As we strive to be godly men who can be used in service to God, we need to practice one of the most important disciplines in a believer’s life. We need to learn how to repent of sin in our lives. If we are humble men who make repentance part of our spiritual make-up, then God will be able to use us mightily. How do I know this? It is in the Bible.
In Jeremiah 15 we read, “Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be My spokesman.”
Isaiah 30:15 says “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Proverbs 1:23 states “Repent at My rebuke! Then I will pour out My thoughts to you, I will make known to you My teachings.”
Matthew 3:8 tells us to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
As you can see Repentance is to be a key part of our spiritual life.
So what does it exactly mean to be repentant? Repentance means to feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; to be contrite. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
Basically, these 3 definitions show us the progression of repentance. We need to feel bad for the sin, decide to not live that way anymore, and begin to live a new way from that point forward. The dictionary isn’t the first person to think of these things. The Bible taught these steps long before the dictionary was written. So let’s learn from the Bible what true repentance requires.
1. We need to feel true sorrow for our sin.
In the book of James, we read how God wants us to repent for sin in our lives. “5:8 Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
When the Holy Spirit convicts us of a sin, it should break our hearts that we broke God’s heart when we sinned against Him. James says we should grieve over the sin. What does it mean to grieve? I have to admit, until the death of my mom, I never understood true grief.
I was extremely close to my mom, and after her death I experienced grief on a level I never imagined possible. Grief brings a sense of devastation to your life. When the doctor told me my mom didn’t make it, I felt exactly the way James described. I mourned, I cried uncontrollably, I was devastated. The pain and sense of loss was unbelievable. Thoughts of happiness or having fun were gone in my life. I was consumed with a sense of loss and uncontrollable pain.
When we are convicted of sin, the sense of loss and separation from God that our sin causes should devastate us. It should break our hearts. It should create a deep sense of loss in us. We should never think, “Oh well, I sinned, God will forgive me, now back to what I was doing.” On the contrary, it should break your heart and devastate you that you don’t want to do anything but make it right with God. This brings us to the second step of repentance.
2. We purpose in our hearts to never commit the sin again.
God’s will for us is to not only feel sorrow and grief for a sin, but to have these emotions cause us to purpose to never commit the sin again. It is possible to decide “I am choosing to not fall into this sin.”
Job purposed in his heart He would never look at a woman lustfully.
Joshua purposed that he and his family would leave the generational iniquity of idolatry behind and serve God.
Acts 3:9 tells us to “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
We need to go beyond feeling sorrow for the sin, but we need the sorrow to turn us away from the sin and turn to God. Once we have purposed to never commit the sin, we are ready for step three.
3. Live a different way, leaving the sinful behavior behind.
It’s been said that actions speaks louder than words. We can decide to turn from the sin and follow God, but until we actually start living differently, we have not achieved true repentance.
2 Chronicles 7:14 shows us how to achieve this step: “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
God is saying that once we have realized our sins, grieved, and mourned, and purposed in our heart to stop committing the sin, we need to turn from the sin and go a different direction. He will forgive us and heal the broken relationship.
Basically, repentance demands we do a u-turn in our lives. I once heard a preacher describe repentance as an exit ramp. We are travelling north down the highway of sin. When we feel genuine sorrow for the sin, we take the exit ramp of repentance to get off the road we are on. Then we use the exit to get going south away from the direction we were heading.
God is a loving and forgiving God. He will forgive us and renew a right relationship with us when we are truly repentant. That is why we need to make repentance an active part of our lives. We need to feel genuine grief and sorrow when we are convicted of a sin. We must purpose to stop committing the sin. Then we need to turn and live a completely different direction. When we take these steps we will grow spiritually and deal a blow to our enemies.