Repentance

This is a popular part of the year for Christians. It is close to Easter, so for many Christians around the world, that means it is a season of Lent. It is common for people to rededicate their lives to God a couple times per year. That could come from some guilty feelings of not having attended church for a while, or simply being busy and wanting to get back to daily devotionals. 

I'm not here to criticize Lent or people who rededicate their lives to Christ. However, the problem with rededication is that it is not found in the Bible. Jesus never said, "come to me and rededicate your life." No, Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17). 

You may be thinking, rededication and repentance sound like the same thing. Repentance contains elements of rededication, but rededication is more of a result of repentance. First of all, repentance is a gift from God the Holy Spirit. In fact, God the Holy Spirit is the gift Himself (Acts 2:38). Without the Holy Spirit, no one could repent. Without the preaching of Christ, no one would repent. Without the discipline of God the Father, no one would think to repent. Repentance is a gift of God. 

Rededication is good, but it doesn't last. The problem is that we are sinners. When we say, "I'm going to pull up my bootstraps, hunker down and try harder for God," we have not understood the gospel. The thought behind rededication and seasons of Lent for some is that God will accept me. The problem is that we are sinners. God cannot accept a sinner. He is holy and we are not holy. God accepts a sinner only on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Westminster Confession of Faith shorter catechism question 33 asks, "What is Justification"? How is a sinful person justified before a Holy God who demands perfect righteousness? The answer states, "Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepeth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by faith alone." So, a person is accepted by God based on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and by faith alone. This is where repentance starts, not where rededication begins. As, WSC 87 says, "Repentance is a saving grace..." It produces grief and hatred of sin and obedience to God. 

Acts 3:19 gives us the reason for repentance. Peter speaking at Solomon's portico says, "Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out." Rededication helps us get organized, lose weight, read more, work harder, but with God, it tends to lead to an endless cycle of legalism. We dedicate our lives and work harder and try to do everything right without God's help and then we fall and we dust ourselves off and try again. Repentance leads to sins being blotted out and growth in grace. This is the power of God the Holy Spirit working in us, as we repent.

 Repentance is turning away from sin and turning to God. It sounds similar to rededication, but the false promise of rededication is that it will lead to righteousness and what it really leads to is sinful self-righteousness. It is seasonal and it comes to an end. Repentance is not seasonal and never comes to an end in our earthly lives. Repentance is daily and even hourly, minute by minute. As the hymn by Annie S. Hawks goes, "I need thee every hour, stay thou nearby; temptations lose their power when thou art nigh." Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that we should deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. The reformation was founded on this principle, as Luther begins his 95 theses with "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." This is a clear call to repentance on a day-to-day basis for the rest of our lives. 

There are places and seasons when we need to do things differently, organize our priorities, fast, and rededicate. But, we should never misunderstand rededication for repentance. Repentance is daily. It is essential for our salvation. It is routine for a Christian. The result is that our sins will be blotted out and we will bear fruit (Matthew 3:8). 

Psalm 119:59 "When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies."