I Repent, Help My Unrepentance
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a spiritual oil check stick for our heart? At any given moment we could dip the stick into our hearts and evaluate our sincerity.
I wonder if my heart is 60% pure and 40% sinful today as I head out to minister. Maybe I’m 70% sinful and 30% pure?
When repenting of heart sin, it is hard to evaluate the sincerity of your repentance. Are you really relinquishing your sin? Or are you going through the motions of repentance with no serious desire to change?
Who’s to say? Oftentimes in our divided hearts, it is impossible to determine. I frequently find myself praying, “I repent, help my unrepentance!”
Mark 9:20-27 teaches an important principle. A man brings his demonized son to Jesus and asks if Jesus can do anything. Jesus answers, “All things are possible for one who believes.”
The man does not try to fake faith. Rather, he is humble and genuine. His honesty is born out of his utter desperation. He immediately cries, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
What a statement. He is saying he does have some faith in Christ and His power. But he also has doubt. He has probably tried many things, many times before to obtain healing for his son, all to no avail. His faith is ragged and worn thin, hanging on by a thread.
We know Jesus loves such honesty. He compliments it in Nathanael in John 1:46-47:
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
Jesus does not appreciate fake sincerity. It’s easy in human relationships to smile and act as though you trust someone even though you have serious doubts. Social conventions call for and sometimes seem to demand such pleasantries. But when dealing with the God of the universe Who knows all things, it is always better to just lay all of your cards on the table as this man did. Prayer should truly be a opening up of your soul to the Lord.
The prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief,” has become a pattern that helps me wrestle honestly with the Lord in many areas. This is primarily true in ministry ventures. Often before I preach, I will pray for God to use the message in other people’s lives. As I persevere in prayer, I often notice at least two desires competing in my heart and prayer.
There is a genuine desire for Christ to be honored through the preaching of His Word. I long for people to repent and believe for their joy in Christ. But there is also the subtle desire lurking in the shadows that I want the sermon to go well so I’ll look great. A part of me loves my honor more than Christ’s. It seems to always be there, chasing me like my shadow. “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21).
I hate that this self-centered desire seems so ever present within me. I pray against it. I repent, but it pops back up. I wonder, “Have I really repented?” So what do I do as I drive to a meeting where I’m supposed to proclaim God’s Word? I pray, “I repent, but help my lack of repentance, Lord.”
I build upon this pattern. “Father, whatever in me is pure and desires to exalt you and serve others, fan it into flame. Pour spiritual gasoline on it! But Lord, whatever is sinful and selfish, masquerading as holy, please kill it. Put sin to death in me! I repent, help my unrepentance, Lord!”
The best way I know to deal with a divided heart in ministry…be honest about it!
Jesus responds so graciously to the man in Mark 9. Even though he admits a lack of faith, Jesus still heals his son by casting out the demon. Our Lord’s grace and mercy in this story encourages me to be open and raw with Him about my lack of faith and the sinful selfishness lingering in my heart even in the midst of leading others in ministry.
The good news is, we don’t need a spiritual dipstick. The man in Mark 9 didn’t say, “I’m 51% believing and only 49% in doubt.” He was just brutally honest with Christ that he was a mixed bag. He had some faith and some sinful fear.
We must live this way daily as well while we serve the Lord on campus. “I believe in You, Lord, help my unbelief. I repent, help my unrepentance. I rest in You, help my anxiety. I hope in You, help my doubt.” The good news is, we don’t have a relationship with Christ that is based on the sincerity of our hearts, but rather on the sincerity of His love for us–His 100% commitment to us that drove Him to the cross and kept Him there.
Pray with raw honesty. Wrestle with the Lord about your divided heart. Don’t be content to stay where you are. Beg Him to change and grow you, to sanctify you and conform you to His image. But never rest in your perceived “purity percentage,” nor beat yourself up over remaining corruption. Rather rest in the finished work of Christ. Look to His purity. Rest in His 100% completed work on your behalf as you walk onto campus each day.