The Member Musings section of our blog is written by church members in the hope of encouraging you to see all of life through the lens of the gospel.
I used to watch the Biggest Loser on NBC. It was my reality show of choice. Badly out of shape contestants hoped to turn their health around with the help (and harassment) of in-your-face trainers. There’s something both terrible and wonderful in watching really, really unhealthy people run and tread, lift and press, jump and bike, sweat buckets, throw up, and pass out… and week by week, visibly shed their unhealthiness.
By the end of the show, the contestants were nearly unrecognizable, walking with a literal and metaphorical lightness to their step.
Beyond serving as a visceral reminder to exercise and eat right, this transformation process resonated with me as a believer. For me, it has come to serve as a picture of the process of repentance and worship.
Beginning with grace. Contestants made it on to the Biggest Loser Ranch not because of their talents, skills, or deservedness, but for their very helplessness. Followed by a turning away. Contestants had to physically leave behind their homes and families and turn away from their daily routines. But that was the only the beginning.
Because you see, repentance can look a lot like working out.
From day 1, the contestants were engaged in doing the primary work of the Ranch – which was, namely, to work out, and work out hard.
Get on the treadmill. Spin away on bikes. Lift weights. Do push ups. Jump rope. Push over tires. Be at it for hours. Increase the resistance. No, you can’t stop. And…you get the picture.
For their bodies to change, for the pounds to drop off, the muscle to develop, and stamina to increase, the contestants had to show up and put in the work.
Similarly, we, as believers, begin from the vantage point of grace. We have access not to a deluxe gym/villa but to the very throne room of God, through the work of Christ on the cross. Then, to love God with all that we are, we too need to turn away – turn away from those things that keep us away from him, a.k.a. our idols and our sin. Next comes our working out. Walking in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ is an active endeavor and we too need to put in the time, energy, and effort.
What does this look like? In terms of practical application, I will know that I am fully engaging in the work of repentance when I am actively turning away from sin and actively beholding God. Just saying I shouldn’t do X, Y, and Z and do more of A, B, and C, won’t lead to change. Until I have actually taken steps to put off sin and put on Christ, I haven’t undertaken the full work of repentance.
Case in point: Lately, I’ve been guilty of EBR – Excessive Blog Reading. Specifically, of the NBA variety. This is related to the fact that I’ve been following two NBA teams: the Houston Rockets (in support of Jeremy Lin) and the San Antonio Spurs (because I believe in sports redemption, and plus I like Kawhi Leonard). I guess it’s kind of a good thing that the Rockets season is over…but, seriously, 0.9 seconds?!
But here I am, reading some pretty good articles; funny, smart, off-beat, and that perfect length to be consumed at one sitting. But then one blog leads to another blog on to another blog until I’m bleary-eyed, scrolling through comments, and yeah…not wise.
I’ve been feeling sorry about this for a while, usually because I’m cranky in the morning as a result, but until I actually turn away from excessive blog reading, I haven’t fully engaged in the hard work of repentance.
(As an aside, I’d like to include I also exhibit SEBR – Spiritually Edifying Blog Reading. In fact, I’ve read every single blog on the Lighthouse website. Good reading, Lighthouse family, good reading.)
But as we all know, the work of repentance can be hard; it demands time, effort, and commitment. How can we, in the words of the apostle Paul, continue to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”? (Philippians 3:14)
On the Biggest Loser, there is almost always this moment when the contestants hit the wall. They’ve reached their limit, are at the end of their ropes. The constant working out becomes too much, too hard, and too demanding. The ultimate prizes of the show – major weight loss and a chance to become that season’s Biggest Loser – no longer seem worth the price.
More often than not, it is here, in the midst of some physical and mental roadblock, that the contestants reach their breakthrough moment. Contestants realize, that underneath their assertions that they will “whatever it takes” and that they “are all in”, the reality doesn’t match up. Excuses linger and justifications surface not to put in the work, to coast, and to even throw in the towel. Usually this moment of honesty involves tears. Tears shed with grief, as contestants own up to all the times they’ve made excuses and quit on their health; followed by tears of gratitude, as they appreciate anew their present opportunity and then recommit to keeping with the work.
Have you ever experienced the twin tears of repentance? I know I have. And it is here, when I reach the end of myself, that I best see God and experience the magnitude of His love and grace. And it is here, when I behold God, that I most clearly see my unbelief and my sin. But joy comes in the morning…joy comes in the mourning.
We too repent because repentance leads to life. We repent because sin leads to bad spiritual health and to death, and loving God leads to sanctification and life. We repent because, as we have heard here at Lighthouse, we are what we worship. Knowingly and unknowingly, our lives revolve around what we treasure, and as believers, our treasure is God through Christ Jesus.
What’s truly wonderful is that grace, which ushered us into repentance, is what will keep us pressing on in repentance.
Paul writes to the Philippians church, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
God Himself works in us so we can work out our salvation. And that should give us much hope.
You know, when I first heard the name “The Biggest Loser”, it didn’t exactly catch my interest. But when I found out that “The Biggest Loser” was actually the person who lost the most weight, thereby becoming “the biggest winner”, it made more sense.
How much more for us, brothers and sisters? We seek not to lose the physical weight of pounds, but the spiritual bondage of sin and death.
Jesus tells us in Mark 8, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Let’s press on in our quest to be the biggest losers. Meet you in the weight room.
Annie Chung and her two girls, Audrey and Elise, have been blessed to call Lighthouse home for going on five years. A teacher by day, Annie enjoys serving in the K/1st class of Children’s Ministry. She find great encouragement in walking alongside sisters going through trials and from her accountability and Bible study groups. Annie counts musical worship, sports, and home baked treats as some of her favorite things.