One of the best things I learned in the past year is repentance. I suppose I always knew about repentance, but the learning that’s recently taken place is about the continual nature of repentance: that, as Martin Luther said, all of life is repentance. Repentance is not occasional and traumatic. Instead, it’s continuous and joyful, because I’m not surprised by my sin, nor am I overly discouraged by it. My acceptance isn’t based on my worthiness or how badly I feel, but on what Christ has done for me.
This has allowed me to look at myself with much greater honesty. There’s less to hide and less to prove. I’m still learning this, but it’s made a huge difference in my life. It changes everything. As I say, I knew this before, but it’s really become clear in this past year, and much more part of my life.
Two of the people who have helped me most with this are Tim Keller, who wrote this handy PDF on the subject, and Jack Miller, who wrote The Heart of a Servant Leader.
I was thinking about this today, even before I heard some bad news. A friend or mine, someone I was supposed to see this week, and someone whose ministry was taking off, recently resigned due to moral failure. I’m devastated for his wife and kids and church, and truth be told for him. I’m mad that news like this is so commonplace. I’m preaching on Proverbs 5 in a couple of weeks, and I didn’t really need another sermon illustration.
But news like this also makes me humble and repentant. I pray to God I don’t do anything as stupid as what my friend did, but I know I’m capable. I look at myself and repeat the words I sang growing up: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” And facing this in myself reminds me of my weakness and of my need to keep on acknowledging my weakness and repenting.
Ironically, it’s in facing what wrong with us sets us free, because we stop looking for the solution within ourselves. And we discover that God’s grace is more than a match for anything that’s wrong with us.
If you’re so inclined, please pray for my friend today. I hope he’ll find his way to genuine repentance, but it’s not likely to be joyful at first. Maybe ever.
Pray that the rest of us will learn the continual nature of repentance, so that we can keep it continual and joyful. It’s much better than the alternative. And spread the news as best as you know how: all of life is repentance.