TO REPENT IS NOT ENOUGH
How does God forgive our sins? Many people have an erroneous concept concerning this matter. They think that although they have committed many sins, the sins can all be pardoned if they repent of their evil conduct.
But repentance can never remit a sin that you have committed. No matter how much you repent, your sins are still there. You may regret your sins as much as you want, but they will not be removed simply by your repentance.
When I was preaching in Kaifeng, some government officials were present. I told them, suppose a bandit committed many crimes and murdered many, but was not caught for a long time. Then one day he appeared before you, saying, "I repent of all my past misconduct. From now on I am going to reform. I have determined to be a law-abiding citizen and a good man." Please tell me, would his repentance annul his former crimes, the cases brought up against him by his victims, and the prosecutions conducted against him by the law? Would they be nullified? Would the law let him go?
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
MUST BE MAINTAINED
The Bible shows us that all sins incur certain kinds of judgment. Nothing we do is lightly passed over. The outward manifestation of our life is sinful. Not only do we sin against ourselves, but we sin against others and, above all, against God. God is righteous. He cannot evasively bypass our sins. His righteousness does not permit Him to do so.
I remember a true story. Once a man murdered someone and stole a sum of money. He then took refuge in another town. There he married and had some children. The people in that place knew nothing of his past.
One day, three detectives came to look for him. They found the man and were about to take him away. The man turned to his wife and asked, "For all these years that I have been with you, have I not been a good husband?" The wife agreed. Then he turned to his children, saying, "Am I not a good father to you?" The children also nodded. Finally he turned to his neighbors: "In all these years, have I ever intruded upon your property or done any wrong to you? Would you not consider me a good neighbor?" They all consented unanimously that he was a fine person.
He then turned around to the three detectives and defended himself, saying, "See, I have been a good man all these years. Here are all these witnesses testifying to my goodness. You should let me go!" The three replied, "You may be justified before everybody, but you are not justified before the law. Your repentance may guarantee your future innocence, but it can never remove your past guilt, nor can it deliver you from the judgment of the law." In the end, he had to face his trial in court.
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 9, by Watchman Nee)