Theory: In order to have a “right relationship” with God, I must confess and repent of my sins. (An “if, then” statement which also goes to say “if not, then not”.)
Related questions: How do I know recognize my sins? What constitutes repentance? If God is omniscient (all-knowing), why must I say what I have done wrong? What does God want from me?
On recognizing sin: How do I recognize my sins? When I do something or think something that I know is wrong, it’s clear. But why is there a sense of right and wrong? How do I know I’ve been properly taught what is right and what is wrong? Some say there is an internal knowledge of what is right and wrong that must be placed there by God because no one has to teach us the biggies. One could also theorize that it comes from indirect observation of our culture. What if something feels right but I know intellectually is wrong? What if something feels wrong, but I know intellectually it is right? How do I reconcile those things and assign them an empirical rightness or wrongness?
On repentance: What is it? Is simply saying “I repent of such-and-such” adequate? Must I try to do better next time? Must I promise to do better next time? Must I make sure there is no next time in which to mess up?
On admission in the face of omniscience: I understand that the theory is that even though God already knows what I’ve done wrong, I am expected to recognize that I’ve done wrong and apologize for it. But if God already knows all my wrongs, it seems a bit cruel to require me to rake myself over the coals for things that I already recognize as being wrong and for which I am sincerely apologetic. How does this dovetail with the loving God who doesn’t see me as a sinner, but as redeemed in his eyes already because of Jesus?
On what God wants: How do I know what God wants from me? Unfortunately the Bible says a LOT OF DIFFERENT things that don’t always agree about what God wants us to do and not do. And yes, I can get a general idea of what God wants from people via the Bible, but what about what me personally? What does God want from ME, and how do I learn that?
Okay, in order to repent of my sins, I must know what they are. Things that I believe are “not good” about myself, right?
My laundry list of sins: Pride, superiority, anger, arguing needlessly, selfishness, improper thoughts, laziness, dishonesty, disrespect, gluttony, envy, gossip, and the list goes on. Do I think all of these things are sins? Well, I believe that God thinks they are. I tend more to the “things I need to change” side of things than blatantly labeling them sins. But the theory goes that a sin is a sin, regardless of size, whether murder or anger or a white lie.
In order to repent of these sins, what must I do? Am I sincerely apologetic about them? Yes. Will i try to do better? Yes. Will I make sure there is no chance to make those mistakes again? No, I don’t think so. Then am I actually repentant? I don’t know. I’m willing to say I’m sorry, but I’m not willing to make sure I don’t have to say I’m sorry again. What would need to happen for me to say yes? A change of heart? A change of circumstance? A new brain that thinks differently? A change of perspective? And, why? Why am I not willing to make those changes?
If I knew for absolute sure, without any doubt whatsoever, that God exists, that Heaven awaits, that Jesus exists and died for our sins and was in fact the Son of God, what would I do differently? Where would my perspective be? I believe that the lack of willingness to change comes from a lack of certainty. It comes from an underlying lack of faith that “God is who he says he is, that he can do what he says he can do, that I am who he says I am, that I can do all things through his son Jesus, and that his word is alive and active in me.” It also comes from my human-ness. Humans are not perfect creatures. Asking us to be perfect is an acceptable request, but is unlikely to result in much. We want what we want, we want to keep what we have, and we want to get more of what we want, whenever we want. At least, I do.
Psalm 121 (A song of ascents.)
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.