A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the London Men’s Convention. An excellent day with lots of challenging teaching and encouraging songs of praise. One of the phrases which has stuck with me and I continue to reflect upon came from Mark Driscoll’s helpful list of things that repentance isn’t. Amongst other things he said that “Repentance isn’t managing sin.”
In other words, to say that I have got that area of sin in my life ‘under control’ isn’t the same as acknowledging in your heart that it is wrong and saying sorry to God for it and turning away from that particular pattern of behaviour or thought.
This is an incredibly helpful reminder. The deceitfulness of our hearts means that the longer we have struggled with a particular sin, the more likely we are just to have ‘accepted’ it. It has become familiar, normal. We are no longer horrified by it. And if our hearts will not own it for what it is, then true repentance is impossible.
Recently I was reading Psalm 32 and found a wonderful parallel to this thought. The first 4 verses speak of the blessing of forgiveness compared to the burden of unconfessed sin. Verse 5, the moment of confession and the wonderful response of forgiveness. 6-7 are an encouragement to others to follow the same path – to acknowledge their sins and discover the deliverance and protection that comes from the LORD.
But it was verses 8-9 that I found most helpful. Having repented of sin, then the LORD teaches us the right path to follow. Not to ‘manage’ the sin but to leave it behind. The challenge for me comes in verse 9. Are we going to willingly follow the new path the LORD is teaching, or will we need to be cajoled and dragged into obedience like the horse or mule which has no understanding?
Managing behaviour is not the same as repentant change. We will only willingly follow when our hearts have been truly changed. When our desires are no longer for the things of this world but we are satisfied only in God. Pray that more and more this would be true of each one of us.