Typically, many Christians tend to think of repentance as something they do at the start of their experience. Perhaps in more Reformed circles (and I put it no stronger than that) we have come to understand that repentance ought to be an ongoing, lifelong, process which expands with time and is repeated every day.
I paused briefly to reflect on the reason why the longer you are a Christian the deeper should be your sorrow. What follow amount to a number of suggestions why that is both the right conclusion to draw and a firm conviction to form. It is because more mature Christians...
firstly, have an increasing self-awareness and understanding of the sinful workings of their heart, mind, soul, words, thoughts, deeds, vows, duties and neglects.
secondly, have a growing understanding of the teaching of scripture on the anatomy and doctrines of sin, repentance and forgiveness.
third, have a deepening perception of the righteousness of the law, holiness of God, justice of judgment, wrath to come and final state of the damned and what law-breakers deserve.
fourth, have a firmer appreciation of what confessions and catechisms teach about factors which aggravate human guilt.
fifth, have heard more sermons and instructions on the doctrines concerned and on the duty and demand to heed the call of Christ to repent.
sixth, have a heightened sense that the superficial sins which troubled us before our conversion are really only the tip of the iceberg of (mixing my metaphors) the 'can of worms' of sin with all its subtle shifts, twists and turns - all these increase our sense of stubborn, ingrained and inward defilement, pollution, ill-deserts and self-disgust.
seventh, have a more constant, structured, focused prayer-life, informed by biblical understanding, that has trained itself to pray for the light of the Spirit to be shone on secret sins - the goal of such Spirit-suppliants is that the heart might be truly contrite (or crushed) in confession.
eighth, have a fuller understanding of the love of the Father who sent His Son to suffer for our crimes and to bear the wrath of the now better-appreciated, and more-felt, weight of guilt: as we think of Jesus' glorious person, infinite condescension, union of two natures, voluntary mediation, perpetual intercession, triplex prophet-priest-king office, and especially His harrowing ordeal as He suffers for us on the Cross; further, as we come to terms slowly with what the Cross really cost the Christ, then sin, in our heart's eye, swells into into the most hideous, ugly, monster: Calvary breaks our heart and breeds a true lament - O the wondrous length, breadth, height and depth of the Love of God in Christ!
ninth, have a more diligent grasp of and response to the Holy Covenant LORD's calling to be holy as He is Holy.
tenth, have a truer realization of the divine decree of election and the eternal purpose of sovereign, triune, grace - it was this gracious, saving, plan to redeem the lost that determined to rid creation of strain and Christ's flock of every stain.
eleventh, have a clearing vision of the glory of Christ who was crucified for us: to His purest, radiant, likeness we will one day be fully conformed - we shall see Him as He is.
twelfth, have a higher, over-spilling, abundance of the exultant joy of escape, freedom, life and peace as we drink deeply, and fully of the riches of divine grace: what cooling draughts to delight - of expanding dimensions and broadening horizons of what it means to obtain undeserved abundant pardon, mercy, acceptance and assurance for Christ's sake.
Of course, there are many other reasons we might give for increasing, ongoing, repentance in the life of the saints. However, these twelve points may be used, I suggest, to teach us the necessity of making progress as penitents: if it makes, at first, the taste of godly sorrow-for-sin more bitter, may the aftertaste, later on, of joy-in-washing in God's merciful fountain, be increasingly purer and sweeter.
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