“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17).

“Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life, it is the Christian life.” (John Calvin)

“Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Repentance is necessary for more than just violations of the letter of the Ten Commandments, which, “weakened by the flesh,” we cannot keep. It’s worse than that. Jesus made painfully plain in the Sermon on the Mount that lust is adultery, envy is covetousness, and anger is murder, just for starters. In other words, thoughts equal deeds in God’s economy, and according to the National Science Foundation, the average person thinks 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day, of which 85% are negative. Who is naïve enough to think those are all pure thoughts? “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  

Therein is the need for repentance. Daily. Continually. What does the repentance that Jesus commands look like in the mundane days of faithfulness? He presented a model in the story He told of the praying publican in Luke 18:13—‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Pair the publican’s brief but soulful prayer with Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” Then try substituting some of those 50,000 negative thoughts a day with that quick prayer. Let a sinful thought be a triggering tweak of your conscience that prompts the prayer and, God willing, it can be a sanctifying experience. You can pray it in one exhalation. Don’t make it a mindless mantra—the publican beat his breast as he prayed. The aim is not to accumulate points to earn your passage to glory—that is not possible (Romans 3:20)—but to continually acknowledge and confess to God and to your self-deluded self just who you are and what you desperately need and who is your only hope. We are depraved souls in need of a savior and Christ is it—the only it. The sinless Son of God took the punishment we deserve on the cross and by His grace we are saved through faith in Him, and even that faith is a gift of His mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9)! “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you…” (1Kings 8:23).

Jesus said, “… unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). May this be your perpetual prayer of repentance to the last beat of your heart:

‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

See you in church.

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