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Reasons for Repentance

As knights of Christ we must not only fight evil and injustice in the world around us, but also the evil inside ourselves. Repentance is a major way this happens. In the last blog post we looked at repentance in prayer and today I’d like to examine several more good reasons for repentance.

Repentance helps an impenitent heart. Repentance is a battle we cannot give up on. That’s because heartfelt, Godly repentance is a sign we still seek God. It is a sign of the Holy Spirit working in us. The minute we give up on it we are living in our sin. Sometimes we refuse to repent on purpose because we want to continue in sin. This should scare us. Scriptures calls this an impenitent heart and tells us it builds up God’s anger against us. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).

Repentance defeats despair and brings hope. Other time we don’t repent because of despair. We feel awful about our sin: but we’ve done it again and again, and we give up hope that we can ever change. Or we are afraid God won’t forgive us this time – our sins are too terrible, and we’ve tried his patience too much. This is exactly what the Devil wants us to feel after we sin. He loves to kick us when we’re down, and tries so hard to make us despair.

Judas gave in to that despair and gave up on repentance. Some say his remorse was fake or misdirected. I do believe he was truly sorry for what he had done, but what he did with that sorrow made all the difference between “godly sorrow” that “worketh repentance” and the “sorrow of the world that worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Judas despaired in his sorrow and gave up hope of forgiveness. If we let despair over sin keep us from coming back to God in repentance, then we’ve given ourselves up to our sin and have impenitent hearts.  

In Matthew 18:21 Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive our brother. “Up to seven times?” he asked, probably thinking this generous. Jesus replied, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Christ’s intent here is that we don’t ever stop forgiving our brother. And the implication in regards to repentance is that we also should never give up hope of forgiveness ourselves. This is particularly true of begging Christ’s pardon from our sins. He who gave this instruction to forgive endlessly, lavishly, generously will surely be the first to forgive us “seventy times seven” times! Believe the words of John: when we confess our sins God will forgive us! Don’t let despair keep you from trusting in Christ’s work for you.

Repentance heals us of our sin. It is a way we re-devote ourselves to Christ. It is the mechanism by which we turn again to Him in our long upward crawl over the rough-hewn ground in this veil of tears toward the sinless perfection we’ll reach at last in Heaven. Don’t ever stop believing it: we will reach perfection in heaven. God promises to see to it (Philippians 2:13), and happily we can count on Him more than our feeble will power.

In repentance, Christ cleanses and heals us from the filth of our sin. He heals us from the damage we’ve done inside ourselves (it may take much longer to heal the damage our sin does to others). Such is the mighty power of Christ’s work in salvation that he does more than just wipe away our past. That would be amazing enough. But we start out with more than a clean slate. In theological terms, Christ imputes his own righteousness to us. He actively lived a righteous life so His good deeds count for us, even while our bad deeds are on Him. God doesn’t just look at us and see spiritual infants with a clean slate and a future to decide. He looks at us and sees Christ’s righteousness covering us. Once we become Christians by faith, we are “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:26). That is our status despite anything. And daily repentance is a way we can practically live it out. It is constantly correcting ourselves to live like the Christ-clothed people we actually are. A Christian in sin is the ultimate hypocrite, a person living a fantasy, a fake life. Through repentance, we can live again the holy life that reflects the spiritual reality of our redeemed soul in Christ. A repenting Christ is “true to himself.” 

Repentance pleases God. This is the most important reason a Christian repents when he sins. David in his repentance said, “Against thee, and thee only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Sin hurts God. It breaks our Savior’s heart. This should break our hearts too, and be the ultimate motive to fall on our knees before Him weeping over our sin. “Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). When we repent God receives us with real rejoicing, like the father of the prodigal. Listen to the words of Luke 15:7 when you repent: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Repentance is a practical way to live a better life. There are also intensely practical reasons why Christians need to repent on a regular basis. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:1). Much of the wisdom literature of the Bible is devoted to this theme. God made His rules, the ones we break when we sin, to maximize the happiness of the people He made. When we sin we mess things up in our lives, the lives of the people near us, and sometimes people we don’t even know. Our sins wreck happiness. They ruin our chances at prosperity and joy in hundreds of ways. There is usually no easy or quick way to rebuild wreckage after we sin. But repentance is the start of rebuilding. And it’s the means to avoiding more life-wreckage in the future.

Remember, then, that repentance is a battle a soldier of Christ can never give up on, for any reason. Have you sinned terribly? Come to Christ in repentance! Remember, Christ’s blood is strong enough to cover the vilest of sinners like it did David, who murdered a man so he could hide adultery with his wife. Remember that you are the one in the wrong and that God does not have to forgive you: yet he does! Be strong enough to fight despair.

Never stop trusting. Christ will cleanse you of your sin! Cling to the truth from 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Christ is faithful, all the time, even to us sinners. Rejoice in this truth!

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