I don’t know about each of you but there are things about me, my short comings, personal flaws, and sinfulness that I do not like about myself. I recognize I am a sinner. I know my flaws and sins keep me from being the person God truly wants me to be. My sins hold me back. They become a barrier to a fuller and richer and closer relationship with my God. I have become aware over my lifetime that some of my sinful tendencies are habitual. They are uniquely my flaws. It seems sometimes that no matter how hard I try, I still struggle with the same things. Do you do this? Do you have your own sins that keep you from a richer relationship with God? If you do, read on.
During this Easter season as we continue to study from the Acts of the Apostles we read about Peter preaching to the Jews. In Acts 3:19, he tells them: “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away”. That’s a short sentence with a lot packed into it. I see three key things. First I see him telling them to REPENT, next to BE CONVERTED, and finally if they do their SINS WILL BE WIPED AWAY.
Today I want to focus on “BE CONVERTED”. Too often we only think of being converted in the context of some person changing their religious affiliation, for example a non Christian becoming a Christian, or someone changing from one Christian denomination to another. Clearly Peter was telling the Jews in that same way, thatthey should convert to become followers of Christ. But I believe he was telling them (and us) so much more.
In the Greek writings of the Bible the word convert is seen as metanoia. But he did not simply say convert, no he said “be converted”. The word “be” is a verb, and conversion is a process. Sure Peter told them to repent. Repenting or being sorry for their (our) offenses may be the easier part of what Peter told them to do. It is the “be converted” part that caused them to struggle and also causes my struggles and I suspect yours too. To be converted we must purposefully change. We must discontinue things we have been doing in favor of things more pleasing to God. That is what the word metanoia means. It means to have a change of heart or a change of direction. In our relationship to our God we call this a conversion. Are we really prepared to make these changes in ourselves or do we sometimes just feel sorry that we don’t do what God calls us to do, but we seem content to just keep doing them?
Clearly our sinfulness, as I stated above, blocks our closer walk with God. He wants so much more for us. In order to “be converted”, God, through the Holy Spirit, has given us the gift of Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, and the other movements that call us to weekly Group Reunion or gathering of small groups of Christian friends. If we are in weekly, Friendship based, Christ oriented, Group Reunion with our fellow brothers or sisters we can help each other in the conversion process.
Now is the hard part. If we acknowledge that we struggle to change some aspects of ourselves that we know are not pleasing to God, are we willing to become vulnerable with those that we meet with regularly so that they know we are struggling? Do you present yourself at your weekly gathering as a person who has it all together, when in reality, you are wearing a mask andinside you know you don’t?
Potentially even more dangerous is that we have worn our masks for so long that we no longer realize it is a mask. When we look at our reflection in the mirror do we see the real us or our mask? In Greek mythology Narcissus, was renowned for both his beauty and his pride. He was led to a pool where he saw his reflection, and he fell in love with it so much so that he could not stop looking at his reflection and eventually he died because he could not leave. Nemesis was the one who led Narcissus to the pool. Today we are familiar with the phrase my “arch nemesis” when talking about someone’s bitter enemy.
Let’s ask ourselves this question. What is our arch nemesis? Is it pride or shame or guilt? Has our Nemesis caused us to now look at only our masked and perfect reflection? What is it that causes us to be unwilling to allow us to share our inner struggles with those very Christian friends God has put in our lives who might be in a position to support and help us? Let’s not die like Narcissus looking at our false reflection but instead let’s live in the freedom and light of Christ, by willingly admitting we are weak and have flaws. Only then can we continue in the process to BE CONVERTED!
Ask God today to reveal to you your personal flaws and sinfulness. Ask Him to help you to BE CONVERTED. Then also ask Him to put others in your life to help you. Finally, ask Him today to help you be in tune to the needs of others that you group with weekly. Ask God to allow them to be vulnerable to you by removing their masks and revealing their needs and struggles so that you can reflect Christ’s love and help them in their conversion. Then, together as Peter told the Jews in the Acts of the Apostles, our sins can be wiped away!