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The Way of Repentance

When Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses he placed as number one that  “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Repentance was the main message that John had for the people of his day and for us.

Matthew 3:2 – John the Baptist taught, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Well, in order for us to become women who are repenters we need to know what it is and how to do it.

What is repentance?
James P. Boyce’s Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine (1886) gives a simple and accurate definition. “Repentance is sorrow for sin, accompanied by a determination, with the help of God, to sin no more.”

Repentance therefore is more than a feeling of guilt, and more than simply doing better. It is a profound redirection of the heart involving a true understanding of sin, a deep feeling of godly sorrow, an owning and confessing of our guilt, a hatred of what we have done, and a turning away from unrighteousness toward Jesus Christ. Let’s take a closer look at all of this.

1. Seeing

Some things are painful to look at. This is one of them. We need to take a careful look at our words, actions and hearts. If you are a sinner like me, you will find a lot of ugliness. The Christian only begins to see his or her sins through the truth of God’s word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 4:12; John 16:8).

2. Sorrow

Once we truly see our sin we will feel sorrow. This is not the superficial sadness of merely getting caught. It is a “holy agony” (Thomas Watson) of the soul. The Bible calls it a broken heart (Ps, 51:17). Speaking to God, David says in Psalm 51:4 “against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,”. David stole another man’s wife and then planned and carried out his murder. He is now broken over this horrific sin and basically says despite the people I have wronged, ultimately it is God whom I have sinned against and David is broken over this truth. This goes for us as well.  When we bark at our kids, speak disrespectfully to our spouse, waste our money or neglect our bodies we are sinning against God.

3. Confession

Repentance always includes a sincere and remorseful confession of the wrong that we have spoken, acted, or even thought. Sometimes it means confessing it to others. Perhaps to a child whom we have sinned against or a friend whom we have hurt. But it always means confessing our sins to God.  Confession glorifies God (Josh. 7:19) humbles us, and makes us more dependent on Jesus. Confessions is a means in which our hearts are softened.

4. Hatred

Seeing, grieving over, and confessing our sin should move us to hate it (Zech. 3:4-5; Ps.119:104). We should hate it as it grieves the Lord and damages our lives. Sin is a satanic destroyer that brings ruin to man and creation. The only feeling appropriate to have concerning sin is holy hatred. (1 John 3:8).

5. Turning

Lastly we must turn away from our sin and instead turn towards God (Acts 26:20). Turning away from sin isn’t merely the renunciation of a bad habit, but a rejection of evil and a return toward God and his grace.

Repentance does not make a woman perfect. You will never perfectly repent this side of heaven. It will be an ongoing, daily activity for us because we remain sinners in need of daily mercy. Repentance does not save us because we are already saved. But it does liberate us from the tyranny of self.

One thing to remember is that repentance is not a way to manipulate God into blessing you and giving you what you want. It is not a way to earn favor with God or a way to make him “happy” with you. You can’t manipulate God into being good. He already is good, he already loves you more then you can imagine and he always blesses his people.

I have found Thomas Watson’s famous treatise on Repentance to be one of the most helpful guides through this important doctrine.

Looking To Jesus,

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Comments

  1. Just wonderful, Thank you

  2. Deborah Starr says:

    It’s good to see it broken down. To be reminded of what repent really means. It can be easy to say sorry & move forward w/o thinking of how we have hurt someone, offend God or making a plan to not repeat our sin that we fell too. The example of David was great b/c he really did love God & want to serve Him blameless yet he fell into sin, & then into more sin. The devil is a pro @ distraction & deception. If David could get sucked into committing murder , that should remind us to always be on guard!!!

  3. Laurie Messer says:

    I just read the quote from Martin Luther in a book I finished reading last night (“The Hole in our Holiness” by Kevin DeYoung – great book by the way!) and see the quote again first thing this morning in your post. :-) I feel that God is wanting to teach me this since it keeps coming up. I do desire to have a true understanding of repentance…not only for my own life, but so that I can help those around me understand it as well. I just had the humbling honor at church on Sunday to lead a dear friend to faith and trust in Jesus, so this teaching couldn’t have come at a better time. I want to help her grow in her faith.

    Salvation in Jesus Christ is only the beginning…as Martin said, a life of repentance should be what marks the rest of a believer’s life.

    Thank you so much for this post Jen. I’ll be sure to look up the other references you listed (Thomas Watson).

  4. I love this entire post – it’s definitely worth keeping! Thank you!

  5. Jaime McLeod says:

    I have learned how to repent with the use of the 4 R’s and it is helpful: 1. REPENT(I tell God my sin and say I’m sorry) 2. REBUKE(I tell the enemy to be gone in Jesus’ name) 3. RECEIVE(I thank God for His love and forgiveness) 4. REPLACE(I live what is right and true instead). I also have to remember to use this to forgive others as that is also a sin not to forgive.

  6. Thanks for this simple and effective way to remember what repentance truly is. This is a good reminder for me to stay a humble mama and wife and always be in the mode to readily repent when I’m in the wrong. Like you mentioned, repentance is an ongoing journey for Believers and we’ll continue to have need for confession and repentance on this side of Heaven. The beauty in this is that God’s mercy is everlasting and endures for eternity and His love will never run out. I’m so thankful and grateful for this morning!
    God bless!

  7. Thank you so much for this. I have been a Christian for a few years and I never was taught all this. I was taught to ask forgiveness for sins I commit from God and to apologize to those I have sinned against but never taught it in this way. Not only has this helped me, but now I can teach it to my children. Thank you again for posting this.

  8. Thank you for a scholarly and convicting article . .printing out for my notebook. I look forward to reading Watson, and appreciate you sharing your resources.

  9. Thanks, Jen, for taking the time to provide such needed, clear and complete depth of wisdom! Soaking it all in today!

  10. Darlene McGarry says:

    I really like the way this is said. God is so good.

  11. Jen Thorn says:

    I am glad that this was an encouragement to you all. I know it was convicting as well as a blessing for me. Our God is so very good!

  12. Cody Carter says:

    I love this one. It is so easy to say I’m sorry to my kids, my co-workers, my friends. But, there have been times when I have struggled saying “I’m sorry, forgive me” to God. He who yearns to hear it from me more than any other. My dad once led a lesson at church in which he had a man go to the front and tied a small thread around both his wrists. He said, “this represents one sin.” The man easily broke free of the thread and free of the sin. He then wrapped the string around his wrist 20+ times. Not so easy to break free when we’ve committed the sin on a regular basis and stepped away from even being convicted about it. Then, 50 times. The man was unable to break the thread. Just one little sin multiplied can become a huge stumbling block to us getting back to Christ. He is the only one who can help us break the thread and break away from that sin. It is those times that I struggle with “I’m sorry, forgive me.” Having our hearts broken before God is hard. Finding that place of repentance can be difficult but it is oh so fulfilling when we let Christ take over the areas that we had tried to hide in darkness. Thank you for this post.

  13. Thanks for posting. This is so clear. Just what I have been looking for a great explaination

  14. Kim Zeller says:

    Perfect explanation. Will be incorporating this into my homeschool curriculum. Thank you so much ;)

  15. Jamie Rindt says:

    Cody, that’s a great illustration of the power of sin in our lives…especially on going.
    Thanks ladies!

  16. Lauren rees says:

    Wow! So well written and explained! Very helpful!

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