Genuine Act of Contrition

I am a sinner. I have sinned. What do I do? Do I beat myself? Do I run and hide from God until he gets over it? Do I sink in to depression and despair? Or worse, do I blow it off and act as if it is okay, no one got hurt and I had a good time so what’s the harm?

No, I am a Christian and so none of these responses is appropriate. But neither is the response that says that Christ has atoned for my sins so it is no big deal. God hates sin. Christ has atoned for my sins. Those two things go together and must stay together. I can’t punish myself, either physically or emotionally, and expect God to be happy with me. He hates sin but he loves his son and his son took the punishment I was due. If I try to inflict myself then I am saying that Jesus’ work wasn’t good enough. I can’t “claim the blood”, laugh it off and walk away. God hates sin so much that he sent his own son to the cross because of it.

My attitude to my sin, and indeed sin in general, should mirror God’s attitude. I must hate my sin, reject it, turn from it but I must also flee to Christ not away from him. In Jesus God has reconciled me to himself. I need to avail myself of the means of his grace. Prayer, confession, the Lord’s Table, Bible study, fasting, preaching or teaching of God’s word, all these things repeat the gospel to me anew. I need to be reminded of both God’s hatred of sin and his mercy in Christ.

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe for their salvation, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts. It is ordinarily brought about by the preaching of the word. By baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer and other means appointed by God that grace is strengthened and increased. – 1689BCF 14.1 (modernized)

I need to have that faith by which I first believed strengthened. When I first turned to Jesus I believed he was sufficient and I need to be reminded of that again.

German theologian Martin Luther was once asked by a member of his congregation why he preached the Gospel to them week after week, thinking that surely they were ready to move on to some deeper, more spiritual teaching. Luther’s reply was, “Because beloved, week after week you forget it.” – Derek Webb (

EDIT 1/29/2024: There is no evidence that Luther ever actually said this. Also, Webb left the faith for a number of years and has since returned to a liberal form of Christianity.

As has been said in the past, we currently live in the now and not yet. Now: Jesus has come, salvation has dawned, atonement has been made. Not yet: we’re only 1/2 saved, our spirits are renewed, we are new creatures but our flesh is the same old stuff that lived in sin.

So I have sinned. I am a sinner. I hate my sin and am ashamed that I still commit it. But I am a Christian. I don’t dwell on my sin morbidly, I flee to the cross because of my revulsion and I seek to be set free. I don’t want to be alienated from God.

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