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Dr. John Oswalt Biblical Scholar & Preacher MORE

My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 2:16 ESV

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Isaiah 44:22 ESV

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.     

1 John. 2:1 ESV

A selection in a recent Lenten devotional ends with these words, “How often must we repent? Daily, for the rest of our lives.” A reader commented, “How discouraging!” Precisely! Is this the best that we can expect of ourselves and the Holy Spirit: that at the end of every day we will come to our Beloved with head hanging, saying, “Well, I committed adultery again today. I’m so sorry. I won’t do it again (until tomorrow). Please forgive me.”? By God’s grace I do not say that to my earthly beloved; why should I have to say it to my heavenly Beloved?

I think the issue here is a fundamental failure to distinguish between unintentional and intentional sin. Do I unintentionally sin against my wife? I am afraid that I do, and when I do I hope she will tell me in love and help me to do better. But even there, I do not need to come to her hang-dog each evening saying, “Well, what did I do today?” We have a love relationship, and she is not my accuser. (That’s the Devil’s chosen task.) If humanly speaking, I can live day after day without intentionally breaking my wife’s heart, why in the name of the One who has redeemed me and given me his Holy Spirit would I not live that way with my God? To be sure, we must never forget the sins of the past and the sinful inclinations that cost our Savior his life, and Lent is an appropriate time to remember that and reflect on it. Equally, if we should commit an intentional sin, we need to run to our Savior and Advocate in horror and abject repentance, resolutely turning away from that thing (the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “repentance”). But every day? God forbid! Let us live in the arms of our Beloved, wholly surrendered to him.

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