The temptation is to believe that the righteous are those that need to repent the least.
That by their discipline and commitment to obedience they are less in need of the atonement of Christ. But I think the truth of this view is actually the opposite.
The righteous are those that have learned to repent the deepest, until everything in them has become subject to Christ. It is the depth of repentance that makes one righteous, not living in a way that one thinks they do not need it.
In order to repent deeply, we need a deeper understanding of what repentance is. For most of my life I understood repentance as cataloguing my sins – my behavioral misdeeds – and then asking forgiveness for having done them and trying to to just do better not to make those same mistakes. Repentance for me was the “5 R’s”; recognition, remorse, restitution, reformation, resolution. And of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And it is necessary. But that which is necessary is not always what is sufficient.
What changed in my spiritual experience that had more impact on me personally than anything else I have ever learned was one single thing. I learned to be more concerned about repenting of my nature, more than my behavior.
Most behavior is an expression of our nature. If I am angry at a driver on the road, instead of repenting of yelling out my window, I have to ask the question, what is going on within me that produced enough darkness that I would yell at a stranger?
This is a much more fundamental question. What I do manifests who I am. It manifests my nature. Am I fearful? lustful? Indulgent? Angry? Jealous? Greedy? Spiteful? Lazy? What underlying darkness or false belief system is springing up and manifesting through outward sins? What about the ocean of darkness that needs to be redeemed within?
Repenting of our very nature is what brings us into possession of the most sacred heavenly gifts.
How would your life change if you woke every morning and submitted your whole heart to God? Repenting of your nature and asking to have the Lord excavate the darkness and natural man inside of you so that the love of God displaces all of the dark impulses of our nature.
Would you experience radical change?