by Paul David Tripp
Since sin is deeper than bad behavior, trying to do better isn’t a solution. Only grace that changes the heart can rescue us.
There is a difference between a person in whom disappointment leads to self-reformation and someone in whom grief leads to heartfelt confession. I think that we often confuse the two. The first person believes in personal strength and the possibility of self-rescue, while the second has given up on his own righteousness and cries out for the help of another. One gets up in the morning and tells himself that he’ll do better today, but the other starts the day with a plea for grace. One targets a change in behavior, and the other confesses to a wandering heart. One assesses that he has the power for personal change, while the other knows that he needs to be given strength for the battle. One has to hold on to the possibility of personal reformation, but the other has abandoned that hope and therefore runs to God for help.
Self-reliant personal reformation and the penance that follows is the polar opposite of heartfelt confession with the repentance that follows. People who acknowledge that what they’ve done is wrong and then immediately lay out plans to do better unwittingly deny what the gospel of Jesus Christ says about them, how real change takes place, and where help can be found. What they have omitted or neglected is confession. When you confess your sins to God, you don’t just admit that you have sinned; no, you also confess that you have no power to deliver yourself from the sin you have just confessed. True confession always combines an admission of wrong with a plea for help. The heart then, encouraged by the forgiveness and presence of Jesus, longs to live in a new, better way (repentance).