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.
Personal holiness is a difficult and somewhat unpopular topic. Roughly defined it is the ability to keep oneself from the stains of sin. But this is far easier said than done. Our world is very good at throwing all manner of temptation our way. And without a definite plan to stay away we will be negatively affected.
So what kind of a plan can we develop that is Biblically accurate and theologically sound. Here is a three part plan.
First there is a need to deal with our past sins. Scripture tells us we were born sinners, but even if we reject that principle, we have to admit we found plenty of sin on our own along the way. It’s too late to avoid it, but Christ went to the cross to provide forgiveness for it. This salvation is offered to us as a gift. We just have to be willing to receive it. Christ will cleanse the stain by the blood He shed on the cross.
But after being cleaned up we need a strategy to stay clean. If we do not change our patterns of behavior we will simply mess up our nice clean status by going back to sin. This change of pattern is repentance. While it is a lot of difficult work, it’s worth it. This change will be a big part of what improves your life.
But even when we are striving hard at repentance, we will fall short. We all still mess up—a lot. But Christ still has us covered. Just like we were saved by grace, He will continue to forgive us. All we have to do is to go to Him and confess our sins. And then He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.
So here is my three part plan. Get saved by grace, strive at repentance, and continue in grace through confession of sin.
Do you believe humanity needs forgiveness? I do. We do things we know are wrong. When we do wrong it is offensive. God is offended. People around us are offended. We even offend ourselves. All this offensiveness needs reconciliation, or to put that in the word of the day, we all need forgiveness.
Do you believe God offers forgiveness to humanity? I do. God, being omniscient, knew what humanity would be like. If He did not want to extend forgiveness to humanity He would not have created us, or at least not in our current form. He knew we would sin, and also knew what the solution was going to be.
Why do you think God used the cross as a means of forgiveness? The cross was a demonstration put on for humanity. It was a means God designed to show both His love for us and the nature of eternal life. He was not forced to the cross by some cosmic law, He is the highest law. He chose the cross. It was a way of putting a choice in front of humanity—the choice of what will we do with Jesus.
How have you responded to the offer? I hope that you have asked Jesus to be forgive your sins and committed the rest of your life to live for Him. This is not the only choice, but it is the best choice.