Persistent Repentance

Repentance is a genuine aspect of salvation. A heart truly affected by the gospel will not be left unaffected by its sin. But repentance doesn’t stop with regeneration; it is to be a vital part of the believer’s experience.

For much of my life, I have had a warped view of this doctrine. To me, repentance was looking at my sin with an attitude of, “How could I be like this? I know better than this. I am better than this. All right, I’ll try harder.” Such a mindset reveals legalism, not repentance. Too often, I have been more upset over my tarnished “track record” (which was tarnished from the outset of my existence) than the fact that I have violated the glory of God.

Paul explains that godly sorrow is different from worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow produces heartfelt repentance, which leads to genuine salvation, not to be regretted. The sorrow of the world, however, produces death (see 2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

God is showing me the need for what I’m calling persistent repentance. I like the word persistent because it denotes an ongoing process and a fervent attitude. Repentance is both a command of God (Mark 1:15) and a gift of grace (2 Timothy 2:25). If not for the merciful work of Christ’s Spirit in my life, I would quickly grow callous to my sinful tendencies. I have often found myself trying to deal with a particular sin and wondering why things aren’t working right. Well, more often than not, it’s because I have reverted to “Pharisee repentance”—purposing to do better, instead of crying out for the mercy of God.

To paraphrase what I heard a fellow believer once say, "If poor performance is my problem, then I’m without hope. If my problem is sin, there’s a Savior who died in my place." I can receive mercy for past sin and grace to fight future sin. The throne of God is now a throne of grace, all because of the cross. The gospel both charges me with the guilt of my sin and grants me a full pardon. May I, by the grace of God, both desire and receive the gifts of humility, godly sorrow, and persistent repentance.