To repent is to express sorrow over sin that leads to a change of mind and heart.
But why is repentance so essential to living a life of integrity? Can't we just "do the right thing" without having to express sorrow over our sin?
The Backstory on Repentance
God's Word tells us plainly that human beings are made in His image. This makes humans distinct from everything else in creation. We bear a "resemblance" to God that is unique in the world; we were made to reflect His holiness throughout all of creation.
God's instruction to the first humans was simple: freely enjoy everything I have created, but don't cross this one line. We know how the story went. They crossed the line, and so have we ever since.
This disobedience to God is called sin, and it divides us from God and each other. It distorts God's image into something that doesn't look like Him or act like Him. Whereas God brought life, sin brought death.
The good news, though, is that God loved us. He didn't want us forever separated from Him. So, He enacted a redemptive plan to reconcile us to Himself. And this plan only required one thing of us: faith.
Where Faith Comes In
Faith has always been the central requirement for an intimate relationship with God. It was true in the Garden of Eden before humans sinned. And it's true now after we sinned.
But faith, although it is simple, is not that easy. There are all kinds of things that want to keep us from exercising faith: pride, fear, anger, lust, materialism, and so much more.
For faith to be "activated" we must repent of our sin. In other words, faith that truly makes a difference in our lives is not merely a mental assent that God exists; it is an active dependence on the Creator who made us and redeemed us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This active dependence on God is where repentance comes in, and this must involve a true brokenness over sin.
King David in Psalm 51 said this after he was confronted with his sin of adultery, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." (v. 3-4)
And the apostle Paul in the New Testament reminded the church in Corinth of the good fruit that comes from godly sorrow:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
Repentance is borne of a deep sorrow over sin. This is what prepares our hearts and minds for the humble dependence that leads us to faithful obedience and a life of greater integrity.
Let's look now at how repentance is essential to a life of integrity.
3 Ways Repentance Is Essential to Integrity
1. Repentance reminds us of our need for help
When we look honestly at our sin, it at least has to reveal that we aren't perfect. In order to have integrity (the "state of being whole") we must recognize how far short of God's standard we fall, and be ready to seek help.
If we never ask for help on our journey of life and faith, it is highly probable that we are not engaging in the discipline of repentance, and thus not living with integrity. Daily repentance will reveal our broken hearts and the areas in which we need the most help.
2. Repentance acknowledges God as our source of holiness
When we repent of our sin, we are saying to ourselves and to God, "I blew it! I missed the mark of holiness you expect. Apart from you I cannot live the life you require of me. You are my only hope."
We are not capable of living the life God requires of us -- because of our sin! But when we repent we are reminded of the great love and grace and mercy that God has given to us through Jesus.
Jesus did live a holy life. THE holy Life! And, by faith, he freely offers His life to us. Celebrate this amazing truth!
3. Repentance trains us to worship God, not ourselves
The root of all sin is pride, the belief that we can thrive independent from God. In essence, sin is self-worship.
When we repent we are starkly reminded that God alone is holy and we are not. He alone is worthy of worship, we are not. The very first of the 10 Commandments sums this up: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Ex. 20:3)
There is a rich and rewarding humility that emerges from repentance. And from this foundation the desire to actively depend on our Creator grows. Over time, this produces a life that looks more and more like the Image it was meant to reflect.
Repentance is essential to a live of integrity. Let's commit together to daily express sorrow over our sin that leads to a change of mind and heart.