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Live in Grace


Live in Grace

As Christians, we are called to a life of repentance.  We sometimes view this as a dour endeavor, constantly seeking out sin and reliving pain, shame, and guilt.  Other times, we view this as a systematic endeavor, planning to live righteously and then reacting to the odious things as they reveal themselves.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 87, defines it by saying that “repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

Our family recently got a new dog, our second.  The former foster owner told us that she was not totally house-trained yet, but we knew that we would overcome that by being good stewards of the dogs, letting them out in regular intervals.  Soon enough, we began to smell something in a back bedroom.  With diligence and effort, we rooted out the source of the smell, took the necessary steps to remove the problem, and reaffirmed our dedication to taking the dogs out in regular intervals.

Too often this is my view of repentance.  I know the affirmations of John that when I repent and confess, God is “faithful and just to forgive.”  I know that there is “no condemnation” (Romans 8) for me.  Yet I function in such a way as to think that I can systematize sin out of my life, attacking it when it (rarely) manifests itself or that I allow my guilt and pain and shame to oppress me to the point that I remain in that dark place, some dungeon of mortification in which I must exist in order to stay repentant.

I would suggest that repentance is neither of those two things.  Repentance is the joyful act of adopted sons and daughters, empowered by the Holy Spirit, of recognizing that our sin is out of place with God’s grace.  A life lived as a slave to sin was never meant to be.  Our High Priest stands to intercede for us.

I love what Thomas Watson says about this in his book A Body of Divinity, that we should “believe in this glorious intercession of Christ; that he now intercedes for us, and that for his sake God will accept us, as in the text, ‘Who maketh intercession for us.’  If we believe not we dishonor Christ’s intercession.  If a poor sinner may not go to Christ as his high priest, believing in his intercession, then are we Christians in a worse condition under the gospel than the Jews were under the law?”

This grace of God manifest to us in the God-man Jesus, testified to our souls by the Holy Spirit, confirmed in our hearts and minds; this is the driving force behind a life lived in repentance.  We recognize wrong because we have been shown what is right.  We willingly and joyfully conform ourselves to things of God because he has promised to make it so.  Neither our personal acts of penance nor our organized righteousness can do this for us, because “he who began a good work in you” is the one who is faithful to complete it.

We can revel in this joyful reality.  We can look at our terrible, painful, and shameful sin specifically and repent of it specifically.  This is an act that flows contrary to our psyche.  We have been paid for work that we could never do.  Our responding to grace in repentance is not out of obligation, nor is it out of our need to maintain our good standing.  A life of repentance is based out of the reality that our proud Father, the One who has adopted us in love, the One who is conforming us to the likeness of his Son, stands ready to receive us.

As we enter into the Easter season, our minds are frequently reminded of the reality that it was because of our sin and misery that Christ was put on the cross.  Our hearts are frequently pulled in many directions seeking an emotional landing space for the reality of our sin.  Remember that the same God who loves you and adopted you has the power to raise Jesus from the dead.  Your emotional landing space is in the wide open arms of God’s grace.  Live in repentance.  Live in grace.

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Join us for our Ash Wednesday service, focusing on repentance, March 1 at 6pm.