Repentance

There’s one thought I came across in Owen’s Mortification which has kept coming up to me lately, but which I resist — though I understand and acknowledge its truth: that God even grants us repentance — that without His work in our hearts, we would not repent. It’s very obvious in justification – from Romans 8:30 “…whom He called, these He also justified…”; Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life'”; Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”; Titus 2:25-26 “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”; Is 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” and many other texts – salvation is all God’s work. What can a heart of stone do to reach out to to a holy God?

But in terms of sanctification, I have a harder time with the concept. Owen cites: Acts 5:31 “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” and appears to apply this verse to believers. Well, I can’t argue with that in concept, though perhaps that is stretching the original intention of the verse. But, really, when I look at all of the verses above, how can they not also apply to believers? After all, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin, John 16:8 – and He certainly does that for believers as well. Where would we be without the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Where would we be without His work of sanctification in our lives? Can I do anything in and of myself to kill the least of my sins? No.

So why do I struggle with this? My problem lies in the fact that I don’t want to make use of the fact that God grants me repentance as an excuse to not repent of some future sin. Or as an excuse for not repenting in the past. So with this concept in hand – that it is God who must grant me repentance, it seems like I’m suddenly freed from the responsibility of repenting! But that cannot be; in some mysterious way, like the “moment” of salvation itself, I must agree with God that I’m a wretched sinner saved by grace, and that some sin has come between me and a holy and just God – a sin which nailed a flayed Christ on the cross – and that thought alone should cause me great sorrow and lead me into the repentance God has granted me.

And by His stripes, I am healed.

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