“They think repentance or mourning of sin is but one act. … It is a dangerous mistake, for we need to know that a true sorrow for sin, true repentance , is a continual act that must abide all our lives.” Jeremiah Burroughs
Rather recently I realized that the reason that I suddenly felt so overwhelmed by my sinfulness was not because I had overnight become an infidel, but rather because I had finally really come to terms with the holiness of God. It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of a holy God! But it is necessary.
Today my brother, William, shared an article from the Cripplegate blog (http://thecripplegate.com/do-you-grieve-over-sin/#more-17148) that reminded me of the daily necessity of reminding myself of the gospel, recalling and repenting of things in my life that I know don’t meet God’s standards, and then relying on Christ’s imputed righteousness alone to give me peace with God. The forgiveness of God is not something I can earn, thankfully.
Somehow, when I was young I developed the notion (as do quite a few people) that serious repentance is something you need only do once, and then you are “saved” and go to heaven when you die, and that is all that is important in faith. I was never directly taught that, but it was what I internalized. I think it might have been related to my exposure to many “altar calls” (not something that happened often in our own church) and the emphasis on repenting that occurred with them. My thinking ran along these lines: I knew I was guilty and needed to be forgiven; If I really had meant it the last time then I wouldn’t still feel guilty. I remember walking up that aisle at several evangelistic events, and my Dad trying to explain why I didn’t need to do that repeatedly. I think I was (rightly) responding to my recognition that there was a disconnect between my everyday life and what I believed to be right. I needed to know that although my salvation was secure, as long as I am on earth I will contend with sin. It is the human condition. I also needed to know that God, himself, in the Holy Spirit would help me overcome the wrong things in my life if I truly wanted to turn away from them and do right. I’ve come to see that even the “wanting” to turn away is enabled by the Holy Spirit.
It wasn’t that long ago that I cringed when I read things like this in the Psalms: “judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me (emphasis added).” (Psalm 7:8 – and a LOT of other places!) Now when I read statements like this I am thankful it is the righteousness of Christ under which I will be judged. Thus, my desire to be the best that I can be is motivated by love, not guilt, and it makes all the difference.