Acts 3:19Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.
Like faith, repentance is not confined to the beginning of the Christian life. Like faith, repentance is to continue throughout our lives as growing attitudes and awareness of heart. Consider the Beatitudes; the first three are:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit…The essential admission that we have come to the end of ourselves and are in need of God’s help and care to fully develop as people.
- Blessed are those who mourn…As we are honest about our defects of character there will be grief, or repentance, for our condition as well as for the injustice that grips our world.
- Blessed are the meek…Grieving over sin and suffering develops in us in a humble learning posture (disciple means learner).
Like faith and repentance, the Beatitudes are not a one-time deal. As we cycle through the Beatitudes we grow deeper in Christ and our faith. This seems counter intuitive to many people, but it is actually the unlikely route to true and lasting joy — and what Dr. Luke is pointing to when he speaks of “times of refreshing.”
The following is from Continual Repentance, in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust), pgs 136-137.
O God of Grace,
You have imputed my sin to my substitute, and have imputed his righteousness to my soul, clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe, decking me with jewels of holiness. But in my Christian walk I am still in rags; my best prayers are stained with sin; my penitential tears are so much impurity; my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin; my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.
I need to repent of my repentance; I need my tears to be washed; I have no robe to bring to cover my sins, no loom to weave my own righteousness; I am always standing clothed in filthy garments, and by grace am always receiving change of raiment, for you always justify the ungodly; I am always going into the far country, and always returning home as a prodigal, always saying, “Father, forgive me,” and you are always bringing forth the best robe. [See Luke 15:11-32, the Prodigal Sons.]
Every morning let me wear it, every evening return in it, go out to the day’s work in it, be married in it, be wound in death in it, stand before the great white throne in it, enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, the exceeding wonder of grace.