Martin Luther’s first of 95 thesis reads like this: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ said repent, He meant that the entire lives of believers should be of repentance.”
That’s a big call, but one you find to be true as you grow in Christ. Repentance isn’t a one time thing; it’s a lifestyle. When you’re a child, repenting often meant saying you’re sorry and really meaning it. But as you grow in Christ (and in age), you become more self-aware. And as you do, you start to find some disturbing things in play within you.
You find just how duplicitous your motives can be.
You discover how great is your capacity to deceive yourself.
And, in the case of repentance, you find that often when you repent, you don’t really mean it. You’re sorry for the consequences of the sin, but maybe not the sin itself. Or you make internal excuses for your actions, saying you’re sorry, but all the time justifying what you’ve done.
As our capacity for repentance increases, we find that we might need to repent of the very manner in which we are repenting.
Now a couple of things can happen here. One is that you become spiritually paralyzed. You can become so downtrodden at your sin, that even when you are trying to do the right thing there is often some manner of sinful desire behind it, that you simply throw up your hands and live in a constant state of guilt.
Or you can preach the gospel to yourself, even while you’re repenting. You can see that the blood of Christ not only covers your sin, but covers your imperfect ability to confess that sin. You can glory, not in the pride of your humility, but that even in your imperfect confession, the cross rules over all.
I’ll choose the latter today as my capacity to repent grows.