From the Hounslow West Evangelical Church “CHRISTIAN BASICS” courses, circa 1995.

By Chris Bennett

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A. The importance of recovering, or repenting:

1. If we do not turn away from sin, it will grow and grow, and in the end destroy us; the road to heaven is a narrow one. This does not go against free forgiveness, but just shows that the truly forgiven person does turn away from sin.

2. The Christian life is fellowship with God, 1 Thess. 5:10. But we are not walking with him if we are living completely out of step with his will, or hiding away from him because we feel guilty and condemned.

3. We have been saved in order to live a godly and useful life, not in order to carry on the same as before, Eph. 2:8-10.

B. Some major truths that are part of the context of repentance in the Christian life;

1. Christ has died for all the sins of the Christian, he has paid the full price, they have already, been duly punished in him.

2. Through faith in him we are justified, counted righteous before God's law, and this is a permanent fact, Rom. 5.l-2; John 5:24.

3. Through faith in Christ we have also become God's children; this too is permanent. Our sin is against a loving Father, not a condemning judge. See Gal 4:4-7.

4. God sees and hates sin in the Christian. It is still sin. His commands in the Bible are still relevant. He loves righteousness and hates sin. Psalm 11:5-7.

5. God, having saved us by grace through faith, is now making us holy, Eph. 2:8-10.

C. What to do when you become aware of the fact that you have sinned:

l. Admit it to God, humbled and sorry, 1 John 1:9; Ps. 51:3,17.
a) The main thing is not the literal confession of sin with our mouth to God - although particularly for serious sin this is a good idea, as and when you have opportunity - but that you are open with God about what you have done and how wrong it is, and about being responsible for it.

b) This sorrow for your sin is not inconsistent with rejoicing in Christ and your salvation. There is a great difference between sheer despair and depression about your sin (''Oh, I have done it again; oh dear, is there hope for me?'') and grieving before Christ because you have dishonoured him, displeased him. and failed to respond to his love properly again while you continue to know that he loves you and that you are fully forgiven through his blood.

c) Just because we are forgiven through Christ's work this does not mean that we do not need to confess or grieve over Sin. Sin in the Christian life is a significant fact even though it no longer condemns us (Rom 8:1), and so for God's glory, and for the sake of maintaining a right relationship with him, and for our own progress in holiness we need to confess and grieve over sin.

2. Ask for forgiveness, trusting that through Christ's death God gives it, Matt 6:12; Ps 51:1,2; 1 Jn 2:1.

Yes, God does forgive us all the time through Christ, just as he gives the Christian his daily food; but we recognise our total dependence on God for mercy as for daily earthly needs by asking for them. Asking again also helps us to know th,t we are forgiven through Christ.

3. Decide seriously before God that you will live differently from now on, 2 Cor 7:11; Ps 51:13-19.

Being forgiven does not depend on living differently; rather we are forgiven in order to live for God, Eph. 2:8-10. Full acceptance with God, being in his favour, comes first; living for him stems from it.

D. Some Tips:

1. In this whole matter, it is important to see what the function of God's law, commands, is in the Christian life. on the one had God uses them to guide us, and to humble us when we have sinned; so if you tend not to take sin seriously, not to grieve over it, often perhaps not even to notice it, you probably need to pay more attention to God's commands and will in the Bible. On the other hand the law is not meant to condemn the Christian because Christ came under the law to set us free from being under it, Gal. 4:4-5; nor is God's law some thing he has given us so that we can be accepted by him on the basis of keeping it, Gal. 2:21; so if you are tending to run around trying to do everything right in order to feel forgiven, or you just feel totally condemned and finished off by what you have done, look away from God's law for now and fix your eyes on Jesus and his perfect sacrifice for you and God's promise of free forgiveness in him. In recovering after sinning, it is important to know which medicine you need more of at the moment: God's commands or the gospel.

2. It is also good to distinguish between faith and spiritual sense or feeling, i.e. between what you know by believing God's word, and what you have a spiritual feeling or. It is quite possible to be trusting Christ and to be forgiven through his blood, and yet not to feel very forgiven. We must go by the word of promise not our feelings. God does not say those who feel forgiven are, but those who rest on Christ. Yes, seek to feel it, and ask God to give you a sense of forgiveness and acceptance and a sense of his love. But wait patiently in the mean time, and know that through Christ you are forgiven, and get on with doing for him whatever he wants. Isaiah 50:10 and Ps. 130 are relevant on this: in v.5-6 of the Psalm he is waiting not so much to be forgiven as for God to give him a sense and absolute assurance of it. But meanwhile he trusted, he knew that with God there is forgiveness, v. 4.

3. If all things work together to those who love God (Rom. 8:28) then even our sin have some purpose in God's providence; and this is surely not only to make Christ and his death on the cross more precious to us, but also to make us more determined not to sin again, and to lead us to take steps against sin in our lives. So don't just flop and settle back into your old ways once you have admitted sin and trusted Christ afresh for forgiveness, and maybe even felt something o God's love and forgiveness: think ''How did I fall?'' ''What do I need to do so that it will not happen again?'' And then change your patterns of living, speaking, thinking as appropriate.

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