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Martin Luther, in the first of the 95 theses, said, "The whole life of a believer is repentance". That makes us consider this question: what role does repentance have, if any, in the life of a believer, one who has already repented of their sins and been saved by Jesus Christ? If we have already been forgiven, then how or why would repentance be an ongoing thing? Does the Bible teach a repentant lifestyle?
The Apostle Paul, in a sense, said that repentance and faith are the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20-27). In the verses following our text in Romans 13, Paul says to the believers that they need to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (vs.12), to walk properly as in the daytime (vs.13) and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh (vs.14). Friends these things are what a repentant lifestyle is all about.
Colossians 2:6 tells us that “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him”. You received Him in repentance and faith, so you are to walk in that daily. Daily repentance is about fellowship with God, and this requires a humble admission of our dependence on God. When you woke up this morning, were you God? No? Then repent! Of what, you ask? Think of it this way, repentance is looking away from ourselves and toward God. We must do that every day.
The Apostle John tells us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is about more than the initial salvation experience, it is about fellowship with God. When we sin, we are forgiven, that has already been accomplished. Our sin cannot negate the relationship. We may never speak to our earthly father, but we are still his offspring. However, if we aren’t talking to him, we may have a relationship, but it is soured, in that we have no fellowship.
In the same way we, as believers, can grieve the Holy Spirit with our disobedience (Ephesians 4:30), and in a sense, fall out of fellowship with the Father. Oh, He still loves us, and we will still make it to heaven. But we lack the assurance of a daily walk, that is, until we repent and receive the blessings of being able to look at our Father without having to hang or head, or turning away completely from Him. We draw near to Him, and we know He draws near to us (James 4:8). That is how we draw near, in repentance. Again, repentance is turning back to see God. David said it like this: “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).
In Romans 12:2 Paul instructs us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If part of repentance (metanoia) is changing our mindset, then to change our mind is to renew our mind, and so therefore, to be transformed is by repentance. As we are transformed, as we grow in grace, we learn this repentance more perfectly.
Luther was right...