Augsburg Confession, ARTICLE XII: Repentance
“ They also condemn those who argue that some may reach such a state of perfection in this life that they cannot sin.”
Are you repentant of your sins today?
I don’t know how often you think about your sins or when it was you last confessed them. Most of us would readily admit that we are not perfect, and some would say that we’ve done some legitimately bad things. Despite this, most of us would rather not focus too specifically on the details of how truly sinful we are. You may wonder, “Why focus on the negative? Doesn’t that just bring depression or guilt and shame? I’d rather just keep moving. If I ignore it, it will probably just go away.” Contrary to these thoughts, sin must be dealt with or the consequences grow rather than fading away.
Sin is like cancer. Ignoring cancer or accepting it as if it is not a problem is not a cure. The cancer will spread more freely. With sin, as with cancer, it is necessary to recognize that we need help and a cure coming from outside of ourselves.
We may also move from ignoring our sin to embracing it. We start to give excuses for our sin. Our excuses can say things like, “If God forgives me all my sins, then it probably won’t hurt anything if I just sin a little more.”
This subtle straying, a seemingly harmless act of embracing sins comes with a great danger. You see, the danger of persistently embracing sin and refusing to repent is not that it will overwhelm the grace in which you find assurance, but that it will choke out your faith. Our sins have already been paid for, but unbelief is the one danger for your soul. Our natural bent is towards embracing sin and it is God working repentance in us that directs our faith towards His promises and away from our sin and self-reliant idolatry.
Romans 2:4,5 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (ESV)
“But,” you may say, “I’m not like that guy! You see I am getting better! I have been improving in my efforts to stop sinning and I am even doing more good works. I am one of the good Christians who is well on my way to the victorious Christian life of sinless perfection. Christ will have His victory in me yet! I will see to it!” This, my friend, is just the other side of the same coin. While you look at your brother and see him selfishly embracing sin that is visible to others, you are hiding your idolatry behind a mask. This is your pride and self-reliance finding a clever way to root itself without you noticing that it is even there!
Hebrews chapter three says,
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Hebrews 3:7-14 ESV)
To live in daily repentance is not a life of distress, but of freedom from distress! It is to daily recognize that you are in need of God’s mercy and grace AND that He has given it to you! To live in unrepentance is to say, “I don’t need God’s mercy. I am fine on my own and I would rather have my sin and be my own savior, so God, you can take your mercy and grace and leave me alone.” Unrepentance is hardheartedness and a rejection of God’s help and forgiveness. To daily repent is to let God rescue you again from the sin that you admit daily plagues you beyond your own control.
This is a battle we will continue to fight until Christ comes back again or until He calls us home for we are simultaneously Sinner and Saint. You are a Saint because Jesus died for your sins, thereby giving you forgiveness for your sins and He is the guarantee of your eternal salvation as a gift from God. Believe this good news! At the same time, you continue to carry around this “body of death” that is weak, sinful and wrestling with your new heart and faith. Though the battle continues on, even when you fail to win victories in your struggles against sin, remember that Christ has already won the war for your soul.
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus”. (Acts 3:19 ESV)