Repentance is such a big component of the Christian life. Both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ first messages were about repentance. It might seem strange to repent of our sins if Jesus already paid for them, but because we continue to sin, and God calls us to turn away from all sin, we continue to repent.
And, repentance is good for us. It keeps us humble, because who likes to admit their faults? And this humility keeps our hearts soft towards God’s righteousness and thankful for His mercy.
For all that the Bible says about repentance, many believers are confused about what it is and what it looks like. Much has been written on repentance and I want to share with you the steps for repentance from Thomas Watson who was a pastor in the 1600s.
Let me first give you his definition of repentance. It is short and easy to remember.
“Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit, whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and outwardly reformed.” Essential to the idea of repentance is that it is both internal and external.
Real repentance is an internal change (of heart) that results in external change (in living).
Watson explains that this kind of repentance is made up of 6 components.
- Sight of sin
It is easy to see the sin in others. We spend a lot of time assuming we know the issues others have and having strong opinions about them when all the while we are a bit clueless or in denial about the issues swirling around in our hearts. We need to take our eyes off of others and spend time looking at ourselves.
Watson says, “Sin must first be seen—before it can be wept for. Hence I infer that where there is no sight of sin—there can be no repentance.”
Ask the Lord to show you what is in your heart.
- Sorrow for sin
Our second step is sorrow. Once the curtain of our perceived goodness is pulled apart and we see the darkness that tries to hide in our lives – the very reason Christ went to the cross – it should cause us to feel deep sadness. Sorrow that we might enjoy some of our sins and sorrow that God gives us everything and we sometimes just don’t care.
- Confession of sin
“Sorrow is such a vehement passion—that it will have vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping, and at the tongue by confession.”
Thomas Watson says that confession is a kind of self-accusing. Where we admit our wrongdoing before God, without excuses, without sugar coating, without comparing our sins to others. We lay it all open before God.
- Shame for sin
We don’t like the word “shame” very much and we certainly don’t like to feel it. But in order to deal with our sin properly, we should feel shame over it.
Sin is a sign of thanklessness. Sin drove Jesus to endure unspeakable pain and anguish for us. Sin shows us how bad off we really are and how much we need Jesus. Our sins proclaim that we don’t trust God’s ways. We have a lot to feel shameful about.
- Hatred for sin
Seeing our sin, feeling sorrow over it, confessing it and feeling shame when we realize why we sin and what it says about us should lead us to hate it. When we see how damaging our sin is to others and how much Satan loves it, we should hate it. When we see how our sin snubs all that God has done for us we should hate it. When we see how sin weakens our faith we should hate it. Deep hatred is an appropriate feeling toward sin.
- Turning from sin
The last step in repentance is turning away. Once we really hate our sin we should want to turn from it and run toward God and His ways because there has been a change in our heart.
For some sins, these steps to true repentance may come together very quickly and you may go through all of them in a matter of minutes. Other times and for other sins these steps may take days, weeks, or even months.
We sin daily, we are sidetracked daily, we fall back in love with our sins often. While we can experience victory in many areas, there are many more sins that need our attention. Thankfully, those who are in Jesus will never been condemned for these sins. Jesus already paid the punishment, but daily repentance is still necessary because it keeps our hearts soft toward God and godliness.
“True repentance, like acid, eats asunder the iron chain of sin” Thomas Watson
Looking to Jesus,
Week 3 Challenge: This week, think of ways you can be a “Joshua” in your life and choose to walk in victory. What are some things you need to change, repent or start doing?
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