Several years ago the Peanuts comic strip had Lucy and Charlie Brown practicing football. Lucy would hold the ball for Charlie’s placekicking and then Charlie would kick the ball. But every time Lucy had ever held the ball for Charlie, he would approach the ball and kick with all his might. At the precise moment of the point of no return, Lucy would pick up the ball and Charlie would kick and his momentum unchecked by the ball, which was not there to kick, would cause him to fall flat on his back.
This strip opened with Lucy holding the ball, but Charlie Brown would not kick the ball. Lucy begged him to kick the ball. But Charlie Brown said, "Every time I try to kick the ball you remove it and I fall on my back." They went back and forth for the longest time and finally Lucy broke down in tears and admitted, "Charlie Brown I have been so terrible to you over the years, picking up the football like I have. I have played so many cruel tricks on you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways! I’ve seen the hurt look in your eyes when I’ve deceived you. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Won’t you give a poor penitent girl another chance?" Charlie Brown was moved by her display of grief and responded to her, "Of course, I’ll give you another chance." He stepped back as she held the ball, and he ran. At the last moment, Lucy picked up the ball and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back. Lucy’s last words were, "Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!"
Now I do not know if you recognize it or not, but what Lucy said is steeped deep in theology! There are a lot of people that I meet who recognize the fact that their lives are not what they are supposed to be. There may be some failures, flaws, or foundational cracks in their character, attitude, actions, or perspective. They may be out of fellowship with God, God's people, family members, or even friends. They may have taken some missteps, made some bad decisions, or misused their gifts. Regardless, they look at themselves in the mirror and realize one all important truth: My life really needs to change!
This is no enough! If all we do is recognize the need to change, but do not take intentional, accountable actions to change, then we will remain in the same pitiful condition of life. The good news is that while we cannot change ourselves, God can change us. In fact, God is willing to impart real change, lasting change, mind-blowing change into your life right now. How? First I would say there are some things to REPENT! Change begins with confessing our failures to the Lord and receiving His forgiveness. John tells us in 1 John 1:9, "Confess your sin and God is faithful and just and will forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness."
Second, there are some things to REMOVE! Temptation from Satan is real. It affects all of us. Temptation can cause you to go backwards, lose focus, or get distracted from living a changed life. So what a lot of people need to do immediately upon repenting of sins and failures is to remove some things from their lives, minds, sight, home, relationships, and speech. You might need some new friends. You might have to get rid of that computer. You might need to sell that boat or 4 wheeler. Maybe you need to pour out that alcohol, stop driving by a certain location, or turn off your TV. There are some things to remove.
Finally, there are some things to REPLACE! If you get serious about repentance and removing some things, then those things need to be replaced with different things. Maybe you need to add some things to your life. For example, maybe you need to add a small accountability group to your life, reading your Bible regularly, a small group Bible Study/Discipleship, daily prayer, some new hobbies, or perhaps begin to use some of your gifts and abilities to focus on serving God and others through a new ministry. When you begin to remove bad things from your life after repentance, you are not missing out or losing things from your life. Instead, you will find that God will replace all of these things you have removed with good things, holy things, helpful things, joyful things, meaningful things, and abundant life (John 10:10). Try it and see if I am not right!