A life of repentance
‘When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.’Martin Luther
Those words are found in the first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, which he famously nailed to the door of Wittenberg Church to protest the medieval church. There are also wise words that sum up the Christian life very well. The entire life of believers should be one of repentance.
If we think of repentance as necessary for the Christian life (and not all do), we tend to think of repentance as a one-off event at the start of our discipleship. To follow Jesus is to turn from our old life of sin and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. That is the essence of the gospel message, and it is essential.
But it would be wrong to think of repentance as stopping there; as a one-off, unrepeatable aspect of the Christian life. Sure, when a person turns to Christ in repentance, their sins are forgiven and their guilt removed. That is true for all time. But we still live lives of repentance and faith. We need daily to turn from our sin and turn to Christ.
Indeed, I think it is evidence of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life that they want to turn away from their old life and walk with Jesus Christ. This surely is a sign of new life in that person’s heart and the transforming work of the Spirit. It would never occur to a person whom the Spirit hadn’t been at work within!
We need a daily experience of repentance. Not because we keep ‘losing’ our faith and need to recommit. But because we wander; we daily lose our way and need to be pointed back to Jesus Christ. We need to daily get a course correction (which in many ways is what repentance is) and orient ourselves back towards Jesus Christ our saviour.
All of this reminds us that repentance is relational. Repentance isn’t a transaction perform toward God (“If I do this repentance, then you will do this blessing for me.”) Repentance is a turning back toward our Lord and Saviour in faith and trust in him. It is a moment by moment decision that he is the safest and right place to be, and his way is the right path to tread. Repentance isn’t a one-off event but a continual course-correct, a decision to trust in Christ in every moment and every minute of every day. Our entire lives are to be one of repentance and faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ.