The Repentance Paradox

Repentance is a paradox. The word describes a change of pattern based upon a change of direction.

The Christian use of the word describes turning away from sin in order to turn toward God. This change of direction is initiated by your human will, but empowered by God.

The change of pattern is another problem. We habitual creatures have a way of returning to our past patterns. And hence the reason why I call repentance a paradox. We make a commitment to God to turn from sin, knowing full well we will continue to sin despite our efforts.

But don’t take my statements as asserting there is a falsehood in repentance. It is a real and necessary part of the Christian experience. We make a decision to turn our lives over to God. God then gets a grip on us. His actions place us into His family and kingdom, but they do not remove our humanity. Our free will is a major ingredient in our humanity so removing it would be making us something less than human.

This paradox is necessary because it is God’s desire to have a relationship with humanity. Not creatures without free will, but real people with all their failings. For this reason the Christian life is more one of grace and forgiveness than the conquering of sin.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying sin all you want, or sin doesn’t matter. I want you to work hard to battle sin. In this battle you can expect to gain ground. You can expect to prevent sin from overtaking you and robbing you of your freedom or usefulness to God. But you cannot expect to gain absolute victory by never sinning again.


2 thoughts on “The Repentance Paradox

  1. Pastor Chip, I hear you and agree with your explanation that our salvation in Christ redeems us and puts us in right relationship with the Father; yet, our salvation, or forgiveness of sin, does not remove our humanity.

    I appreciate the thought about our humanity functioning as a dominate cause for our sin.

    Your last line caused me to think. Yes, I “cannot expect to gain absolute victory by never sinning again”–here on this earth, but the hope of, one day, walking in ultimate freedom from sin and in fullness of life brings me great hope and joy.

    Pastor Chip, don’t get me wrong, I am in agreement with you, but after reading your post I felt more discouraged about my sin nature rather than feeling the hope and the courage and the strength that God has given me through His Holy Spirit to overcome sin, one choice at a time.

    So I wonder, where the Holy Spirit fits into this idea of the Repentance Paradox?

    With all due respect,
    Krista @shedarestovoice

    • Thanks for reading and for commenting.

      You have an excellent point. I never anywhere in the post spoke about how the difficulties of human nature will be removed in eternity. This will be the time when we will walk, ‘in ultimate freedom from sin and in fullness of life.’ as you say. There our humanity will be totally preserved but in a place of complete communion with God, the draw and opportunity of sin is removed.

      That communion is available here in this world in Jesus and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but here we have a different existence. At some point we all must make a living, raise kids, deal with pains and a multitude of other real life issues. Every time one of these pulls us from Christ we give sin opportunity again. If we view our goal of Christian-living as removing all sin then we are doomed for failure and feel defeated by the shortfalls. But instead our hope in that regard is aimed at eternity. Meanwhile our courage and strength for today is found in drawing near to God.

      Fight the good fight and gain ground in the battle. Knowing that ultimately Christ has won the victory. In the places where you fall short, don’t beat yourself up over the failures, nor be surprised by them. Only point to the glory of God’s grace and get back into the good fight.

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