Today I read an excellent post from Pastor Matt Richard of Zion Lutheran Church in Gwinner, ND. In the wake of the fall of another Christian ministry leader, it is worth looking at what the heart of repentance really is.
It is ironic that in huge swathes of fundamentalism, a false view of what sin is predominates–one that more closely resembles the Roman Catholic view of the 16th Century. Where there is no clear understanding of sin, there can be no true repentance and understanding of our need of a Savior.
Pastor Richard writes:
During the time of the 16th century Reformation the emphasis and understanding of sin was primarily on the series of actions that one did or did not do. Sin wasn’t based upon evil thoughts or inclinations of the heart but upon the actions that manifested themselves physically and visibly. As a result of this narrow view of sin some people did not consider themselves to be guilty of sin. The reason being, they ran to the monasteries and religious communities and diligently worked on repenting of external sins in order to be in the good standing of holiness. In the Smalcald Articles Luther comments on his days in the monastery saying,
“We fought against evil thoughts by doing such things as fasting, staying awake, praying, saying Mass, wearing coarse garments and sleeping on hard beds. According to our teaching, some monks were regarded as holy, without sin, and full of good works. Also, since we had more good works than we needed to get to heaven, we could communicate and sell our good works to others.”
Read the entire post by Pastor Richard here. To those who may say, “I know all this”, I have found it helpful to be frequently reminded of these things. We, as humans, have an unfortunate tendency to forget.