From The Word for Every Day, by Alvin Rogness, page 63, © 1981 Augsburg Publishing House
Let me say at the outset that I don’t always feel the need to repent and be forgiven. I believe I need to be; I know I do, because the Scriptures say very clearly that I do. But what do I need to be forgiven for? Like the rich young ruler, I have obeyed the commandments. I have not murdered or committed adultery. I’m not a thief, not even a minor shoplifter. I’ve tried to be honest with IRS. I may have stretched or withheld the truth at times, usually to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. What’s so terrible about a little lie? Certainly not terrible enough to drive Jesus to a cross for my sins.
If I want to understand myself, and if I want to understand Christ’s love for me, I am told that I must find myself in the corner of bad people who need, more than anything else, the forgiveness of sins. The question haunts me. Is there in me, and in all people, some evil so subtle and pervasive and destructive (like a hidden cancer) that unless it is dealt with, any progress toward spiritual health (honesty, joy, love, hope) will be an illusion? And does it take a therapy so radical that only the death of Jesus will do? Our Christian faith says that it cost him a cross.
You may be initially drawn to Jesus by his miracles of mercy, by his penetrating parables, by his indignation against sham and oppression. Before long, as Jesus grows upon you, and you stand watching him die, you will know a strange uneasiness. You don’t belong in the same company with him. Like Peter, you’ll feel like crying out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Somehow the yawning gap between you and Jesus will have to be bridged. Your most noble efforts won’t do it. The only bridge is repentance and confession, and being caught in the tide of his forgiving love which sweeps all your sins away.
Forgiveness has tended to slip out of the vocabulary of secular man. If we believe that there is no God at the center to be accountable to and that the universe is but a vast machine, forgiveness is meaningless. If man is but a cog in the machine, driven by his appetite and his chemistry, forgiveness is nonsense. If we are but helpless pieces of some cosmic game, why ask us to repent and be forgiven? You don’t forgive a dog for stealing a bone, nor a tornado for leveling a village, nor a river for overflowing its banks. But we are created children of God, with holiness the expectation and demand, and as utter failures to meet the demand, there is no door but forgiveness for our return to God.
“The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation.”
“Repentance is not moaning and remorse, but turning and change.”
–J. I. Packer
“Chronic remorse is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”
I John 1:8-10 — If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Matthew 4:17 — From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Acts 2:37-38a — Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.”
II Corinthians 7:8a…9-10a — For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it… Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret.
CONFESSION OF SIN from the LUTHERAN LITURGY OF WURTTEMBERG, 1536
“People are destined to die once, and after that, to face judgment.” –Hebrews 9:27
“Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will disappear with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be laid bare.” –II Peter 3:8-10