So why would I suggest that there is joy in repentance? You might say there is nothing harder in this life than stepping away from unity with God (we all do, regularly); seeing the freight train that is real or potential judgment; and honestly engaging the Lord in serious personal repentance.
The only way back to joy in life, defined as unity with God, (and Jesus and the Holy Spirit!), is through repentance and the Lord’s miraculous restoration of sincere but flawed hearts.
But it is also important to make sure that we are on an upward spiral as our lives wend along through the Cycle. If we continue to give in to temptation with disobedience and disunity, and then keep on repenting, we are simply treating God as a restart button with no moral improvement. This is called cheap grace, which is a contradiction – grace is not cheap. Cheap grace is not grace. God knows a sincere heart.
When I was a teenager, I delivered the afternoon Cleveland Press newspaper. Every day, six days a week, I would gather with other delivery boys to wait for the company truck to deliver the papers. Almost every day, we played touch football in the street, ice and snow could not stop us.
But on Fridays, I was always alone until just before the truck arrived, and the other guys would come puffing up to the corner in the nick of time. They had been at confession at their church, and, once absolved of their sins, had sped down to the store and bought a nasty magazine. I protested, not because I was holier than them, but because my great fear of judgment rested with guaranteed death-by-parent if I was ever caught within five miles of those mags. It wouldn’t matter whether I had looked or not. I would be presumed guilty (this fear kept me from looking!). The price in ridicule was quite high.
Let’s compare the cheap grace of those who do confession by rote with what David had to say.
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult in my heart. For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin” (38:4, 8, 17-18, ESV).
Remember, despite his flaws, some of which were truly horrific, David had a heart after God:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation” (40:1-3; 9a).
The question is not whether we are living up to every command and teaching in the Bible every day without fail. We simply cannot. But we can continuously improve. And we will find that little sins we never noticed before now become vivid and we can sincerely repent with smiles on our faces, as we learn to treat repentance as good coaching rather than imminent death.
I have been practicing this since I got into the psalms in this blog. And I feel Jesus much closer to me in the garden each morning, "as he walks with me and talks with me"!
Find true joy in repentance. It is the entry point to restoration and perfect unity with God.