On Sunday, March 15, I quoted from a great resource to help apply the exhortation to repent. The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson was first published in 1668. In this classic work, Watson defines repentance as “a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.” To explain further, he offers six ingredients of repentance. I mentioned them quickly but intended to circle back on them to give more detail and information. As we continue working through Joel’s prophecy for the next two weeks, let’s not forget these timely words about this essential characteristic of all genuine believers.
Ingredient 1: Sight of Sin
Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, we must see ourselves as a sinner and nothing but a sinner. In coming to Christ by faith for salvation, we are changed from the inside out. However, sin persists in us until the last day. This sober realization is necessary for us to live with an ongoing posture of repentance before the Lord. “Sin must be seen before it can be wept for.”
Ingredient 2: Sorrow for Sin
Watson quotes Ambrose in explaining that sorrow is “embittering of the soul.” Proper sorrow for sin is not superficial; rather, it is holy agony. True, godly sorrow is an inward distress over the offense and not the punishment. Further, it will drive us to cling to God by faith and let go of those sins which brought us the greatest earthly gain or pleasure.
Ingredient 3: Confession of Sin
This sorrow creates a “vehement passion that will have to vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping and at the tongue by confession.” Watson notes that true confession will be voluntary and sincere. Additionally, it will particularize sin both of the body and the mind. Done properly, it will rend the heart so as to leave a wounding impression on the person. Through His grace, we are “throwing out the poison of sin.”
Ingredient 4: Shame for Sin
Watson begins, “blushing is the color of virtue.” Continuing he writes, “when the heart has been made black with sin, grace makes the face red with blushing.” We are ashamed of sin now that we may find Christ’s cleansing so that we will stand spotless on the last day and escape the final, lasting shame.
Ingredient 5: Hatred for Sin
True repentance includes a loathing of sin and the enmity it causes. Our hearts must abhor it and the damage it causes to ourselves and others. Rather than turn to it for pleasure as we once did, we turn to it with “implacable indignation” and thus “hate it infinitely more than ever we loved it.”
Ingredient 6: Turning from Sin
The outward reformation of the life follows the inner transformation of the heart. Note that the notable change is wrought first in the heart and then in the life. This turning forsakes all sin and turns fully from it to God. Through this final ingredient we see the end of our repentance is not merely the jettisoning of sin, but reconciliation with God.
May God grant us by his grace this repentance during these and all our days.