Repentance needs words and actions. In the rest of this note I'll just be focusing on the words part.
Someone said, "Don't keep asking forgiveness for the same sin. Just move on." On the surface, this looks okay. But I found myself today repenting a few times for losing my temper one time; and that's how I said it. When the sin came to mind I said again, "Sorry Dad. Forgive me." And once or twice I'd remember the adage, "Don't keep asking forgiveness for the same sin. Just move on." and I would correct myself.
Then I realized that this adage is entirely unhelpful to me. And by that I mean it's crap.
Repentance is a lifestyle. There are different words we use to repent. We ask for forgiveness, we ask for mercy. Sometimes we think it through enough to ask for grace (as in, "Lord give me grace; help me not do that anymore.") Really it's just different ways of putting our contrition into words. Different ways of telling God we're sorry.
So five minutes ago my sin came to mind and I said, "Sorry Dad. Forgive me." And the adage returned to rebuke me.
"You're already forgiven. Don't ask for forgiveness again."
This time I recognized it for what it was. I shot back,
"Shut your mouth you presumption. If I feel sorry I will tell God I'm sorry."
Here's a prayer which has been prayed continually for centuries, all over the world, in various forms:
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner."
This is the Jesus Prayer. If you read the body of teaching about this tradition, you'll discover that the men and women who pray this obsessively are super duper like Jesus. Absolutely covered in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Nevertheless, asking God for mercy for themselves is a life-long task.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Mt 5:7)." This is at once an obligation to be kind. God will not be mocked by having bad children. Peter says, "... if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile (1 Pt 1:17)."
You know why merciful people get mercy? Because God is fair. Because it makes sense. God makes sense.
On the other hand, with the Jesus Prayer tradition in mind, this verse lights up like a beacon of hope. If you will, please allow me to turn this verse on its head:
"Ask for mercy, and he will make you merciful."
Crazy? You think? Follow this: God is fair. He will be merciful to the merciful. He wants to be merciful to us; he feels acute kindness and compassion. But hey, if you're bad you're bad; and he loves justice. He also loves the people we hurt! (I love justice too, by the way. Makes perfect sense.) It also makes perfect sense for God to quarantine you indefinitely if you're a jerk.
So we really do have to be merciful to get mercy. Is that a huge crushing burden? I don't think so. It's a burden, and we really do have to carry it; but he said "my burden is easy." It's 'easy' in one sense because we're not alone. He also says, "my yoke is light." Yeah, his yoke is light cause we're yoked in it with him! not because it isn't a hugely big deal. It is a big deal. And we've been commanded to pour out our lives in service to God and his big deal.
Ask for mercy, and he will make you merciful. It'll work. Be patient and trust God. He'll make you merciful so that he can be just in showing you mercy.
If you feel sorry for your sin, by all means repent. Ask for grace. Ask for mercy. Ask for forgiveness. Never give up repentance. Choose words that help you say what you feel.
As for me, I ask for mercy. Of all the ways to tell God I'm sorry, I can't think of one that is more humiliating, simply because it's true. I need mercy. ME. I'M the sinner.
take the lowest place my son
take the lowest place
do your best and ask for mercy
he will give you grace
AOG Pastor Arrested
9 hours ago