Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Is amendment of life a necessary part of repentance?

I was always taught that it was. After all, are you really sorry that you stole the candy bar if you keep on stealing candy bars? Are you really sorry that you cheated on the history test if you're still offering $10 to the A-student who sits next to you in math class if he'll let you look at his paper during that test?

Maybe amendment of life is easier when it's an action than when it's a sinful word or a sinful feeling or a sinful thought. Of course, there are actions that are vices, that are addictions. It seems to me that there are plenty of situations where we can hate our sin, regret our attitude, desire to be free from it, cling to Christ's forgiveness, and still be unable to Just Stop That Sin.

Didn't Paul say something about that? "The good that I would, that I fail to do...."?

In some cases, we can gather our oomph together and control how the sin bubbles out in our actions. That's good. But it won't change the heart's mistrust. "You don't trust God," says the accuser, "and so you commit thus-and-such a sin." Will the problem be solved if you stop doing the sin? Or is the sin that you "do" a symptom of the unbelief? If so, isn't the real solution to be assured again and again of what our Savior has done to save us and make us His own dear children? What brings about amendment-of-life anyway, the law or the gospel?


  1. I don't know if this adds anything to your thoughts or not, but I find it interesting that some people in both the East and West will refer to certain saints as "sinless" - because if you read those saints' writings, they oftentimes have a more acute knowledge of their own sin than anyone else I've ever read. Perhaps it could be said that their actions were "without fault" to some large degree, I don't know, but they definitely did not have any view of themselves as "sinless" - not at all.

    I love one story from the desert fathers, where one of them is on his death bed, and the other monks are gathered around. The brothers think of him as this great, sinless saint and ask him for a final word before he departs. He tells them, "Brothers, pray for me now, for I have not even begun to repent." When one reads it, or they heard it, the immediate reaction is, "How can you possibly say that?!" But I think he probably understood something about himself and his own sin that the others didn't, something I don't even comprehend.

    Actually, in the confessional on Sunday, Pastor suddenly stood up, ran down the steps, grabbed a hymnal, flipped it open to the hymn of the day, and started reading it to me. Afterwards, he said: "This is a very early hymn. I know we often feel alone in our sin, but the truth is, Christians have struggled in the same way as you since the very beginning. You can see that here."

    Against the demon snares of sin,
    The vice that gives temptation force,
    The natural lusts that war within,
    The hostile foes that mar my course;
    Or few or many, far or nigh,
    In ev'ry place and in all hours,
    Against their fierce hostility,
    I bind to me those holy pow'rs.

  2. Your first two paragraphs remind me of a couple of chapters from "Except the Corn Die." It's the story of the Saxon immigration to Perry County. One of the dearest, sweetest, most devout women in the group became increasingly ill. As she was dying, she repeatedly called for the pastor to come and absolve her, and he came. The people couldn't figure what SHE had to confess. If anybody had their Christianity all together, she did. But she knew she didn't; she knew what she was as a sinner; she knew that she needed Christ.

  3. Was it crowded on Sunday morning? I wanted to come, but various situations made it not-so-convenient. And besides, I figured there'd be a line. Pastor won't let me say "Oh, I'll wait until another time" even if I know he's running past 7:00, but I'm not comfortable when he's caught in between "I need to hurry and get out of the nave" and "I need to minister to this sinner."

    That hymn verse was (I think) the very first thing I memorized out of the new hymnal. The day that I saw that hymn in LSB for the first time, I started memorizing that "new" stanza!

    I think we need a book rack for the confessional since it moved from its old place.

  4. It was actually more crowded this past Sunday than it usually is, but I tend to show up around 6:20 (you know, since I'm awake anyway) and I'm usually the first one in there, ready to go whenever Pastor is ready (also gives me some time to prepare beforehand). I think there were at least 6 or 7 people, though, when I left, and that was right around 6:30/35.