When he was a little boy, we were trying to teach our youngest son, Caleb, to say, “I’m sorry” when he did something wrong. This became a very eventful series of lessons because as he was trying to conquer this new level of manners, he would spontaneously go up to his older brother, Logan, punch him on whatever body part was most accessible, and then yell, “SORRY!”
Over and over this would happen because in Caleb’s mind, he was learning the correct usage of a new word. His parents, however, (and his big brother) wanted him to feel the word. We wanted him to feel the conviction, the remorse, the contrition and the humbleness that true repentance brings. We wanted him to actually be sorry, not to just say sorry. We also wanted him to stop doing the thing that he was continually having to be sorry for, and especially not to pre-meditate the act. Lots to learn here.
True Repentance Is The Death of Self.
In repentance, we associate ourselves with Jesus’ death. Jesus was God in flesh. We often focus on Him being God, but not so much on him being flesh. He was a man who felt desires, temptations, emotions and distractions, having to make the daily decision of whether to follow the leading of the Spirit of God that dwelled in him, or to cater to the flesh in which he was clothed.
It is no different for us today. Regardless of the trial, temptation, addiction or emotion, we must follow Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:39 says he, “fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
True Repentance Is Brokenness.
Pride cannot repent. Arrogance cannot be humble. If we desire God’s forgiveness, then we must allow His Spirit access to our hearts. We must allow ourselves to be broken in His Presence. Repentance is not a simple, “I’m sorry”. It is an honesty before God. It is an opening up and a purging out. It is an awareness of His Holiness and our smallness. It is seeing ourselves in the light of His Word. It is crying out like King David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23)
True Repentance Is A Turning Away.
To continue to do a thing that you know is wrong, and ask God to forgive you, knowing that you will do that thing again if given the opportunity, is not true repentance. To pre-meditate on doing a thing, planning ahead of time to ask God to forgive you, is not true repentance. True repentance is a conscious decision to turn away from sin and live a life that is pleasing before God. After a person takes that initial step, a lifetime of commitment should follow. You might be wondering how it is possible to live from this point on without sinning. Jesus did, while living in a body just like yours. Hebrews 4:14 says He, “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
What if I slip up? What if I make a mistake? I have great news for you! Jesus, our wonderful Savior, is full of mercy and compassion. His greatest desire is to bring us into, and keep us in, a saving relationship with Him. The Apostle John says in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” We all make mistakes. Just remember that making a mistake is not the same as willful sin. God knows the very thoughts and intents of our hearts. Repentance should be a regular occurrence in our lives, not a one time thing. The Apostle Paul explained it best when he proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.”
True Repentance Is The Christian Way.
No matter who you are or what you have done, good or bad, a repentant heart is essential to your salvation. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” (Acts 17:30)
Let’s be honest with ourselves and God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) We have His assurance that, “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)
No matter where you’ve been, where you are now, or where you want to go on your journey with Christ, repentance is the starting place to moving forward in that relationship.