If All You Do Today Is Repent, It Is a Good Day
We all experience days that leave us weary and dejected because of sin, days when we give up fighting to keep our eyes on Christ and instead let them come to rest upon false gods, believing they will satisfy us. At the end of such days, we can feel heavy and separated from God. Repentance seems like another defeat, another failure. It can be a terribly difficult thing to drag our eyes back to Christ and fall down on our knees to confess. Here we go again, failing at Christianity. Sanctification feels like it is a million miles away.
Repentance Is Sanctification
Rather than being a bump in the road of sanctification, repentance is a crucial element! Every time that we face our sin and run to the arms of our Father, we are participating in the process of becoming more like Christ. Without repentance, there would not be any sanctification. As James Montgomery Boice has said,
It is impossible to follow Christ without repentance. How could it be otherwise? Jesus is the holy, sinless Son of God. He has never taken one step in any sinful direction. He has never had a single sinful thought. Anyone who is following him, therefore, must, by definition, turn his back to sin and set his face toward righteousness.
Repentance has a negative association in the hearts of most believers but the Bible paints an entirely different picture. In scripture, we see a number of amazing things that are associated with the act of confession and repentance, things that should make us eager to come before God in repentance.
Repentance Leads to Life
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” declares the Lord God. “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,” declares the Lord God. “So turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
Repentance is an unmistakable sign of salvation. With it, the picture of heaven becomes a little clearer and closer. When we turn from sin and toward God, we get to experience the promise of eternal life with God, abundant life that is thrumming with a new heart and a new spirit. When we step into the light and are exposed before God, we get a taste of a life without sin, without barriers. In heaven, our lives are free from any darkness or brokenness and we will shine with life that looks like Christ’s forever. What a privilege it is to repent and taste that glorious life now!
Repentance Brings Wisdom
How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. (Prov 1:22-23, NIV)
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it.” (Isa 30:21)
In Proverbs, the “simple” refers to people who not only are without moral direction but love being that way! The petition is for a repentance that causes our hearts to turn away from a love of evil and to listen instead to the thoughts and teachings of God. When we practice repentance, we gain wisdom about how God designed us to live and interact with him and others. The cloudy lines between sin and righteousness become sharper when we name our specific sins and give attention to what God has to say about them. In Isaiah 30, the context of repentance gives a clarity that serves to illuminate the paths we walk and the choices we have to make. The more we repent, the easier it is to live by (and love) the truth.
Repentance Is Rest
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isa 30:15)
It is a counter cultural idea that we find our greatest rest through admitting that we have fallen short of the standard. Self-improvement philosophy will tell you that when you find yourself lacking in any area, you must create an action plan to pull yourself back on track. The gospel gives us a different mandate. We have a God who has accomplished the necessary thing for our salvation and who provides the power we need to live new lives. In the act of confessing before him, we lay down burdens that we were never designed to carry. Burdens of trying to appease idols. Burdens of curating our identity apart from God. Burdens of sustaining our self-righteousness. The call of the gospel is to lay these burdens down and rest in the work of Christ. When we do so, we enter a deep and satisfying rest. Let our longing for this rest increase so that we run to repentance daily.
Repentance Draws Us Close
The Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him. (2 Chron 30:9b, NIV)
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psa 34:18)
When we come to repent, there is a strong tendency to conjure up a harsh scolding God to receive our confession. That image is far from the truth and we must fight against it! In these times of humbling ourselves, we are not postured as orphans but as children. God’s love for us abounds within the act of repentance. God’s faithfulness to us is put on full display as we turn toward him as wayward children coming back home. He gently disciplines us in a way that draws us closer to himself, closer to his heart. There are not many experiences in life that let us feel the embrace of our Father as he reminds us that his love for us is unconditional and can never be broken. We should treasure the experience of repenting before our Father and delight in his acceptance of us again and again.
Learning to Love Repentance
Repeatedly, the Bible associates repentance with good things! We should train our hearts to love confession and repentance. We need to repent every day and reap the rewards that come with true repentance. It gives intimacy with God, a taste of eternal life and is one of the means of obtaining wisdom and soul-rest. Rather than seeing repentance negatively, believers should embrace repentance as a joyfully essential part of worshipping God and living day to day. If all you do today is repent, it is a good day!
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ … willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance. (Martin Luther)