Report vs. Repent

If we lose focus, if we don’t maintain our humility, our prayers can move to simply reporting to God what we did wrong, kind of like a news anchor telling the camera what happened today. We can quickly and non-emotionally sound off a list of what we did wrong and make the assumption that because we just mentioned the names of our sin to God that we are forgiven. This is apathetic, habitual, lethargic, assumptive prayer.

But authentic confession of sin is not a mere casual report of bad actions.

Even with a nominal understanding of the New Testament teaching on confession and sin, we know that God has made every provision for our confession, forgiveness, and acquittal—every single time. But this knowledge shouldn’t get old and lend to reporting but keep us fresh and lead to repentance. Reporting is a signal from the mouth while repentance is a state of the heart.

Not only is repenting an agreement and confession of a crime before God but a resolve that the behavior cannot and should not continue. Repentance is a cry of the soul for real change—change we know we cannot make on our own.

Reporting of sin in prayer often starts when, while our mouth is confessing, we know in our gut we are going to commit the sin again very soon, in fact, as soon as we have an opportunity. The plans and provision for sin are still very much rolled out on the table. Reporting invites repetition of sin while repentance invites reduction of sin.

So are you saying if we truly repent, then we will never commit that sin again? No. But any time we repeat, we can’t be tempted to report. Always repent. Repeat? Repent. Repeat? Repent. This is the only path we have to:

“Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.” “That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” —Luke 7:42-47 MSG

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