Can you recalling driving in a rainstorm, anxious as you follow a blurry trail of brake lights, only to have a semi-truck fly by and slosh a thick covering of water on your car? Come on. Anxiety shifts into panic or anger because you can no longer see the road lines or slow-moving vehicles ahead. One thing you can be thankful for in this moment is a good pair of windshield wipers. As you sing “Jesus Take the Wheel” with Carrie Underwood, the wipers clear everything out of the way. You can see again.
I know, repentance isn’t your favorite word. It’s not mine either. No doubt it conjures up something like an angry turn-or-burn “preacher” (either pounding the pulpit or screaming in the streets) letting people have it or an ultra-fundamentalist family member unhappy with your choices of what’s right or wrong. Despite the bad taste that might be lingering in your mouth for words like “repent” and “repentance”, let’s together seek to move past those barriers and rediscover what God actually says about repentance. It might never be for your favorite word or your favorite part of being a Christian, but as we look into God’s Word I think we’ll see that repentance is meant to be a life-giving, sin-replacing, gospel-rooted posture of the Christian life. Easy? No. Good? Yes.
In two discourses attached to The Glory of Christ John Owen writes to backsliders—or those in spiritual decay—so they might see how grasping hold of Christ through God’s gracious promises in repentance and faith is the means to see our hearts revived. God desires such and has provided the way for our renewal. “The work of recovering backsliders or believers from under their spiritual decays is an act of sovereign grace, wrought in us by virtue of divine promises….Because believers are liable to such declensions, backslidings, and decays, God has provided and given to us great and precious promises of a recovery, if we duly apply ourselves unto the means of it” (Owen, I:454-55).