Today’s chapter in our Red Letter Challenge book contains a prayer that we are encouraged to speak daily as we seek God’s forgiveness. The prayer contains a sentence—“I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life”—which parallels the words of Peter in Acts 3:19 when he said, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out…” James says something similar when he wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) The prayer reflects the fact that we are commanded by God to repent of our sins and follow Him.
However, there is an important distinction to make: We cannot do it on our own. We are incapable, in and of ourselves, of repenting of our sins and turning towards God. Our capacity to do so is made possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us as a gift by God himself.
“You have to become different, yet you have no power within yourself to do so before God. You have to act differently than you are now acting. Everyone! To do so, the strength must come from outside of you, from God. God gives this repentance by the preaching of His Word. He sends His thunderbolt, the holy hammer of His Law, and crushes the sinful heart. As He does so, He also prepares sinful hearts to receive the Gospel of forgiveness and life.”
So our ability to repent, turn, and receive forgiveness comes from God. I thank the Lord for that. For if I had to trust myself each day to confess my sins and sin no more, I would despair! I know I can’t do it. There are sins in my life I struggle to let go. There are many moments each day when my first instinct should be to turn to God and I fail to do it. My essential nature is fully corrupted by sin! But my God has given me the gift of faith. My God leads me to speak words of repentance. And my God has forgiven all my sins, past, present, and future, because He Himself has paid the price for them.
As a result, therefore, of God’s work in me, I can pray the words, “I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life.” Or I can use the words of confession from our Lutheran Service Book (page 292), “I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and I mattered most…I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.” I could even choose to use the simple “sinner’s prayer” used in the church by the fourth century: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, the sinner.”
I know, by God’s good grace, He will answer my prayer and forgive my sins. Praise be to Him! –Heather Stueve, October 4, 2021