Repentance is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given His people. While repentance is something that is a command (Acts 17:30), we also see that it is a generous gift (Acts 11:18, II Timothy 2:25) as well. A few years ago, I was reading a book by the late Dr. RC Sproul. In it, he provided an illustration that has profoundly impacted my way of thinking about repentance. He wrote about an encounter that he once had with one of his parishioners. He explained:
“A man distraught about a guilt problem once came to me saying, ‘I’ve asked God to forgive me of a sin over and over, but I still feel guilty. What can I do?’ This situation did not involve the multiple repetitions of the same sin, but the multiple confession of a sin committed once.
‘You must pray again and ask God to forgive you,’ I replied. A look of frustrated impatience came to his eyes. ‘But, I’ve done that!’ he exclaimed. ‘I’ve asked God over and over again to forgive me. What good will it do to ask him again?’
In my reply I applied the proverbial firm force of the board to the head of the mule: ‘I’m not suggesting that you ask God to forgive you for that sin. I’m asking you to seek forgiveness for your arrogance.’
The man was incredulous. ‘Arrogance? What arrogance?’ the man was assuming that his repeated entireties for a pardon were proof positive of his humility. He was so contrite over his sin that he felt he had to repent for it forever. His sin was too great to be pardoned by one dose of repentance. He was going to suffer for his sin no matter how gracious God was. Pride had fixed a barrier to this man’s acceptance of forgiveness. When God promised us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it. To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.”
I don’t think this man’s experience is unique. Indeed, I think it is actually very common. However, it is thinking like this that has allowed Satan to rob us of the joy of repentance. This should never be the case for the believer. There are two ways that Satan can rob a Christian of their repentance, yet we don’t have to let him.
Don’t let him trick you into thinking you don’t need to repent of the “small” sins.
“Little sins” can often go unnoticed by the human eye and heart. Let’s say that you didn’t pay enough money at the parking meter today, and you ended up getting a ticket. Truth be told, it kind of frustrated you and Romans 13 doesn’t really feel like it applies here right? Your husband did something to hurt you, though he didn’t even know it. You go to bed angry, but by the next morning you just brush it off and go on. Your child has talked back for the third time today, and that was the last straw. You discipline them, but you did so in anger. You justify your over-reaching discipline by saying to yourself, “They were in the wrong. They didn’t honor me.” It seems like small stuff to many, but it is not in the eyes of God. Though it may seem insignificant, it is the local government’s right to put in parking meters on their property. And as Christians, we are called to “obey the government” and “those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God” (Romans 13:1-2). Even though your husband may have frustrated you, it was your responsibility to “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). While your children needed discipline for their dishonor, we as parents are to discipline them in love, and not out of anger or done so out of control (Ephesians 6:4). When we let these “little sins” go unrepented, we are robbed of our proper communion with the Lord. Don’t let Satan convince you that those “small” sins are not worth praying about.
Don’t let him drag you down with guilt from past sins if they are forgiven sins.
Guilt and shame have their place. The Holy Spirit uses them to bring a person to repentance (II Corinthians 7:10). Yet, once a person repents of their sin, then their guilt and shame are removed (Romans 8:1). This is the beauty of repentance. The psalmist reminds us of a great truth when he wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). When we sin, we must repent. When we repent we must realize that God is the one to whom we have offended. And while there still may be earthly consequences for our sins, we can rest in knowing that our standing with God is righteous. We do not have to crumble under the weight of guilt and shame the way Dr. Sproul’s parishioner did. Satan would love to do this to you. If he can rob you of your joy and freedom in Christ by reminding you of your past sin, he will do so. Yet in Christ, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Let us all remember as Dr. Sproul has said, “When God promised us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it. To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.”
When we turn away from our sin, we are to turn to God. When we do this, he accepts our repentant plea. When God says that something is good, we must believe it. Repentance is a gift from God to his people. So, next time you want to forget about that little sin, DON’T. Repent of it, and be freed from the guilt of it. The next time you want to fall to your knees under the weight of a past sin that Satan brings to your remembrance, DON’T. Plead the blood and know that God has forgiven you of that sin, and in that forgiveness, you no longer must bear the weight of guilt and shame. Jesus took it for you. You bear it no more. Don’t let Satan rob you of your repentance. If you are the Lord’s, you are free in Christ, so matter what Satan may try to make you think.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell
 Sproul, R.C. Does Prayer Change Things. (Lake Mary: Ligonier Ministries, 2009), 39-40.
 Sproul, R.C. Does Prayer Change Things. (Lake Mary: Ligonier Ministries, 2009), 40.