Romans 3:23 is a verse that man Christians should be familiar with–“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Typically, this verse is spoken to emphasize the universal nature of sin and man’s need for rescue, and rightly so. But rarely if ever does the last phrase receive much attention.
Sin is described in various ways throughout the Bible, whether iniquity, transgression, lawlessness, or here as “missing the mark.” The mark is the glory of God. We were created for it, rather for Him. God put us on this earth that we might be to the praise of His glory, and yet because of the devastating impact of the Fall and our sinful nature, we exchange the glory of God for the glory of ourselves. We have each went astray and turned to our own way (Isa. 53:6)–a way manifesting the hidden idolatry of our hearts and vain pursuits of meaningful existence without God.
Sin is what caused us from glorying God outside of Christ and what keeps us from glorifying God when we “in Christ.” Turning from sin and to the living God in a lifestyle of repentance addresses the very thing that prevents us from glorying God (negatively) and is the means by which pursue God in holiness (positively). Gospel-centered repentance is inherently glorious, because it is in the gospel we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and are changed into His image. That change is brought about by joyful repentance of having seen and been satisfied by the God you’re called to glorify through genuine transformation of the heart (turning from idols to serve the living God – 1 Thess. 1:9).
When we are given over to sin, we are saying at that moment, “I am more satisfied in ________ than Jesus Christ. I find my purpose, significance, identity in __________ than Jesus Christ.” How can our affections which have become weights to pull us down into depths of depravity be transformed into wings which lift us heavenward? We who have been in “the domain of darkness” need the “light of the gospel” to shine in our hearts to see sin for what it is and to embrace Christ as a great Savior of great sinners. Meditating on the gospel and preaching it to ourselves are important means of grace to cause our hearts to rejoice in Jesus, being satisfied in all that He is for us, all that He has done in us, and all that He promises to do through us. Only when we are satisfied more in Jesus than anything in this world will our repentance from sin produce the deep, transforming work that we so desperately need.
All those who love the glory of God must necessarily love the gospel, and all those who passionately embrace the gospel must necessarily respond regularly in a repenting faith in Jesus who died to redeem us from the “futile ways handed down from our forefathers,” not the least of whom is Adam. When our repentance is gospel-induced, our repentance is driven by a delight in God and the mercies in Christ Jesus rather than mere determination to make behavioral improvements. Our repentance should be mercy-inspired and fueled by grace, lest our very attempts of repentance prove to be vainglory and yet another expression of just much we indeed fall short.
May the God who grants us repentance be pleased to be glorified in those who, in light of the gospel, are satisfied with His Son and regularly abandon broken cisterns for the well of living water.