If we better understood the danger of the lies we believe, we would do everything in our power to be rid of them. Deception is like a high tide, whose water conceals the rocks that will destroy our ship . . . if the deceiver can just coax us into believing those waters hold no harm.
Her heart hopelessly hardened toward her husband, the young woman found herself weakened by her constant battle with anger and despair. More than anything, she wanted to share her walk with the Lord with her husband, but as kind and good as he was, he didn’t understand and wasn’t inclined to go deeper spiritually.
She sought to live her faith and love him with a fervor that would melt his resistance, but she found herself constantly defeated by a stubborn lump of obduracy in him that would not budge. He was glad for her, that she had the relationship with God that she did, but he resisted going deeper himself.
Disappointment hardened into resentment, building until the day came, when her self-control gave way, and she exploded . . . sheer meanness spewing from her in a measure of cruelty that stunned even her. . . just as she left for her weekend spiritual retreat. Hours later she would feel sorrow for what had come out of her, but justified in how she felt.
Gutted and weary, she was awash with emotions that were taking her down. Her affection for her husband waxed cold, and her respect for him hung limp as a tattered banner forsaken on the field of defeat. The ship of their marriage had run aground . . . its belly being torn by the rocks below.
Two days into her retreat, in a darkened chapel, the unmistakable point of a dagger touched her heart in warning. Every nerve sprang into readiness, her senses alert as the speaker began to describe how we wrong God by despising His gifts — even as Israel had contempt for the manna He brought to her every morning in the wilderness.
She felt the quick sting of the dagger’s tip cutting her heart, as the image of her husband filled her mind. She saw how she was despising God’s gift to her. Bowing her head in contrition, she made no excuse. Revelation has the power to instantaneously bring us into agreement with Himself. But the work was not finished.
What happened next would be one of the holy moments of her life. She was plunged into the mind and heart of her young husband, who would never allow himself to fail at anything. Suddenly she could feel what he felt: he knew how he disappointed her and it was killing him to fail in her eyes. But he would rather bear it silently, like a man, than lash out at her for the pain or turn elsewhere for comfort and confirmation.
For a moment, everything spun as her bearings shifted to make room for what she had never seen before. The exquisite pain of seeing the truth caused her heart to lurch, changing her . . . suffusing her with ardent tender esteem for her husband and the ache to be physically near him.
Her capacity for this intimate exchange with God lay in her fear of God — long fixed in her soul. Her fear of God did not alienate her from Him in the least. Rather, it drove her closer to Him, especially when she sensed a coming correction — because she understood that whatever God had to say to her — it was to save her from the peril of dire straits she did not recognize . . . the peril of false perceptions leaching darkness and deception in her, that would send her upon the rocks. She knew that His rebukes came to correct her, and so she always listened, when the tip of His dagger would come against her heart.
We can be so certain of our rightness to think the way we do, that we have no idea how wrong we are . . . and the peril we are drifting toward. Until that moment in the darkened chapel, she had no idea how inadequate and faulty her thinking was — and compounding the problem — she felt fully justified to think the way she did. It was the fear of God that caused her to recognize the point of the dagger against her heart . . . the fear of God that made her lean into the divine dialogue . . . the fear of God that gave her the cold, clear, calm and certain knowledge of the peril of deception — causing her to dread any faulty thinking. She knew all too well that she could belong to God, and yet harbor attitudes and exhibit behavior that mocked His reality in her life.
In that darkened chapel, nothing changed in her circumstances, but much had changed in her thinking. The exquisite pain of seeing the truth caused her heart to lurch, suffusing her with an entirely different spirit, compelling her toward her husband with ardent tender esteem. She was out of peril and into God’s keeping . . . and it was intoxicating.
It was Repentance
Repentance is a transformational mystery that unfolds –only– in intimate collaboration between a man and God. It takes place at our spiritual rebirth, but it also takes place time and time again, in the infinite points of “rebirth” by which God transforms us–point by point— into a closer likeness to Himself.
Repentance begins as God orchestrates our circumstances to target a point of wrong thinking that is operating in our belief system.
The young woman had no idea how her wrong thinking (despising God’s gift, her perception of her husband as not meriting her esteem, and the hopelessness of her marriage) was leaching darkness into her soul. Her thinking was wrong —
- wrong, because it was in opposition to what God saw and knew to be true, and
- wrong because of its devastating effect on her, her marriage, and her husband.
But she did not know how wrong she was, or where she was wrong; she felt utterly justified to think the way she did. . . having no idea that as she increasingly yielded to that wrong thinking, her darkness deepened and her peril grew.
She was deceived. Deception is the power of the lies we believe.
Deception breeds darkness (sin) in us, from which every traitorous betrayal of truth springs. Think of Eve in the garden.
What is truly sobering is how blind to deception we can be — convinced we’re right, when we’re utterly wrong. It was like this with Saul of Tarsus, driven by threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, sure that he was serving God, as he went to the high priest seeking authority to imprison believers. (Acts 9:1)
Deception is a paradigm of destruction you cannot “see” your way out of, because you “buy” what is sending you onto the rocks. . . As in gridlock, as in Ferguson, as in the polarity of our nation, as in the wedge being hammered into the body of America to divide us. . . Convinced how right we are, we are utterly wrong. . . but we cannot “see” our way out of a paradigm we totally “buy.” The only way out of our peril, into His keeping, is for God to intervene, with the point of a dagger laid upon our heart. But is the fear of God fixed in our soul? In our anger and contentiousness, will we lean into the divine dialogue to discern that place in our thinking where we’re wrong?
The Prelude to repentance is God orchestrating circumstances to target the point of darkness where deception has gained its hold in us. God targeted that place in the young woman, and He targeted it in Saul.
- She recognized God’s rebuke of her contempt for His gift, and her fear of God caused her to bow in contrition.
- Saul fell upon his knees when he heard the voice of the one saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Repentance is a mystery that unfolds in the collaboration between a man and God. On His part, it begins with the orchestration of circumstances — very often painful and troubling. On our part, it begins with our quickness to recognize that God is addressing a place where we are at odds with Him . . .
And Saul said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance].
Acts 9:5, Amplified Bible
God targets that point of false reasoning in us that is contrary to who He is and what He is about . . . which is corrupting us, which is lethally dangerous, and which will always turn out badly for us.
God targets that dark place in our thinking, but we have to respond with contrition in the fear of God.
Scripture overflows with stories demonstrating God’s targeting of points in the belief systems of men and nations, where they were at odds with Him. David was constantly grateful for the afflictions God had used to correct him. He had the fear of God. Saul had the fear of God, which caused him to repent, when God intervened with a blinding revelation on the road to Damascus. But Pharaoh of Egypt had no fear of God, and no intention to lean into the divine dialogue that was taking place between he and God.
Repentance brings us out of peril into God’s keeping, but the work of repentance is not done in us until the false we’ve believed is dislodged and replaced by what is true.
For the young woman, her hardened judgment of her husband was replaced by the revelation of his character. For Saul, his hatred of Christianity was replaced by the revelation that Jesus was Lord and Savior.
When a lie is dislodged and replaced by the truth, the leaching peril of deception is removed from our souls. For the young woman, this meant that the crippling despair, frustration and anger lost their place in her. Her repentance was a holy moment when God released her from the power of deception.
…with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:25-26)
A revelation is a shatteringly beautiful fragment of God’s point of view coming to find its place in us, flooding us with His mind and heart, compelling us forward with His love and understanding.
Revelation and repentance suffused Saul with trembling astonishment and humility, compelling him from that moment to a life of serving . . . whatever was asked of Him.
Trembling and astonished he asked, Lord, what do You desire me to do? The Lord said to him, But arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.
Acts 9:5-6, Amplified Bible
In that city, a believer named Ananias, knew with stark certainty that Saul of Tarsus was a dreadful enemy of the church. He found himself resisting God, Who was telling him to go and pray for Saul. Some repentances are huge, some are small; but the effect of revelation taking the place of error is the same . . . filling us with the power and presence of God.
Ananias went and laid his hands upon the head of Saul, speaking to him what the Lord had told him . . .
And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth.
In these words, Ananias is summing up the life and destiny of Saul of Tarsus, but he is also describing his own life, and the life and destiny of every believer in whom repentance is being made real. [i]
We will know the will of God.
We will see Jesus
We will hear the utterances of His mouth.
I believe that the point of a dagger is even now being laid at our hearts, warning us of the dire straights we are in. The outcome will be determined by whether we fear God enough to be shown where we are wrong . . . and repent.
Repentance is a transformational mystery that takes place in the intimate collaboration between a man and God. He does not force it on us, He does not secure it against our will . . . or we, as believers, would not continue to mock His power and presence in our life by our attitudes and behavior . . . and Jesus would not have looked into the future wondering, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
Repentance is the transformative mystery
that takes a wretched mess like each of us can be,
to bring us out of sin and error pining
into the new and glorious morn.
O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared
And the soul felt its worth
The thrill of hope, The weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night, o night divine
[i] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, The Acts of the Apostles, Acts 22