Sin and Repentance; January 5, 2023

Luke 15:7 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

I think we tend to misunderstand two things about this parable. In the first place, it doesn’t say that there is no rejoicing in heaven over the righteous people, but rather that there is more rejoicing when someone repents. In the second place, if you relax and place yourself in the category of “the righteous people,” you can be in real danger, as Paul pointed out. (1 Corinthians 10:12) In fact, Jesus’ greatest conflicts were with the Pharisees, who were considered by the general populace, and by themselves, to be righteous. When Jesus is our standard of righteousness, how can anyone be satisfied with their own level of righteousness? Again as Paul said, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:4) We aren’t to wallow in things we know aren’t pleasing to God, but neither are we to be self-righteous. That certainly isn’t pleasing to God! We are to walk in the righteousness of Christ, all the time remembering that it’s not our righteousness but His. (2 Corinthians 5:21) That attitude will make us pleasing to heaven indeed.

The longer I walk with the Lord the more I am aware of this, I forget from whom I first heard this way of explaining it, but it’s like our hearts, our lives, are a field with a huge rock in the middle of it. That rock is our sin. When we repent and believe for salvation, God takes that boulder away, and we feel totally liberated. However, as we walk around our field we start to notice numbers of head-sized rocks scattered here and there, and we have to lug them out of the field ourselves. When we largely dispose of those, we notice many more fist-sized rocks all over. Those can perhaps be thrown out, but our arm gets really tired doing that all the time. And then there’s the simple gravel that gets under foot. Repentance is an ongoing occupation! I’m not to be digging constantly for more stuff to repent of, but I am to be fully sensitive to the Holy Spirit, because He’s very good at shining light on what needs to go. I am not to excuse sin, in myself or in anyone else, but my focus needs to be on Christ who dealt with that sin in His own body of the cross, and so rest, relax, and rejoice in Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. There are things I keep discovering about myself, and sometimes it gets confusing. Help me indeed yield each new discovery to You, all the while learning more about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that I may avoid the traps of the enemy and walk in Your light. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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