You are a pastor. You love Jesus and you give your life away daily to help others find and follow Christ. Some days you do it better than others, but you are who you are because you have taken up your cross and are following Jesus.
If you are like me, for the most part, you feel good about your walk with the Lord. It’s not perfect, but your walk of faith is pretty darn good compared to those of the people you lead.
That’s the problem, and that’s why my practice of repentance needed a tune-up. We are not supposed to compare our walk to others, but to God’s holy standard.
My problem wasn’t, and I bet yours isn’t either, that I had a hard heart or hidden sin. I regularly, daily, confess my sin(s). I confess when anger has reared its ugly head. I confess poor judgment in what I have enjoyed as entertainment. I confess when I recognize I have lived unwisely and failed to make the most of my time. I confess a lot and often, but I have usually done so in comparison to those I thought were doing a better job than me.
This past week, I was challenged by a message by Pastor Anand Mahadevan, which he delivered to church leaders. The big idea was that good, godly leaders should practice repentance. The message was taken from Daniel 9. Two things caught my attention.
1. Who Practiced Repentance
Daniel. Daniel, a good, godly leader, was the one confessing his sins. Though there is no mention of Daniel sinning in the entire book in which he confessed his sins. I never thought of Daniel as “beyond sin,” but I had always thought of Daniel as this bigger-than-life leader whom I wanted to emulate.
In the past, when I had read Daniel’s confessions, I thought of Daniel as identifying with his people’s sins and seeing himself as culpable along with them, though he himself had not specifically participated in their unfaithfulness. But Daniel did see himself as one who participated in their unfaithfulness. He was pretty darn good, but compared to God’s standard, he had missed the mark.
2. What He Confessed
This was not a prayer saying, “They have sinned, and in a way, I have sinned with them.” No. Daniel’s prayer was specific. Pastor Anand observed that in Daniel 9:5, Daniel used specific words to describe his sins and the sins of his people:
- We have “sinned”—Heb. catah (to miss the mark, like an archer missing the bullseye)
- Committed “iniquity”—Heb. avah (to be twisted, to behave wrongly, not just to do wrong, but to be wrong)
- Rebelled—Heb. pasha (to intentionally do wrong, resist God’s commands and ways)
What was convicting to me was, Daniel was not comparing himself to his people, but to God’s commands. “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.”1
I realized how far short of God’s standard I was falling. I had sinned. I had missed the mark in repenting of my sins. I stopped comparing my goodness to those I lead, and I began comparing myself to God’s word.
Do you remember the old hymn that says, “Count your blessings and name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”? I began counting my sins and naming them one by one, and it surprised me what I had done.
I named my wrong attitudes and behaviors—my iniquity. I began confessing when I failed to speak for Christ, when I failed to discipline myself for godliness—my sins of missing the mark. I confessed the times when I knew what I should have done, but intentionally did not do it—my rebellion.
My eyes were opened to why good, godly leaders must renew the practice of repentance. If Daniel needed to repent, so do I, and maybe so do you.
Pastor Anand gave specific application for us leaders. We, like Daniel, should set the tone of repentance.
Be honest about your failures. Don’t just show your people your goodness. Let them see your struggles and shortcomings.
Be the Lead Repenter in Your Congregation
If we, and I am thinking primarily of myself, tend to brush off our shortcomings and think more highly of ourselves than we should by comparing ourselves to others, then those in our congregations probably do the same. Publicly confess your failures. It’s good for you.2 is good for your congregation.
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“You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without a coach you will never be as good as you could be.” Twitter @Andy Stanley, December 12, 2018.