When I was a child, I had the misconception that I could knowingly sin – plan to sin – and later tell God that I was sorry.
“I’ll do this now, but I’ll plan to ask God for forgiveness later, and he will be okay with that,” was my philosophy.
Sounds pretty dumb, right?
I hadn’t thought about that in a long time, but my childish foolishness came to mind today when reading a David Jeremiah devotional about true repentance. This verse was highlighted:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. – Joel 2:13
For the Jews of ancient Israel, rending (tearing) one’s garments was an outward sign of grief or other great distress.
Job did so upon the learning of the death of his children.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped. – Job 1:20
Reuben tore his robe when he discovered that Joseph was no longer in the pit from which Reuben had planned to rescue Joseph.
And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. – Genesis 37:29
In the New Testament, Barnabas and Paul did so when the people of Lystra wanted to worship them as gods, after the apostles performed a miracle.
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein. – Acts 14:14-15
But in Joel 2, God asked not for an outward show of repentance, but for true inward repentance. All the outward indications and traditions of Christianity mean nothing if one’s heart is not striving daily to turn away from sin, and toward God. True repentance is about hating sin as passionately as God does, and seeking to purge it from our lives.
That’s tough to do. I admit, though I no longer employ my childish philosophy of “sin now, confess later,” I don’t always get very upset about my sin. And I do tend to repeat the same sins. I know that I wouldn’t have as much of an issue with these sins if I were truly heartbroken about them, if I “rent my heart,” as God requested.
The great Old Testament prophet Samuel said it this way:
Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. – 1 Samuel 15:22
What are your thoughts on taking sin seriously? What role does repentance play in your devotional life? I always appreciate your thoughtful and insightful comments. Thank you so much for your input!