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What Does It Mean To Repent?

Updated on July 10, 2015

This has been one of the hardest articles I’ve ever had to write. Not because I have nothing to say, but because my spiritual life is not fully surrendered to Jesus. The idea of helping you on your walk with Christ, when I still struggle with my sins, is difficult for me to admit. Not to mention the word, “hypocrite,” keeps flashing in the forefront of my mind.

But thank God, He still loves me. He hasn’t given up on me and is even now working to help me repent of all my sins. He’s been urging me and telling me to keep walking with Him, especially when I didn’t want to. Yes, I confess that I didn’t want to write about repentance because a part of me was not truly repentant of my sins...because I secretly enjoyed them.

We’re often sorry, and we apologize, but why do we repeat our mistakes? Why do we commit these sins again? Whether it’s the words we use to hurt people, our hurtful actions, or our sinful thoughts—we subconsciously love our sins, more than we love God. And when we’re sorry—we’re sorry for getting caught, sorry after the fact; not truly sorry for doing them, ergo sorry for rebelling against God.

The Problem with Our Sin

If you are a Christian, you understand the principle of God’s love, not the rules that the world assumes make you a Christian. Christianity is following Christ, and Christ said, “…if you have seen me, you have seen the father.” (John 14:9) His life on Earth was a living embodiment of Love, and this embodiment was a reflection of God, who IS Love and who loves us. (1 John 4:8) So when we give in to our selfishness and hurt others or ourselves, we’re in effect rebelling against God’s principle of Love, because He is the embodiment of UN-selfishness.

Our love of that particular sin (you know what you’re secretly holding onto) supersedes our knowledge of what is right and a desire to obey God. And when we give in to that sinful desire, we’re rebelling against God’s wish for us to be un-selfish. It may not be hurting anyone, but is it hurting you?

Realize Why You Love That Sin

Do you harbor anger toward someone? Do you love a particular sin that you know is wrong? Why do you love it? Why do you harbor that anger toward that person? Is it because you’re right and that person is wrong? But seriously, after all these years and all the arguing and fighting, if that person is still unable to see their wrongness—no amount of "silent treatment" or fighting will convince them. Instead, forgive them and let it go. Treat them and love them the way Jesus would forgive and love them, and pray that Jesus will help you to forgive and forget.

Do you have a secret longing or a sin that you know is wrong but can’t let go. You know it’s wrong, but you can’t help yourself. So instead, replace it. Replace it by praying, reciting a memory verse or open the Bible. Pray that Jesus will take it away from you and give you peace to not need that sin. Smoking addicts replace their cigarettes with patches. Coffee addicts start drinking decaf. Not to compare your sin to drinking coffee, but when you realize the wrongness of whatever it is that you are secretly addicted to, you are on your way to repenting.

Listen to Your Conscience

When you consciously or unconsciously do something wrong, your conscience pricks you. You ignore the voice and repeat your sin, but your conscience still bothers you until you’ve suppressed it so hard, that you eventually stop hearing that voice. Even if you’re not a Christian, that voice is Jesus directing you on a path toward righteousness. Who teaches a child to lie? When do we first become aware that we did something wrong and lie to protect ourselves for fear of consequence? So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”’ (Hebrews 3:7, 8)

There have been times when you’ve consciously or unconsciously done something good and loving toward someone. It’s unlike you, but you felt compelled to do it. That is the voice of Jesus directing you on a path toward righteousness. Listen to that voice. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13

Even if you’ve not accepted Jesus, you are still a child of God. He loves you and will not abandon you until you actively reject His love.

Acknowledge Your Sins

God wants us to have a healthy self-esteem, be bold and confident in what we do, but when compared to the love of Christ, we know we are selfish, self-pleasing ordinary humans. We need to first realize and accept our humanness, and humble ourselves to the love that Christ has for us. Being humble doesn’t mean to be a physical weakling or a doormat, but to submit to the light of God’s love. Abandon our self-righteousness and any pride we have on our “good works.” Confess our sins and pray that God will help us not to do it again.

Don't Listen to Your Guilty Conscience

There is a voice telling you to stop doing or saying something wrong. But after you commit the sin, there is another voice telling you, you’re a horrible person and unworthy of God and love, and you need to be punished and burn to death. That is NOT the voice of Jesus. That is actually Satan trying to turn you away from God. Telling you, you’re not worthy and your sense of guilt is so extreme, you stop praying, going to church, reading the Bible, whatever will bring you to God, etc.—you stop believing God loves you.

You can’t open the Bible because you’re feeling guilty. You stop going to church that one weekend, then another weekend, because you can’t face condemnation at church. You stop praying because you know you’ll have to confess and you don’t want to acknowledge your guilt. But this sense of guilt is Satan trying to prevent you from repenting and turning to God.

This guilt is not helping you confess, it’s not making you pray for forgiveness, it’s not helping you believe that God loves you. And whatever does not bring you to God, is turning you away from Him.

Don’t let your guilt stop you from experiencing peace and the forgiveness that God promises to you. “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Psalm 86:5 “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

Don't Wait

Often, people think Christians are good (whose sins have been forgiven and they attend church and do "good"), but God never tells us to stay away from Him because we’re a bad person; in fact, he wants us to go to him especially when we’re in the midst of our struggle to do right. Your conscience (Jesus) is telling you to do the right thing, and then if/when you fall, He will help you repent and lose your desire for that sin. He is with us, in every step of our lives.

He knows that our struggle to do right is not in our power, but in His help. We can’t overcome these sins by our own efforts. When we acknowledge our need and pray to Him, He will help us at our time of need. He will never turn away from our cry.

If You Fall Again

Unfortunately, repenting is easier said than done. We overcome our anger, our temptations and we gratefully pray thanks to God. But at a future time, we fall again. We quickly and unthinkingly commit that sin again. When and IF this happens, do not stop praying to God. This is what Satan uses to keep you further from God­—your guilt. You feel you can’t go to church, can’t read the Bible, can’t pray because you’ve committed that sin again. That sin you promised never to do, to never think about. But God loves you infinitely. He loves you so much that He died for you. Confess your sins and pray for his help again. And He encourages you and never lets you go. He’d rather have your imperfect self with him in Heaven, than not have you at all.

A Christian isn’t just a person who is a follower of Christ; a Christian is a believer in God’s infinite love and grace. You live a Christian life by showing that despite your faults and your shortcomings (and everyone around you may point fingers at you and wonder how you can claim to be a Christian), if you believe and live the life of a repentant sinner and believer, someone who falls and gets up again, than you truly are a child of God.

Is there a struggle that God has helped you overcome?

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