The last time Stephen spoke on a Sunday evening, he talked about Abram and the promises God gave him, speaking about the need to give all of our lives (‘our pies’) to God. Abram embraced God and His promises initially, but in Gen 12:10-20, we see that he tried to gain favour from Pharaoh and effectively deal with famine and his life his own way, rather than by trusting God. He lied to Pharaoh about Sarah (saying she was his sister, not his wife), ‘so I will be treated well… and my life will be spared.’ (Gen 12:13) He tried to develop his own plan to bring prosperity and security for himself, despite God’s promises of blessing beyond his wildest dreams.
We can make the same mistakes as Abram, often trying to solve life’s difficulties ourselves instead of trusting God. Mistakes do not have to define us, however – we still remember Abraham ultimately as the father of faith, not as the man who lied! If we want to avoid spiralling into despair and condemnation when we sin and go astray, we need to see how Abram dealt with being thrown out of Egypt and realising that what he had done had not been God’s way. Effectively, he retraced his steps and called on the name of the Lord again. (Gen 13:3-4)
Repentance means retracing our steps, admitting we have been wrong and re-dedicating ourselves to God. We have to admit we have tried to live life ‘my way’, on our own, and if we are to go on with God, we must learn to be penitent. In ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, we see our hero repeating the mantra ‘only the penitent man shall pass’ and realising he must humble himself and lie down to avoid certain death from above. We too must understand that penitence will mean we kneel only before the cross, that we prostrate ourselves before God.
So often, like Abram, we can be foolish and try to obtain God’s blessing our way. We sin and fall short of God’s plan for our lives, but there is a way back to God. If we retrace our steps and repent (see Rev 2:5), calling on the name of the Lord, we can know restoration and blessing. To claim God’s promises, however, we must be surrendered to God. We must do it His way.