Now we begin to get into some of the steps now that we know a little about God’s love for us and our need. We will spend the next several weeks discussing Repentance:
We have been born into sinful lives, and because we have all sinned at least once if not hundreds or thousands of times, how then can we, or anyone for that matter, be made right with God? It is only by coming to Christ that we may become like Jesus, but how do we come to Christ?
Many people today are asking the same question that one of the first crowds of new Christians asked. After realizing how sinful they were, they cried out: “What should we do?” Peter’s reply began with “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God.” (Acts 2:37, 38). Shortly afterwards, with a different group of people, he said, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” (Acts 3:19).
So what exactly is ‘repenting’? Repenting means feeling genuinely sorry for sins that we have committed and making a conscious effort to change our lifestyle away from committing the sin again. We cannot reject sin unless we are able to see it and admit that it is wrong, and until we turn away from the sin in our hearts, no lasting change will ever take place. There may be short-term gains, but we will eventually fall again when there is sin in our hearts.
There are many who do not understand the true nature of repentance. These people feel sorry because they have sinned, and attempt to change their actions for the better, but it is not because they feel the sin is wrong—instead, it is because they are scared of the punishment. Unfortunately, this ‘repentance’ is not Biblical because people are changing, not because of the sin, but because of the fear of the consequence. Some Biblical characters fall into this group. Esau is a good example when he saw that his ‘birthright’ (inheritance) was lost to him forever. Balaam, when finally seeing the angel before him with a sword, acknowledged his guilt because he was scared of dying. However, both these men did not genuinely repent. In Egypt, Pharaoh acknowledged his sin in order to escape further plagues from God, but he rebelled and returned to defiance as soon as there was relief from the plagues. In each case, they didn’t change their actions or change how they lived their lives. Judas Iscariot, after betraying Jesus, said, “I have sinned [because] I have betrayed an innocent man.” (Matthew 27:4) His confession was forced because of guilt and fear. He was afraid of the consequences but there was no sadness in his heart that he had just betrayed the Son of God. These people were all sorry for the results of their sin, but not sorry for actually sinning.
When our heart surrenders to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our conscience will be strengthened, and we will be able to see where our lives are falling short. “The One who is the True Light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) The True Light is able to point clearly into our lives and show us all the areas where we fall short. We begin to see a glimpse of the perfect righteousness of God, and realizing how guilty and ‘unclean’ we are before Christ, we long to be restored into a relationship with God and cleansed from all our sins.
After his fall, David prayed a prayer that illustrates true sorrow for sin. His repentance was sincere, he did not attempt to rationalize his guilt, and he did not desire an escape for his actions. David saw the extent of his sin, he saw the corruption in his heart, and he hated his sin. David prayed not only for forgiveness, but also for a pure heart. David’s desire was to be made pure again, so that he could be restored into a relationship with God. This was the language of his prayer and his heart:
“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty! — (Psalm 32:1, 2)
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. — (Psalm 51:1-14)
Repenting like David is more than we can do on our own. Christ is the only one who is able to heal our hearts and bring us to this level of forgiveness.
Next week we will continue talking about repentance and continue learning how we can strengthen our spiritual lives by Growing with Jesus!
P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!