On Repentance

I came across this quote today and thought I would share it to you. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot over the past 6 months or so as I’ve changed the way I repent of sin in light of what the Lord has been teaching me about the gospel.

“True repentance has a distinct reference to the Saviour. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love.”

– Charles Spurgeon

As I talk with students day in and day out, this is one of the main things I want them to get — that true repentance isn’t just about turning away from sin (although, that certainly is a mark of true repentance). It is about turning to Christ, our only hope for forgiveness for our sin and our only righteousness. A turning from sin can’t atone for our sins, it won’t make the sin go away or pay the debt we owe. What’s done is done and if there weren’t a Savior that already took the punishment, repentance would be futile.

When I just change my behavior or just ask for forgiveness without looking at Christ, I tend to see forgiveness as cheap and easily slide back into feelings of guilt and failure because I don’t feel forgiven. I keep trying to atone for my sin on my own because it just doesn’t seem right for me to get away with it. “Tomorrow I’ll wake up extra early, spend extra time in God’s word, be a better friend, a better RD, a more supportive and wise discipler, I won’t complain about anything and only be thankful and encouraging,” I think.

But when I repent of sin and say, “God, I deserve to die for this. I really should be punished because when I walked into that room tonight, all I cared about was myself. How I looked, how I listened, how funny I was, how natural and at ease I seemed, how engaging and likeable I seemed. How they would notice my deep and thought provoking questions or displays of servanthood. I was focused on what people thought of me, how much I wanted them to love me and have such a high view of me when I left. I took glory from you and directed it towards myself. I didn’t show concern for others, but was only concerned for myself. I was making a name for myself and building my own kingdom in that room tonight and I should die for it because You are the only King and deserving of all glory. But you aren’t going to punish me for it, you won’t make me die the death I deserve for it. You already punished your Son for my sin, you put Him to death because you knew I would walk into that room tonight and seek my own glory and try to build my own kingdom. You allowed Him to be beaten and bruised, crushed, taunted and mocked, to die a sinner’s death on the cross and be buried and You poured out your wrath on Him — all the fiery furious wrath that I deserve — so that I wouldn’t have to be punished for what I did tonight. So that instead of punishment I could receive forgiveness. You already took care of what I owe for this so that I could come to you freely tonight and receive forgiveness and grace and mercy. You took care of it so that there wouldn’t be anything between us keeping us from having a relationship. I don’t deserve that kind of love. I don’t deserve to get to come to you freely. I don’t deserve for you to sacrifice your beloved Son instead of me. But you did it because You are great, and good, and because Your love isn’t dependent on me and how worthy or unworthy I am but on You and how great and vast your love is towards sinners who don’t deserve it.”

And when I pray like that, somewhere in the midst of it, my heart is changed and I have never experienced a time when I don’t walk away feeling thankful and grateful for God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice in a way that makes me want to turn from my sin. It is so hard to look at Christ’s sacrificial death that way and want to continue sinning at that price. It doesn’t seem cheap — I realize that it is very costly. It’s just that the cost for my sin wasn’t paid by me, it was paid by Christ. I don’t take that for granted when I repent that way.

So I think it is looking to Christ as we repent that motivates us to turn away from sin. A mere behavioral change is nothing more than moralism or behavior modification, or worse, legalistic disobedience.

And I think I’ll step down from my soap box now in order to attend an RD meeting. Have a good day!

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