Before my son Cohen was born, a wise man told me that kids reveal the selfishness in our hearts better than anything else. I politely shrugged off his comments—realizing that this individual did not understand the profound servant-nature in which the Lord had gifted me. Turns out, the wise man (Pastor Ben) was right…
Over the past few weeks I have come to a deepened understanding of my own pride, greed, and yes—selfishness. I am coming to understand that I often wear a thin cloak that disguises my arrogance with the outward appearance of humility—but inwardly my heart seeks its own comfort. In God’s grace, through my son Cohen (specifically his nighttime schedule), He is drawing me to repentance.
In Romans 2, Paul writes of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience—it is these qualities that lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). With a gentleness that only a loving Father can provide, God kindly reveals our sin. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson notes:
"How happy it would be if we were more deeply affected with sin, and our eyes did swim in their orb. We may clearly see the Spirit of God moving in the waters of repentance, which though troubled, are yet pure. Moist tears dry up sin and quench the wrath of God. Repentance is the cherisher of piety, the procurer of mercy." (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, 7)
In true biblical repentance, we come to an intellectual understanding of our sin and we experience an emotional sorrow over the wrong we have committed against a holy God. But as Louis Berkhof describes, these must lead to a volitional element, “a change of purpose, an inward turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 486). It is not enough to cognitively recognize our sin—we must turn from it.
“Repentance,” as Thomas Watson explains, “is a pure gospel grace.” (The Doctrine of Repentance, 13) Without Christ, the message is “sin and die.” But in Christ, the good news is “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) In turning from our sin, we find the nail-pierced hands of Christ, motioning, “Come!” And through His blood, we find redemption and forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7).
“I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh, there are ten thousand charms.”
(Joseph Hart, 1759)