I recently listened to an online sermon in which a pastor told of a time when he called on his congregation to repent of some ungodly decisions they had made. The Pastor noted that many in the congregation were upset, because they thought of repentance as something that was just done once when a person first became a believer. The Pastor noted that repentance was always to be part of the Christian life, both individually and corporately.
This reminded me of J. I. Packer’s discussion of the spiritual discipline of "habitual repentance" in his book A Passion for Holiness (Crossway, 1992):
What I intend to argue is that Christians are called to a life of habitual repentance, as a discipline integral to healthy holy living. The first of Luther’s ninety-five theses, nailed to the Wittenberg church door in 1517, declared, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Mt 4:17], he willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance." Philip Henry, a Puritan who died in 1696, met the suggestion that he made too much of repentance by affirming that he hoped to carry his own repentance up to the gate of heaven itself….
In my part of British Columbia, where rainfall is heavy, roads on which the drains fail soon get flooded and become unserviceable. Repentance … is the drainage routine on the highway of holiness on which God calls us all to travel. It is the way we get beyond what proved to be dirt, rubbish, and stagnant floodwater in our lives. This routine is a vital need, for where real repentance fails, real spiritual advance ceases, and real spiritual growth stops short (pp. 122-23).
What dirt, rubbish, and stagnancy needs to be removed from your heart and life? Paul urged the Corinthians to be filled with "godly sorrow" that would lead to repentance and then issue in greater zeal:
2 Corinthians 7:9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Let us pursue together this discipline of habitual repentance!
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel (8/5/08) article
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