Learning to Repent
It has been said that perfection is not the high water mark of the Christian life, repentance is. When confronted with our sin, we have two responses. The natural man will want to deny that there is anything wrong and look for excuses. However, the spiritual man should be convicted and brought to a place of repentance. But what does repentance before God look like? Let me suggest that it is coming before him in prayer.
Herman Bavinck believed that prayers for repentance were so essential that he said: “For believers, prayer for forgiveness remains a daily necessity.” Do we daily come before the Lord confessing our sins? Not just confessing it in the ethereal, “I have sinned,” but in the very tangible, “This is how I have sinned…” When we pray the Lord’s prayer we ask him to forgive us our debts. What are those debts that we need the Lord to forgive today? Where have we shown “want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God” (to quote the Westminster Shorter Catechism)?
Still our repentance is not cowering. When we repent, we come confidently. We come knowing that we are the children of the King. Bavinck went on to say:
Do not pray in doubt and despair; they do not pray as though you are no longer children of God and again face eternal damnation; pray from within the faith as children to the Father who is in heaven, and say Amen to your prayer.
We pray in faith, knowing that our Heavenly Father hears us and is eager to forgive us when we repent.
Where does all this leave us? First, let us be a people quick to repent; quick to repent of our sins and for those which we are covenantally responsible. Second, let us be a people that repent corporately and individually for our specific sins. Third and finally, let us be a people who repent with confidence in the forgiveness of our Father.