Lose your folklore and gain biblical insight about this misunderstood gift from God.
Jesus is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31
The subject of repentance is widely misunderstood and misapplied even by sincere believers who want to participate in everything the Lord has for them. Part of the confusion about repentance comes from so-called mature Christians who wrongly imagine that spirituality is measured by how little sin is in a person’s life. Because they want others to think highly of them, they try to maintain a facade of near perfection; or they consider repentance as something they already did at the time they were converted.
Although we should be making steady progress in turning away from the sins God has already pointed out in our lives, we should also be increasingly aware of additional sins He is presently uncovering in our minds and hearts. If we claim that we have no sin left in our lives, we are calling God a liar because He says we do (right now) have sins over which we should repent (1 John 1:8-10).
Repentance is not something to dread and avoid, but a spiritual activity to embrace. Once you understand how fruitful repentance operates, you will want to repent as often as you can. According to Mark, the beginning of the “Good News” is the invitation to repent. Admitting we have been wrong and welcoming the Lord to straighten out our thinking is a lot better than trying to pretend that we are just fine and dandy the way we are!
Fruitful repentance says, “Oh Lord, I’m wrong again.”
Bad Taste in Mouth
Part of the confusion about repentance comes from so-called mature Christians who wrongly imagine that spirituality is measured by how little sin is in a person’s life.
I felt unspiritual and unworthy because the roots of habitual or “personality” sins (in my case, laziness, willfulness and selfishness) seemingly went too deep for my meager attempts at repentance to get at and dig out. In my futile attempts to live up to my promises to God “not to ever do that again,” I heard an echo of my father’s instruction about how to weed our garden when I was a boy: “You have to get the roots, or the weeds will just grow back.”
Repentance is not something to dread and avoid, but a spiritual activity to embrace.
The usual repentance scenario in my life used to be a cycle of the same sin, followed by repentance (I’m sorry), followed by asking God to forgive me. Over and over. As I continued to commit the same sin I had only recently repented of, my succeeding attempts to repent became ever more earnest and filled with incredible promises of how I would never again do that sin. With every imaginable adjective, I described my sorrow again and again, and I began to require of myself certain religious rigors—punishments, if you will—vainly trying to protest to myself and to God that I really meant I was sorry, and I really did repent, even though I had few fruits of repentance to show for it all.