Martin Luther began his 95 Theses by stating:
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
The word “repentance” means to return or to turn around. In God’s Word, He is the One doing the turning. He returns us to Himself and turns us around from our sin and despair that lead to death. God grants repentance to us by His grace. We come to grips with the terror of our fallen condition, and God grants us forgiveness through the atoning work of Jesus—paid for on the cross and delivered through His living Word and the waters of Holy Baptism.
But a life of repentance? Sometimes, in our busy lives, we practice “repentance on the run.” We charge headlong into our ideas, our opinions, our stubborn ways, our rebellious practices, and our packed agendas. Once in a while, we pause to remember that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, but OUR ways have such a foothold, room for GOD’S ways can become very scarce.
Awakening to this truth can be painful. Seeing God change our course and placing us behind Him to follow His ways can be humbling. Saying “I was wrong” can be very hard.
Last week I received a violation notice in the mail. The paper in the envelope had a picture of our family mini-van going through a red light. The fine was $75.00. Guess who was driving? Not my wife. It was me. I remember the day. I was bumper to bumper in rush-hour traffic on the way home after dropping my daughter off to pick up her car from the service center. The left-turn arrow turned green. Long pause. Finally, the cars began to move. Too slowly for me. I hugged the bumper of the car in front of me as the arrow turned yellow. And I kept going. Thought I made it. My wife knew I didn’t. And I thought the issue was over. But it wasn’t. I was wrong. I was caught. The penalty stung my pocketbook and my pride. The notice put my ego on hold and steered me to better traffic behavior.
A day of repentance is meant to turn us from our self-deception and self-righteousness and return us to a life in the footsteps of Jesus. It may mean you hear the call to drive better. Perhaps it’s God’s call to practice self-sacrificial love in your relationships. Maybe you’ll be guided by God’s Word to put your agenda for the church aside and follow God’s agenda for His Church. Perhaps you’ll be led to live a life that glorifies God in word and deed. Maybe you’ll confess your sin, say you’re sorry to a loved one or re-engage with God’s Word.
The motivation for this is not a scary violation notice. No, the motivation for our repentance is the cross of Jesus Christ. You see, HE—the perfect Son of God—received the violation notice. HE—the sinless Lamb—was saddled with the price of our sin. And by His wounds, we are healed. Because of His death and resurrection, His humiliation and separation from God, we are brought back to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
My prayer for our Texas District Day of Repentance is that each one of us will be brought back to the One who sacrificed all for us, and that by being returned to Him, we will go forth to reflect His love, His humility, His grace, and His mission to everyone in our lives—and to the millions of people who don’t know that their violations have been paid in full.
For more information and resources for the Texas District Day of Repentance, visit https://txlcms.org/dayofrepentance/
By Rev. Michael Newman