Imagine a man who has committed a terrible crime and is imprisoned for it. During his trial he is utterly unrepentant, snarling and swearing that if he had the chance he’d do it again and worse. That man does more than endure the penalty in prison; he remains the evildoer within. If he were to complete his sentence and be freed he would still be that evil-doer because he carries the love of his evil with him and even exults in it.
But if he comes to see his crime in all its ugliness and to hate it, to wish he had never committed it and would never want to do it again—he would be a different man even while he endures the chastisement.
In this new state of mind (repentance) he would be seeing the crime with other eyes and another heart—with the eyes and with the heart of the victim’s parents, with the eyes of the judge and jury. He doesn’t now rage against their decision; he isn’t now untouched by the pain of the people he hurt; now he would undo it all if he could. He can’t change the fact that he has committed the crime but he is no longer the man who committed the crime. The deeper and purer his repentance becomes the further he is removed from the man who did this awful thing. (We see that in Paul—do we not?) In a very real and profound way (not the only way) this man has been delivered from the power of evil. Once more, the man who did the evil and was put in prison is not the same man who now bears the judgment. If it should be that he is somehow pardoned his fully repentant heart would match the utter freeness of the forgiveness graciously bestowed on him.
When we bear in mind that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, that it is God in His kindness who gives us the gift of repentance unto life through the Lord Jesus then we realize that we are delivered from the power of sin by the inner transformation He brings about. (Romans 2:4; Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25) By his grace we come over on to God’s side and our hearts are in tune with his. That’s one face of reconciliation. I’m saying that God’s gift in the Lord Jesus of freedom from sin means that Sin no longer stands between God and us; it is no longer the destructive power that alienates us from the Holy Father—we’re forgiven and our sins are remembered against us no more. I mean it also includes our new mind (repentance) which is God-generated and Christ-shaped so that our life’s direction has changed and we no longer admire or wish to live as an enemy of God’s character or eternal purpose. John Masefield’s poem expresses this marvelously. Here’s a piece of it that describes the changed heart of the once bitter, foul-mouthed and drunken prizefighter, Saul Kane. (The Everlasting Mercy)
I did not think, I did not strive,
The deep peace burnt my me alive;
The bolted door had broken in,
I knew that I had done with sin.
I knew that Christ had given me birth
To brother all the souls on earth,
O glory of the lighted mind,
How dead I’d been, how dumb, how blind,
The station brook to my new eyes,
Was babbling out of Paradise;
The waters rushing from the rain
Were singing Christ has risen again.
I thought all earthly creatures knelt
From rapture of the joy I felt.
This is one face of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus. In drawing us to Himself (John 12:32) He draws us to His Holy Father. He re-orients our hearts He reconciles us to God and we know with Saul Kane “that we are done with Sin.” (Romans 6:1-14)
(Holy Father thank you for doing more for us than forgiving us our sins. Thank your bringing our hearts and longings and purposes into at-one-ment with your heart. Whatever battles and wrestlings lie ahead of us in our future, we are “done with sin.This prayer and commitment in the Lord Jesus Christ.)