You cannot rightly call yourself a Christian if you haven’t repented. Do you recall the first time you repented before the Lord of glory? No feeling in life can transcend higher and be more satisfying than to be at peace with God. Yet, for many Christians, repentance is merely a thing of the past—something they did when they entered the family of God, but not something they do on a regular basis. Take this opportunity to pause and consider how the child of God should repent frequently—perhaps even daily.
The Privilege of Repentance
We were once enemies of God. That’s what Paul writes in Romans 5:10. Take time to let that thought sink in for a moment. We had rebelled against holy God and rejected his sovereign rule. We transgressed his holy law and walked in disobedience to his good commands. Yet, God graciously came to us and sought us when we were strangers wandering from the fold of God. It was sovereign grace and mercy that granted us the privilege of repentance. In our culture that’s saturated by “rights” that are demanded and expected, we must remember that God did not owe us the gift of repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). In Matthew 3:2, we are called to repent. The word repent is taken from the Greek term, “μετανοέω” which literally means to change one’s mind, to change direction as a result of conviction and remorse.”
Beyond salvation, the privilege of repentance is granted to God’s children on a daily basis. We have access to the throne of God and we have a glorious mediator who is none other than Christ the Lord (Heb. 4:16; 1 Tim. 2:5). Why would we have such privilege and access to God’s throne and forsake it? Has God and his throne become too common and casual for us that we have been tempted to neglect such privileges? What about the responsibility of repentance? Have we simply failed to obey God by avoiding repentance?
The Posture of the Christian Life
When rightly understood, the Christian cannot fulfill the Christian life outside of a proper posture of repentance. A life of pride and self-sustaining knowledge and power displeases God (James 4:6). When rightly understood it will be clearly seen that every area of your life is stained by sin and stands in need of repentance on a regular basis. Repentance is difficult because it requires us to be honest about ourselves and we don’t enjoy being honest about our own failures. John Flavel stated, “It is easier to cry against one-thousand sins of others than to kill one of your own.”
While justification is a one time legal declaration—a verdict that will never be repeated, sanctification is something that is in progress. The forward motion of sanctification demands repentance. When properly understood, even our worship stands in need of repentance. If we’re honest and if we undergo a proper examination, even our prayers stand in need of repentance. The totality of who we are is corrupted by sin.
The proper response to the sins of our flesh as we journey onward in this body of sin—is genuine and honest repentance. Without repentance, it’s impossible to walk with God. A.W. Pink once stated, “The Christian who has stopped repenting has stopped growing.” Who among us can honestly state that they have lived a life of genuine perfection since their conversion? Even the smallest sin stands in the way and holds us back from properly glorifying God and enjoying him forever. We must find ourselves turning to God regularly as 1 John 1:9 teaches.
When Paul found himself held captive once again in the grip of sin—he turned to God. He didn’t look inward to himself or to the outward world of psychology for a self-esteem boost. He looked upward to God. Notice Paul’s prayer at the end of Romans 7:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin (Rom. 7:24-25).
I once heard a man lament as he was looking at the schedule of a Christian conference. His complaint was that the upcoming session was going to be centered on John 3:16 and according to his thinking, he didn’t need to hear another sermon on that since he was already a Christian. Perhaps we have all been guilty at times of thinking that the gospel was only needed to save us, but it’s not needed to keep us faithfully walking with God. A person who rejects the need to repent is someone who is likewise rejecting their need for God. Without a walk that includes repentance, we cannot faithfully walk with God.