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It’s the weekend. You may be taking stock of your week. There were highs and lows. Maybe it was just another week of going to work, coming home, going to bed, waking up, and doing it all over again. Maybe there was tragedy in your week. Maybe there was great joy.
Wherever our week ended up, if we are followers of Jesus, we failed. We sinned. Maybe for the umpteenth time. What do we do when we fail?
When we give in to temptation and sin gets the victory over us, the first thing we must do is repent. Repentance is the first command of the gospel (Mark 1:15). Repentance is the gift of God and brings eternal life (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Repentance leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). The church father Tertullian said he was born but to repent. Martin Luther began his celebrated Ninety-Five Theses with these words: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4:17), he meant the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” God-given repentance is what unlocks the gates of heaven. It is the believer’s daily joy on the way to heaven.
Repentance means turning from sin to the Lord. No matter how many times we have fallen. No matter how cold and indifferent we feel at the moment. In fact, we may feel like a person stranded in the desert when we reach out for God in repentance, but when we reach, we find fresh springs of grace. Astonishingly, when we repent, there is joy in heaven (Luke 15:7).
The second thing we must do when we sin is remember. We must remember that we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6). We are children of obedience now (1 Peter 1:14). Indeed, we are beloved, adopted, cherished children of the Father (Eph. 1:3–5). So united are we to the resurrected Son of God by faith alone that we are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). God has changed everything for us, now and forever. We have a new identity because of God’s electing love for us. That is good news.
Therefore, when we sin, not only must we repent, we must remember who we are. Sin lies and tells us we must obey it. It holds out false promises of pleasure and fulfillment and joy and glory. We must tell ourselves a different story—the true, infallible, inerrant, space-time-and-history story of redemption through Christ alone. Not a myth. Not the prescientific musings of ancient religious people. But the true account of what God did here on planet Earth to adopt as His children through blood-stained wood and the fresh air of an empty tomb. When we tell ourselves the true story of redemption, we remember who we are, and sin begins to lose its potent grip on us.
Repent and remember. God will change us as we do both because God changed everything for us in Christ.