True Repentance

“However, You are just in all that has befallen us, for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly.” Nehemiah 9:33

True repentance does more than simply acknowledge the sinfulness of our sin. It is true that all our transgressions are infinitely wicked. Sin is a most deadly plague. It is more vile and disgusting than speech can express. Sin is painted poison. One drop would pollute an ocean of righteousness. Every violation of God’s will is a violent assault on His majesty, His goodness, His wisdom, His sovereignty, and His holiness. Sin has made men walking tombstones. One sin plunged all mankind and the creation with him into hell and death forever. We can never come to a right understanding of the seriousness of sin until we begin to see it from God’s perspective. Sin is grievous (Gen. 18:20), a reproach (Prov. 14:34), it is devil-born (1 John 3:8) and death-deserving (Rom. 6:23). Never soft-peddle the nature of any sin.

But true repentance involves more than simply acknowledging the ugliness and wickedness of sin. Repentance also acknowledges that the consequences of sin are fully deserved. Repentance admits God’s righteousness in whatever results have transpired because of our rebellion. “You are just in all that has befallen us.” True repentance does not cry out against God’s rod as though we were being dealt with unfairly. No. The penitent sinner speaks up about the faithfulness of God, even in the midst of affliction, and confesses only that we have gotten less than our sin deserved. Grace in the heart cries “You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve (Ezra 9:13).” The true believer will always feel that God’s hand has been lighter than it might have been, and says “He has not dealt with us according to our sins (Psalm 103:10).” True repentance stops arguing with God, stops complaining against God, and places a hand upon the mouth saying, as Job, “Behold I am vile (Job 40:4).”

C.H. Spurgeon once said in a sermon “I feel that if God should smite me now, without hope or offer of mercy, to the lowest hell, I should only have what I justly deserve.”

True repentance always says, as in our text, “You are just in all that has befallen us.” And this is important, because only true repentance brings true forgiveness. Oh weeping sinner…look up! He that acknowledges that he deserves hell is on the very doorstep of heaven itself. Taste and see how merciful and compassionate our God is. Weeping may endure for a night of repentance, but joy comes in the morning of His grace. See…the Sun of Righteousness rising even now with healing in His wings (Mal 4:2). Those that humble themselves, acknowledging God’s justice in their affliction, will find themselves lifted up by His faithfulness in due time (Jam 4:10). Repentant sinners must first see God’s justice is condemning them…before they can see God’s justice in saving them. Yes, yes, He was “just in all that has befallen us.” But glory be to His holy name, He is just in all that has been forgiven us as well.

Jesus came to live and die for hell-deserving sinners like you and I. The Lord deals faithfully in all our afflictions. But He also deals faithfully in our forgiveness. His mercy and justice meet at the cross of Christ. Oh you will find Him faithful there at the foot of Calvary! Yes, He is just. But “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).”

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