Last week we saw what it means to repent of our sins. Repentance involves an intellectual acceptance that we are sinners, an emotional grief over our sin and active turning from our sin to serve in obedience. But do Christians only need to repent of their sins at conversion? Or do they need to repent again and again throughout their life?
I believe that we do need to repent more than simply when we become a Christian. This is primarily because after becoming a Christian we do not stop sinning. Although we are able to do good works that we weren’t able to do previously, God has made clear that we will continue to sin. Therefore repentance is an attitude that should be seen throughout the Christian’s life. Each day they should be recognising that they have fallen short of God’s standard again and again, they should be grieving over their mistakes and they should be making a renewed effort to not sin in that way again.
The clearest way we see that regular repentance is a Biblical principle is in the Lord’s Prayer. One of the lines is: ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ (Matthew 6:12). Remember that this prayer was given to believers in Christ, yet instead of Jesus saying that they don’t need to worry about their sins anymore, he encourages them to come daily before their Heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness. Then after they have asked for forgiveness he desires that they ask to be protected from further sin: ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13). Jesus wants his people to come and acknowledge their sins and then actively seek to be kept away from more sin – signs of true repentance.
In the Psalms we witness a good example of someone who belonged to God regularly repenting: ‘Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin’ (Psalm 51:2) and ‘Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’ (Psalm 32:5). David who wrote these words became one of God’s people early in life but was still repenting of his sins as an older adult.
The Christian life is marked by a regular repentance of our regular sinful behaviour. Is ongoing repentance a part of your life?