In these articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Recently, we’ve been looking at the mediation Christ makes for his church and we’ve seen that part of Christ’s mediation is granting repentance. We then learnt that repentance involves sensing the danger of sin and the filthiness of sin. But what else does repentance involve?
Repentance also involves an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ.
Repentance is not simply seeing the awfulness of sin, repentance involves a turning toward that which is right. And who better to turn to than the holy God himself.
But in order for one to turn to God, there must be an understanding that God is merciful to those who are repentant.
This is because we naturally only go to those who we believe will be merciful. If a child has committed wrong against his parents, he may flee to both of them in repentance and ask for mercy. But if he does not believe that his father will show mercy, he may only flee to his mother!
It is the same with God. If you understand that you are a sinner but do not believe that God is merciful, you would seek refuge elsewhere (if such a place or person could be found that would protect you from an all-knowing, all-powerful, completely just God!).
Thankfully, the Bible tells us that God is merciful to those who are repentant and so you can run to him. For example, the prophet Joel advises the Israelites to turn to God because he is merciful:
‘12 “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing– grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ” 18 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people’ (Joel 2:12-18).
Thus, the repentant person follows the example of the tax collector in Christ’s parable. Jesus said of him: ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. Hes would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”’ (Luke 18:13).
Have you recognised the odiousness of your sin? Have you then apprehended that God is merciful and worth coming to in repentance?