from those sins which were seriously quenching his spiritual life. I’m not sure that was the answer he was looking for.

Frankly, he wanted something much more “sexy” – some kind of supernatural quick fix that demanded more of God than him. He wanted something to happen to him that would let him see how high the Holy Spirit caused him to jump, but he was much less concerned with the Holy Spirit’s work in how straight he should walk when he hit the ground. I have a feeling he didn’t recommend me to many of his friends because the only guidance I really gave him, outside of connecting with fellow believers for strength, was to repent. Needless to say, he was rather nonplussed by the suggestion. Each time I would call him to repentance he would try to coax me into another route – cast out a demon, slay him in the Spirit, etc., and each time I would give him the same answer.

“I know. Don’t tell me. Repent.” His head buried in his hands.

Sensing his frustration I tried to let him know that I wasn’t trying to be naïve to his situation or calloused to his story, but based on what he had told me, repentance seemed to me the most appropriate path for him to walk. And to each call to repentance he’d reply, “But…” You can fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter, the answer is still the same, “But I still want to do what I have been doing.”

I’ve come to see in the pastoral part of ministry that repentance is the great equalizer. It takes on all who want spiritual guidance and separates the contenders from the pretenders by exposing those who really want to change from those who just want you to do it for them.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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