Lent Lessons: The Joy of Repentance
March 29, 2022 | Andrew Zakhari
“Joy” and “repentance” are not two words we associate with each other. But what about associating joy with the experience of kindness? Think about some of the happiest moments in your life. There was probably some kindness in them offered to you by an important person or group of people in your life. The experience of kindness brings joy in life. And in Lent the destination to joy travels down the road of repentance. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:4:
[Do you not know] that God’s kindness leads to repentance?”
While we ought to admit our wrongs throughout the year, in Lent it is especially appropriate to make a regular habit of confessing our sins to God. When we repent of our sins to God and before one another, it is evidence that God’s kindness is working our hearts. Often, we limit our repentance to occasions where we know we have disobeyed God, but regular confession of sin is an ongoing reminder of the mercy and forgiveness we stand in need of each day. Martin Luther starts his famous 95 Theses in this way:
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
So how do we make repentance a daily habit? Throughout the history of the church, there have been guides taken from the Scriptures to help lead us in confession of sin.
Here is a brief list and how to use them:
Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
- Choose one psalm a day (one for each day in the week) and read it slowly and aloud.
- As you read, pray the words drawn from your heart in response to the text.
- The words of the Psalm will pluck the strings of your heart. And prayer, like music, will sound.
For example, here is a response drawn from Psalm 6:1: “God, I realize that my thoughts about the troubles in my life reflect an unbelieving heart. Please do not rebuke in your anger.”
When we take in God’s word with great care it will mold our hearts to conform to his good and perfect will.
The Ten Commandments
The church has used the Ten Commandments as a guide for confession. Here is a helpful resource to use.
Pick 1 commandment per day to reflect on. Lift up these gleanings to God. Ask the Spirit to help you take concrete steps in improving in this area for that day.
Don’t forget the kingdom virtues Jesus lays out in the beatitudes. The beatitudes call us to live a life of true happiness found in the ways of God, but our hearts are too much inclined to find happiness the way the world shows us – through material gain, increasing our power and influence, indulging in excess, etc. Here is a helpful guide to use the beatitudes for confession. Again, pick 1 one beatitude to reflect on.
Repentance is meant to bring healing. Beating ourselves up defeats the purpose of sincere repentance. Instead, as concrete examples of shortcomings come to mind thank God for showing you where you have gotten off course. Thank him that his grace is sufficient to cover all your sins, even the ones you weren’t aware of. Ask for his help to get back on track. In this season of Lent, may God give us the grace to repent frequently of our sins so that we can experience the hope and healing he alone gives through Jesus, Our Savior.