Praying for “the gift of tears”
Let’s ask God to reveal his holiness and truth today as we receive his grace through repentance.
As we near the end of our week looking at the good news of grace, today we’re going to explore how repentance enables us to see ourselves as we really are. It’s often easy to downplay our own sins and shortcomings, yet when we see ourselves in light of God’s holiness, the true picture comes into view. Let’s ask God to reveal his holiness and truth today as we receive his grace through repentance.
The most famous conversion in Christian history began in the unlikeliest of ways.
Saul of Tarsus had been a student of Gamaliel, one of the most famous rabbis of the day, and a member of the Pharisees, the most respected religious group in the land. When the Christian movement began, Saul judged its followers to be heretics worthy of prison and even death. After he approved of Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts 8:1, he set out to arrest Christians in Damascus, a major city 150 miles to the north.
On the way, he met the very One whose followers he had been violently persecuting. And as a result, Saul (his Jewish name) eventually became known as Paul (his Roman name), the greatest missionary, evangelist, and theologian in Christian history.
We might think that his astounding achievements—planting churches across the Roman Empire, writing nearly half of the New Testament, and frequently risking his life for the gospel—would outweigh his misguided persecution of Christians prior to meeting Christ. But the Apostle disagreed.
When he told the story of his conversion, he confessed his sins against Christ and his church. He said of himself in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” He even called himself the “worst sinner of all” in 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIRV).
But why would a man who knew that his sins had been forgiven continue to recount his past failings like that? Why would he view himself with such guilt and remorse?
Paul is Exhibit A of what genuine repentance looks like. When God’s people “turn from their wicked ways” as we’ve been exploring in 2 Chronicles 7:14, we are then able to see these “ways” as God sees them. In the light of his holiness, we can view our sins far more accurately than in the darkness of temptation.
When we have an authentic experience with God’s convicting Spirit and unmerited grace, we can’t help but see ourselves and our sins differently. As with Isaiah before God’s holiness in Isaiah 6:5, we will recognize that we are “lost” apart from his forgiveness. Our grief over our sin will then position us to experience the full depth of his mercy and love.
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote: “The old puritans used to pray for ‘the gift of tears.’ If ever you cease to know the virtue of repentance, you are in darkness. Examine yourself and see if you have forgotten how to be sorry.”
Would you pray for this gift?
Let God’s kindness and love lead you into the beauty of repentance today as we begin a time of guided prayer.
today’s devotional is written by Jim Denison
1. Think about the story of Paul’s conversion. Hear Jesus' voice calling, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Now substitute your name for that of Saul. Ask the Spirit to show you any reasons why you need to spend time in repentance today.
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
2. Ask the Spirit to help you see your sins as God sees them. Pray for the “gift of tears” to feel the grief that leads to genuine repentance.
“I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief” (2 Corinthians 7:9).
3. Now confess all that is on your heart and receive your Father’s forgiveness and grace.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Martin Luther observed, “To do so no more is the truest repentance.” His reflection mirrored the call of Jesus in Matthew 3:8: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
One type of “fruit” that results from repentance is the desire to help others experience the same grace that has liberated us. Do you know someone who needs to experience such conviction? Or someone who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ? Or maybe someone who is living in the blindness of sin?
Will you pray for them by name today? And will you then follow Paul’s example by sharing your story with them?
Extended reading: Acts 9
One type of “fruit” that results from repentance is the desire to help others experience the same grace that has liberated us.