I have a question for you and it is an important one—are you ready? According to the Bible is our relationship with God conditional based upon our obedience to Him, or is it unconditional, based on His love for us? Will His justice win out over His love or will His love win out over His justice?
Exodus 34:6-7 says that God, “maintains love to thousands, and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” How do we reconcile this statement to itself? When Jesus died on the cross He took our curse for sin and we took His perfect faithfulness and received the blessings of grace. Timothy Keller reminds us, “Because of the Cross, God can be both just toward sin and yet mercifully justifying to sinners.” Prayer p. 207
Everything Jesus did was geared towards forgiving us of our sins and bestowing eternal life upon us. Keller writes, “His blood is shed for forgiveness (Matt 26:28), He ascended to God’s right hand to grant forgiveness (Acts 5:31), and the message with which He sends His disciples out into the world is to ‘preach repentance and forgiveness of sins,’ (Luke 24:47). Paul concludes, ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.’ (Eph. 1:7), Prayer p. 207
These texts mean that no sin can condemn us before the Father. (See Romans 8:1) However, we need to make sure we understand even though the gift of forgiveness of sins costs us nothing it costs God everything. Sin grieves God and is never to be taken lightly by Christians. If we don’t acknowledge the depths of our sinfulness we will never appreciate the sacrifice that makes our salvation available.
When we understand that we are saved by the grace of God, free of all good works, it changes completely how we look at repentance. Too many of us think of repentance as somehow appeasing God by telling Him how sorry we are for committing particular sins. We feel that if we can just persuade God that we are genuinely repentant then God will forgive us.
Luther believed this form of repentance was a form of self-atonement where we try to show God we deserve to be forgiven because of our inward sorrow. This is not Biblical repentance. Jesus, on Calvary’s cross, paid the price for our sins. Keller points out, “We do not have to make ourselves suffer to merit God’s forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness earned by Christ.” Prayer p. 209
Let me try to explain what this means to us in a practical way. 1 John 1:9 reminds us God is, “faithful and just and will forgive our sins.” Notice, our sins are forgiven because God is just. Now lets look at 1 John 2:1-2a, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
When we are “in Christ,” God must and does forgive our sins because Jesus has already paid the debt for the price of those sins. To be just God cannot require us to pay a second time for what has already been purchased for us through the blood of Jesus.
What this means is that we have the assurance and security of knowing that when we confess our sins they are forgiven and it is not based on how hard we try to convince God we are sorry. As a result when we repent it becomes a way to glorify God and thanking Him for the wonder of His forgiving power that sets us free from the power of death.
Repenting is not spending time agonizing over our sin but instead it is acknowledging that God forgives us our sins based on the merits of Jesus and we have the assurance that our trespasses are forgiven. This leads to praise and thanksgiving instead of guilt, anxiety and fear. God is just and His justice states that Jesus paid the price for our sins and repentance is the acknowledgment that we accept that sacrifice and rejoice in the wonder of it.
Keller points out, “If we know we are loved and accepted in spite of our sins, that makes it far easier to admit our flaws and faults. It gives us the deep spiritual and psychological security necessary to be quick to admit when we have been wrong.” Praying p. 211
We need to remember that confession is not an arduous works based process but we should never forget the price Jesus paid to allow us such forgiveness. When God forgave us the debt of our sins He had to absorb the cost of that forgiveness through the substitutionary death of His Son. The acknowledgment that our sins are forgiven and forgotten when we repent is an amazing gift, but that gift was purchased on our behalf at an infinite price on the behalf of Jesus.
In his little book Confess Your Sins, John Stott notes that most people don’t find confession changes them and they find themselves repeating the same sins over and over. This will be the subject of our next post and we may be surprised at what God’s Word has to say about this.
The chapter, Intimacy: Finding His Grace, in Timothy Keller’s book Prayer has been of immense help in my understanding of repentance and I have drawn extensively from the chapter for this post. I would urge anyone who longs to draw closer to God through prayer to read Keller’s book as practically every page is filled with insight and encouragement.
* Many people around the globe are currently experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death, for the love of their God. They need our support and prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…