“The mercy God offers to the repentant person is completely free, undeserved, unstinting, and deeply personal, and thus is an important part of repentance that is often missed. Real repentance involves an acceptance of God’s free mercy.”- Timothy Keller
“Sometimes a light surprises the Christian as he sings; / It is the Lord who rises, with healing in his wings.”- William Cowper, Olney Hymns (1779)
Timothy Keller continues Chapter 9 of Forgive as he discusses what it means to forsake your sins. Thus, Pastor Keller defines ‘forsake’ as to make a full restitution of the sinful behavior, both in your heart attitude and in practical action. So, when John the Baptist led people to the brink of repentance, they asked him what they needed to do. John answered, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.”
Therefore, true repentance is at work when accompanied by sincere desire and concrete designs for change. Hence, false repentance consists solely of sentiment. Because no change in behavior occurs with false repentance.
Finally, Pastor Keller stresses, there’s one thing to receive. For after repenting, rejoicing must follow. You rejoice in the free mercy of God. But if you fail to rejoice after you repent, that opens the door for despair to follow.
Most significantly, in Proverbs 28:13 the Hebrew word for ‘obtaining mercy’ (Hebrew rhm) = the word for womb. As a result, the Hebrew always uses that verb in connection with the emotion of mercy from parents to children, notes Bruce K. Waltke.
However, Pastor Keller cautions, false repentance carries with it a demand the forgiveness be earned.
In conclusion, when people functionally operate on the belief that their moral life saves them, they:
- strive to atone for sin, earn forgiveness
- cannot take their sin to God and leave it there
- carry guilt around as a way of paying for the sin itself
- hope God will eventually declare that they have suffered enough and can receive forgiveness
Rather, greater recognition of our sinfulness should lead us to see the magnitude of God’s mercy. And greater amazement at His grace!
Today’s question: How do you see the mercy God offers as unstinting and deeply personal? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Human heart default mode”