One of the most frustrating things about being a Christian is that there are times when despite our allegiance to God, we violate His law in one way or another. No matter how hard we try, it feels as though we fall short of what we ought to be for God.
Romans 3:23 states that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There are not many things that we can all claim to have experienced, but the Bible tells us that sin is something we all have in common. If we accept that we all have sinned and if we acknowledge as the Bible does in Luke 17:1 that things that cause people to sin are bound to come, what are we as Christians to do as we attempt to live a life that is pleasing to God? How, then, do we deal with those times that sin gets the best of us and we make a mistake? The biblical answer to this dilemma that we all face is that we should repent, which means to turn away from the sin in our life. In Luke 15: 3-7, Christ gives us a parable in which he describes what it’s like to own a hundred sheep and then to lose one of them. He suggests that if we lost one of our hundred sheep that we would leave the other ninety-nine behind to go and search for it. When we find the lost sheep, he says that we would certainly rejoice! Through this parable, Christ attempts to help us see that he cares for us when we have gone astray and become lost. He shows us that when we make a decision to turn away from sin, that there is rejoicing in Heaven!
When I was a young adult, I remember that there was a member of our Church who would come up nearly every Sunday to confess sin and repent. He truly seemed genuine and you could tell that he was battling with sin in his life. One Sunday morning, this gentleman got up from his seat again, walked forward and confessed and repented in his usual manner. This time, however, the minister said from the pulpit that when we truly repent from sin that we should be making progress with it. He was implying that a person shouldn’t be repenting every week; rather, true repentance means that you have decided that you will not repeat that sin. Of course, I believe the minister understood that a person who has repented might give in to the same sin again, but that they shouldn’t be giving in to it on a weekly basis. As I have grown up and experienced more of life, I have sought guidance from God’s Word as to what repentance really means and how it should be used in our life-long journey to try to make Heaven our eternal home.
The one scripture that has stood out to me the most when it comes to the subject of God’s grace and repentance is Hebrews 10:26-27 which declares that, “if we deliberately continue to sin after we have received the knowledge of the truth that there is no sacrifice for sins left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire.” The key phrase in this passage is deliberately continue to sin. As Christians, we must be very careful that we don’t take God’s grace for granted. When we make a mistake and then repent and confess our sin, He forgives us. This is a great gift from God that we all need. However, because we know that He forgives us, we should not then deliberately continue to sin and expect that He will continually put up with our nonsense. Deliberate sin is sin that you are not trying to avoid. Sometimes when you try to avoid sin, you look up and sin is knocking at your door. But then there are those times when your lifestyle becomes so reckless that you are actively seeking sin, inviting it into your life and you no longer have a strong conscience about how you are living. It is during times when sin has taken over our lives that we must do our best to turn away from it and turn our lives back over to Christ. It is this process of rededicating oneself to God and leaving sin behind that I believe, based upon scripture, is the act of repentance. Deciding to repent is a major decision because you are saying to God that you are going to try very hard to live your life better. You might be faced with the same sin again, but you are going to do your best to fight against it. If you fail, God’s grace is there for you; but again, His grace must not be misused in an attempt to justify a sinful lifestyle. We find scriptural support for this notion in Romans 6: 1-2 which tells us that despite the gift of the grace of God that we must not continue to live in sin.
As we look forward to a new year, let us all evaluate our lives. Is there a sin that you need to leave behind in 2008? Don’t you want to be able to say that 2009 is truly a new year and a new you? If so, then you need to repent from your sin, confess it and ask God for forgiveness (Matthew 6: 12).
God knew that we would need His forgiveness frequently! Our goal as Christians should be to do our very best to live our lives within His rules and when we slip and make a mistake, we should confess (I John 1:9) and repent (Acts 26:20) knowing that God and His angels in Heaven are rejoicing!