After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth. – Jeremiah 31:19
The prophet declared the word of the LORD that he had received during a dream. He spoke of a future time when Israel would be handed over to Babylon and sent into exile there because of their sins against the LORD. The LORD spoke of how the people would pay for their wrong but would be brought back to the land of their fathers because of the promise he had made with the Patriarchs. In the passage, the LORD spoke of how the tribe of Ephraim had sinned against God but came to understand the everlasting love of the LORD through repentance.
I am reminded of the story Jesus told of the sinner and the saint that came into the house of the LORD. The saint proudly stood before God and declared all the good he had done and how he was not like the sinners around him. However, the sinner in the rear of the building hung his head in shame and humility and beat his hand against his chest in remorse for the wrongs he had done. Jesus asked the people who of the two stood right before the LORD. The answer was the man who in humility stood quiet before the LORD and recognized his shame and quietly repented, unlike the proud saint who bragged of his self-sanctification.
I’ve recently heard a preacher state that our forgiveness is a finished work of Jesus via the cross and resurrection. He then went on to say that we are forgiven once and for all through the blood of Jesus and need not ask for forgiveness any longer because of this finished work of Jesus. This man advocates repentance on a regular basis when we sin. In one sense I agree with him that our sins are forgiven in the sacrificial atonement Jesus paid! Hallelujah! On the other hand, I veer off course from his discourse in the need not to ask for forgiveness any longer. I do agree that repentance is a great thing and should happen as soon as we have sinned!
The problem for most people is the equating of repentance with forgiveness. This preacher in question failed to explain fully this dilemma adhered to by most of the church universal. Whereas we are fully pardoned of our sins through the cross and resurrection, we must repent of sins we commit beyond conversion. Repentance is the process of making a decision to examine what a person has done and then choose to no longer commit that act. Forgiveness is the pardoning of the wrong another party has committed against the offended. While we are forgiven and yet commit sins, we must repent and strive to not commit them anymore.
The problem I see here is that if we tell people not to ask God for forgiveness of sins committed after conversion, we run the risk of implanting in their minds that they are free to sin all the time and then just decide to repent later. It runs akin to the idea of once saved, always saved. If a person were to marry these two ideas, they would become the child of hell and be worse off than had they never known God at all. Why? Pete explained that when you know the goodness of God and then revert to a life of sin, there is a tendency to grow cold toward the LORD that can lead a person to divorce themselves from their relationship with him and thereby suffer the eternal fate originally appointed for demons!
I don’t see a problem with asking the LORD to forgive us when we sin. It is a healthy practice that keeps us in check and will cause us to repent more quickly after committing a sin. I agree with the other preacher in the final work of Jesus and being pardoned from all sin, but I err on the side of caution in order that I may stand before the LORD quietly, beat my chest in humility for the wrong done, and then walk away with a changed mind about what I had done versus what I will now do. The choice is yours.
Father, King of the universe, Creator of all! Thank you for showing me that Jesus fully paid the ransom for my pardon from sin and eternal damnation. Thank you for offering me the gift of eternal life through Jesus! I now stand before you clean, holy, and righteous because of him. However, I realize that in myself I am capable of committing the foulest of deeds. Over time you have helped me to see the error of my ways and have disciplined me because you love me and want me to live as you desire. I bow my head before you and just pay you reverence as LORD and Judge! You may have pardoned me for eternity, but it is my duty to walk the path, that narrow way, that leads to life. Help me to reach the end of the race and to complete the work you gave me to do. May you be glorified above all! In Jesus’ name, Amen.