Repentance is hard … but necessary. Once we know we need to, how can we do it?
Repentance is hard.
Especially for proud humans, admitting you’re wrong is incredibly humbling. Then completely changing courses so you won’t repeat the same sin is incredibly difficult.
Even though it’s incredibly difficult, it’s also incredibly necessary. Especially when we’re approaching a holy God.
When I think of the need for repentance, I think of my children. Since they’re elementary school-aged, they’re old enough to know right from wrong. And old enough to choose obedience or disobedience.
When they willfully choose to disobey, my husband and I could correct them and choose appropriate discipline. (And we do.)
But unless our children choose to stop disobeying and completely turn away from their sin, there’s no real change. They’ll keep willfully sinning and we’ll keep responding with discipline.
What it means to repent
Guess what? You and I are a lot more like children than we’d care to admit.
And just like my son and daughter, we willfully choose to disobey – and then keeping repeating the same sins, regardless of the Lord’s discipline.
We may apologize and hope that we can do better next time. But like my children, we’ll keep in our sin patterns – out of comfort or familiarity or just because we want to – until we choose to stop disobeying and completely turn from our sin.
That’s repentance – recognizing our sin and choosing to do a 180-degree turn away from that sin.
An approach to repentance
Once we understand our need for repentance, how do we approach a holy God?
First of all, it’s important to realize your sin. As Romans 3:23 reminds us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Next, confess your sins and humbly ask God for forgiveness. As 1 John 1:9 tells, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Once you’ve confessed, asked for forgiveness, and have been forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness, it’s time to change through repentance. Make the U-turn, stop repeating your sin over and over again, and remember the truth found in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
When you need to repent again
If and when you do stumble into your sin again – because we, as humans, are far from perfect – repeat the process again.
If you feel particularly stuck in a sin, reach out to another believer you deeply trust. Confess your sins, ask for prayer, and have that believer hold you accountable. Once you know someone else will be asking you about your sin, you may be less likely to repeat it.
Figure out what stumbling blocks typically trip you up – and try to remove them. If you know you’re always tempted to think or do what is wrong when you’re in a certain situation, try to change it.
And by all means, pray about your situation. Your Heavenly Father knows what you’re facing, and He longs to help you. Confess your struggles, ask for guidance, pray for the Lord to perform a changing work in your life, and trust the Lord for great things.
Even if repentance is hard and completely changing courses so you won’t repeat the same sin is incredibly difficult, it’s never impossible. And with the Lord’s help, repentance can radically transform your life into one that’s conformed more and more to Christ’s image.
Repentance is humbling, but needed. What helps you when you need to repent?
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