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Probably the most well known of Luther’s 95 theses was the first one:
- When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
The idea being that repentance isn’t a one time point in the life of the Christian but something we continually do. It is part of growing in holiness. We sin, pray confessing our sins in repentance, and live. We look at those areas where we struggle and pray for God’s help. As we enter the area of struggle we will either have victory or sin. When we have victory we give thanks to Jesus. When we sin…we pray confessing our sins in repentance asking God’s help and then live again.
That first time we repent it is remarkable because it is a gift of God (“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,” (2Timothy 2:25 ESV)) where we see our sin and are remorseful for the first time. It isn’t only that we are saddened by our sin, but that we are enabled to look to Jesus and receive the remedy that God has given us. The temptation after we are saved, is to think newly about repentance. To think that life freely offered in Christ is now somehow dependent on the intensity with which we repent. But this is just our way of justifying ourselves by works. It is our way of placing ourselves on the Cross to drink the cup appointed to Jesus.
Rather in repentance we look up and are reminded of the great salvation that we have in Jesus. We are reminded of the satisfaction that is in Christ alone given to us by God’s grace alone. Thus repentance is not a life of looking down in sorrow but looking up in hope.
Conversion consists of faith (discussed last week) and repentance. Without one there can’t be the other. Repentance exists not only initially in Conversion (Indicative) but continually through the Christian life in Sanctification (Imperative). This Indicative is described the Shorter Catechism as “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.” (WSC 87) (more…)