Again and again Scripture urges us to “repent.” We are told: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17); “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38); “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). Literally, repent means “to turn.” We are to turn from sin and turn to God for forgiveness.
When a well-known Hollywood producer died a few months ago, her son said that his mother had died as unrepentant as she had lived. While he was most likely speaking of his mother’s career choices, and we don’t know the condition of her soul, which of us would like that to be said of us?–“He died as unrepentant as he lived.”
Such a sentiment is the opposite of what the season of Lent moves us to. The life of the believer in Christ, especially during the season of Lent, is one of continuing repentance. During Lent we sorrow over our sins and meditate on Christ’s Passion. We marvel at the great love that God has for sinners in that He would offer up His only-begotten Son to pay for our sins. Were it not for our sins, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to die. Or to live, for that matter, because He lived and died in our place, innocent of sin, “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). Jesus had nothing of which He had to repent, for we are told that He “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). Yet He went to the cross anyway to be punished for what He did not do, namely, sin. Jesus died as He lived. Not unrepentant, but innocent, for Scripture says that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
Parents, which of you would volunteer your child to be punished for something that someone else had done? Yet this is what God the Father did in offering up His Son in our place. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:7ff).
The product of such undeserved love and eternal salvation is humble thanksgiving from those for whom the Son sacrificed Himself. And so, during Lent–and for as long as we are in this world–we repent of our sins and trust in the Savior for forgivness, knowing that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
Cleansed by the blood of Jesus, the believer dies as he lives, that is, repentent and confident of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Believers can do so because Jesus died as He lived–in our place and innocent.
–Pastor Joel Fleischer