Spiritual Renewal: Repentance

(This is a continuation of our study on spiritual renewal. You can find all of the posts here.)
“The Christian life is a life imbued with the supernatural power and authority of God. God is the God of salvation. We do not control God by saying magic words or attending church. Conversion is a heart-affair. Before we can come to Christ, we must empty ourselves of the false pride, blame-shifting, excuse-making, and self-deception that preoccupies our days and our relationships. Before we can come to Christ, we must come to ourselves.”
-Rosaria Butterfield
Scripture Reading: Acts 3:17-26
Lesson: One of the necessary preconditions for renewal is a deep, abiding conviction of sin. If the fuel for revival is the gospel, then repentance forms the pressure that pumps that good news into our hearts.
Peter here, before the leaders of Jerusalem, is pleading with them to open themselves to be renewed by God. His salvation has come. His Messiah has arrived. The opportunity for renewal is here: “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:20) Why aren’t God’s people experiencing this restoration? It is because they are unwilling to “repent, therefore, and turn back” to the Lord. (Acts 3:19)
Throughout history, the posture of the heart that leads to revival is one of grief over sin. The sort of preaching that leads to revival takes sin seriously. This is not to say that people can be guilted into renewed spiritual life. Instead, it is to say that the seeds of the gospel sprout in soil made fertile by an awareness of our need.
We are all much worse than we tend to imagine. Sin is any failure to do anything that God commands in our actions, with our words or with our thoughts. It includes sins of commission – when we do what we should not do. It also includes sins of omission – when we don’t do a good thing we ought to do. The measure of righteousness is God’s perfection; any time we fail to perfectly love Him or perfectly love our neighbors, we stand accused.
Repentance is the activity of believing and grieving that reality. We acknowledge that it is true – that the standard for our lives is not human comparison but divine holiness. Belief isn’t mere intellectual assent but an agreement from the heart. Such heartfelt belief then always drives a sadness, a mourning for the reality of this sin. We are guilty; without Christ we stand condemned.
When our hearts are broken in this way, the life of God can begin to seep in. As we practice such daily repentance, the door to revival is edged open. Our prayer then becomes that God would walk through and that times of refreshing might come.
Prayer: Holy Father, we confess that we are deeply sinful creatures. We don’t even grasp the beginnings of how far short we fall of Your perfect righteousness. Convict us of our sin. Give us holy grief for it. Then, through those tears of repentance, give us ever more clearly a vision of Your cross. Teach us with broken hearts to rejoice in our salvation. Do all of this in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.