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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Mass
The people were overwhelmed by the multitude and variety of traditions and opinions, and so, were unable to appreciate the substance of Christian doctrine. Who among the people ever understood our opponents’ doctrine of repentance? Yet this is the primary teaching of the Christian faith.
Pulling It Together
Repentance does not mean that we must go and do something to overturn God’s anger. Repetition of prayers and good deeds do not effect God’s forgiveness. Though we ought to pray often and do good, these are not the causes of forgiveness; they are the outcome. Repentance is turning back to God. That means we first comprehend that we have turned aside—in other words, we have sinned. Repentance then becomes sorrow for turning away from God, confessing it and knowing that he will forgive. For the promise is certain: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The condition of this forgiveness is not our doing. The condition is God. He has promised, and so, we must believe. If we lack the faith in God’s promise to forgive, repentance is mere sociology. We feel guilty, so we try to assuage our guilt with ceremony or other deeds. This approach is doomed, because its focus is self. True repentance depends upon God alone, who has come from beyond us and who has promised to forgive sinners.
Prayer: Give me the humility to admit my sins to you, Lord, and the conviction to believe you forgive sinners like me. Amen.
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