In the late 1960s Mother Basilea Schlink, co-founder of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Darmstadt, Germany, wrote a book entitled Repentance and the Joy-Filled Life which has become a spiritual classic. In her book she showed just how important repentance is, not just for the person coming to Christ, but also for Christians generally.
In recent years there have been some Bible teachers who argue that repentance is only relevant to people turning to Christ but does not apply to Christians. I have even heard one of those who teach this say that the first chapter of John’s first epistle was written not for believers but for unbelievers.
From my understanding of Scripture and from personal experience, I believe that repentance is very important for the Christian.
In the Old Testament we read the story of King David and his adultery with Bathsheba [2 Samuel 11]. Not only did he commit adultery but he had Bathsheba’s husband killed, and then tried to cover up by telling lies. Through the prophet Nathan David’s sin was uncovered. In Psalm 51 we read David’s repentance and confession of sin. Listen to the language of his godly sorrow and repentance: “Blot out my transgressions… Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity… cleanse me from my sin… Against You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight… Hide Your face from my sins.” One of the things that David had lost has a result of his sin was the joy of salvation, and he prayed that God would restore to him the joy of salvation [Psalm 51:12].
September 10th 1966 was a red letter day in my life. I was a young evangelist, preaching in Yorkshire on the story of the prodigal son. When I gave the altar call a lot of people responded, many for salvation. At the end of the meeting I walked through the congregation to say goodnight to people as they left the meeting. People were praising me, and praising my preaching. A woman called Mavis took my hand, looked at me eyeball to eyeball, and said, “You didn’t glorify God tonight! Good night!” My pride was punctured.
That night I got on my knees before God and repented of my pride. The Holy Spirit then began to put His finger on other wrong things in my life. This included writing to my former employer, asking forgiveness for a wrong attitude towards my parents, and ending a relationship with a girlfriend that I knew was not in God’s will. It was a night of deep repentance when the Holy Spirit met with me afresh. Since then there have been many other times when God has had to deal with issues and attitudes in my life. In my experience keeping short accounts with God and repentance where necessary are keys to the joy-filled life.
What does it mean to “keep short accounts” with God?
What experience have you had as a Christian where God has led you to repent? Did this lead you to a sense of freedom and joyfulness?