Another Look At Repentance
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
Repentance is a cornerstone of Christian life, yet when it is misunderstood—as it often is—it can cause Christians to live with needless fear and doubt about their relationship with God.
The most common way to misunderstand repentance is to think that to repent means to stop sinning. But since we all do still sin despite how much we repent, we have to assume that our repentance is not ‘deep’ enough or ‘true’ enough—and then we strive all the harder. But no matter how hard we try, sin remains in our lives; our lack of success then gives us a growing sense of frustration and anxiety about how we stand with God. Eventually, some burn out and give up trying.
We don’t have to tread that path. The truth is, repentance toward God is simply not about a new and improved you and me. It’s about a new perspective, a new way of looking at things that were already true long before we came to see them. It’s a change in how we think about God and about ourselves.
Repentance is not a behaviour issue. It’s a faith, or trust, issue. Jesus has already done everything that needed to be done to restore humanity to a right relationship with God. There’s nothing we can add to that or take away from it. Repentance isn’t about promising never to sin again. Nor is it about striving to be a better person. Repentance is about believing God’s word of truth about who he is and who we are.
The apostle Paul tells us, “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
Jesus is our life and our righteousness. We are a new creation in him, holy and righteous not of ourselves, but in him.
Repentance is the start of a new relationship, as Jesus told us in the scripture above, a new friendship—not the start of a sinless life. Our righteousness is real only because it is Jesus’ righteousness given to us, not because we can achieve it ourselves. And that means it will endure forever. So we have nothing to fear. We can take all our weariness and all our burdens to Jesus and find rest for our souls.
Holy Father, thank you that our success with you doesn’t depend on us, but on Jesus. Since he is perfect, righteous and glorious, this is what you see when you look at us thanks to that new relationship. Thank you for that, Holy Father, for the confidence it gives us so that we can come to you, worship you, praise you, bless you, for everything you have done for us. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach