Many people’s reaction to the idea of salvation as a gift for repentance is not wonder, joy, or gratefulness. Rather, it is one of doubt and skepticism. “That’s too easy.” “Well then wouldn’t you just keep sinning and asking for forgiveness?” The feeling is that it is kind of cheap on our part.
But one must really consider what repentance actually means. It is not just admitting “Oh, that was wrong. I feel bad for it, and don’t want to do it again.” Someone who repents must, by definition, also actively turn from that of which he/she repented. An alcoholic may decide to quit. She may stop drinking for a day. Or two. But would she last for three? During those first few days would she be living a normal life, or would she be constantly thinking of alcohol and reproving herself every time she did? When we sin it is like pure silver that has become worthless slag. When we repent, we decide we want to become pure again, and turn to God, the refining fire. He says “I will melt you down and skim off your slag. I will remove all your impurities.” [Isaiah 1:25] Meanwhile, people say that being melted down and purified by God is “too easy”! No, salvation may be free, but it is not cheap. It costs you your old, familiar, comfortable life. (Dirty and unsuitable as it may be.)
No, changing your life hurts alright. It is truly difficult. It is different from making New Year’s Resolutions. It means following your NYRs.
It pains us when we fail. It pains God when we fail. It doesn’t mean we don’t try. We do something bad, and think that whatever good we do can balance out the equation. But what is done is done. We have no power to erase that bad, that unique action, that we have committed. “I am sick of your sacrifices,” says God. [Isaiah 1:11] and I think here he meant to add, “So I will give you my own.” (And yea that means Jesus.)
Only God can forgive our wrongs. But only we can accept that forgiveness (and first we have to admit that we need this stuff.) Then we have to go into the next, unknown room. We have decorated and set up our old room, and turned on the air conditioning. But God calls us to the next, empty, hot room. We do not want to sweat out our toxins; we want to stay comfortable. But God wants us to sweat, and toil, and make something good of ourselves. In the process we will deck out the room too. Then we must move on again, until we reach the final room.