Lent Day 20: Repentance and Grace
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” — Mark 10:17-31
We are now over halfway through Lent. Throughout the journey so far, a lot has been said about sin and repentance. It’s not a fun, lightweight topic. No one likes to think about sin unless it’s someone else’s. But we’ve been called to repent as a way to take ownership of our sinfulness. It’s not a suggestion. Rather, it’s a directive from God.
Martin Luther said the Christian life is a walk of repentance and faith. But why? Why is it so important?
Repentance is a response to God’s grace. It leads to joy and restoration. Not frustration from trying harder, and not despair from beating yourself up. Those are forms of penance. Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4). He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-4). Repentance is motivated by love for God and a desire for fellowship with him.
King David said, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:1-3). David was not a man without sin. He, like each of us, succumbed to the world. Only when he came clean with God did he experience the grace of God: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (32:5).
Repentance is taking responsibility for our sin. The problem is not just the sin, but that each of us is sinful. It would not be enough to clean the outside of the cup, which is why we must seek a deeper cleansing: “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being … Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow … Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm51:6-7, 10).
Repentance is turning to God in faith. In everyday language, repentance means to “change your mind,” to reconsider how you are living your life in light of your new identity in Christ. Left to our own accord, we are prone to pursue life on our terms, and to locate our sense of worth and joy in places apart from God. So the call to repentance is a standing invitation to give up our idolatrous pursuits, and turn to the one true God who restores us to the life for which we were made. We cannot save ourselves. Repentance is initial and ongoing. That’s why you must be in humility and seek God’s grace.
If you are in a place where the old you is ready to be cleansed, it’s time to repent of your sins, and say yes to God.