If you have been around Redeemer long you have heard us talk about the Christian life in terms of daily walking in repentance. Or when we observe the Lord’s Supper together we will often say the Supper is not for perfect or sinless Christians, but for repentant Christians. Well, what do we mean by such language? First, it’s easy to say what we don’t mean. In using language like this we are seeking to correct the false notion that repentance is only a one-time decision that happens at conversion. No, repentance is continual in the life of the Christian.
I like the way David Powlison lays it out in his recent book, Making All Things New. Powlison writes:
We tend to use the word repentance in its more narrow meaning, for decisive moments of realization, conviction of sin, confession, seeking mercy. (pg. 66, emphasis original)
Yet, Powlison says we must understand the wider meaning as well. The wider meaning, he says is;
…the essential inner dynamic of the Christian life. It is an ongoing change process. It involves a continual turning motion, turning toward God and turning away from the riot of other voices, other desires, other loves. (pg. 66)
Transformation, growth, maturing, and renewal of mind and lifestyle involve a continual process of mentanoia (repentance), and ever-changing, ever-developing wisdom. We turn from what comes naturally and turn to the faith, love, and joy that are found in knowing Jesus Christ….The entire Christian life (including the more specific moments of repentance) follows a pattern of turning from other things and turning to the Lord. (pg. 67, emphasis original)
I’ll close with this quote from John Calvin that Powlison offers:
This restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year…In order that believers may reach this goal [the shinning image of God], God assigns to them a race of repentance, which they are to run throughout their lives. (quoted on pg. 67)