What is repentance? How do I repent?

Repentance is the first step toward salvation and a meaningful life.

5 min ·
What is repentance? How do I repent?

Repentance: Time for a new start?

Do the thoughts that you let roam around in your head match up with the good Christian everyone thinks you are? Maybe it’s time for repentance, for setting things right on the inside.

It isn’t very difficult to make other people believe that you live a good Christian life. On the outside it is quite easy to be kind and gracious and humble. But how is it in your thought life? Are you really so kind and humble there? Would you blush with shame if those closest to you could see the thoughts that revolve around in your head?

I’m sure you could invent loads of excuses for why you’ve been sinning in the corners, there where nobody sees. But it’s time to start being honest with yourself. Really honest. And yes, the truth hurts—but don’t underestimate for a moment the incredible power of the truth to liberate you from the forces of impurity, anger and all other sins that can enslave people for their whole life. It’s time to repent. But how?

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Acknowledge that you need help

Quite simply, humble yourself. Become so small in your own eyes that you see yourself as the person you really are: wretched and poor, someone who needs help.

“‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God.” Joel 2:12-13.

When it comes to the thought life, most people’s attempts to live a good Christian life just end in failure. But don’t waste time trying to push the blame onto others. Life is too short for that. Rend your heart and not your garments! Cry out to God from the depths of your heart! This is the first step of repentance, a complete acknowledgement to God of exactly the way things are with you. Possibly an acknowledgement that you aren’t the pure and holy church-goer your friends think you are.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:1-2.

Confess your sin to God

Your sins have separated you from God! To put your life in order, you need to tell God everything—in Full Colour, High Definition, the works. If you keep anything back in this crucial first step, if there is a sin you don’t dare admit to, you will never become completely free from your past. This is a crucial part of repentance.

However, if you open up your heart to God and own up to all that sin which has plagued your conscience with that nagging guilt for so long, Psalm 32:5 will become your very own:

“I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Forgiveness! The indescribable relief from that previously ever-present burden of guilt. The joy at knowing God has wiped the slate clean. The blessed assurance at having been brought from darkness to light, from the power of Satan back to God! The only thing that can stop you from receiving this glorious gift is if you refuse to forgive others. But after seeing God’s incredible display of mercy towards you, after finally seeing yourself as the wretch you are, how could you not forgive others?

After forgiveness …

But what next? You have forgiveness for your sins, but deep down, you shudder at the notion of your life spiraling back into an endless cycle of sinning and forgiveness. That’s not freedom; that’s bondage! But what does God require from you next? If you pause and reflect for a moment, He’ll tell you exactly what it is that He requires.

God has forgiven you; in return He is asking for you to turn your life around. He will point out matters that need putting right with other people, habits you need to give up, certain people you need to stop hanging out with and websites to avoid like the plague.

“Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7.

Start praying. Tell Jesus all about your heartfelt longing to become truly free from the vice-like grip that sin has had on you for so long. Pray for strength to preserve your heart as a temple for God by saying “no” in temptation! Fill your heart and mind with things that help you in your fight for purity. Don’t let anyone rob you of your new-found hunger and thirst which can’t be satisfied by this world’s entertainment.

With the power that you gain from praying to Jesus, you will be able to live the rest of your time on earth in freedom from sin. This is what repentance means. This is what it means to become a disciple of Jesus—the greatest calling anyone could wish for and a decision you will never regret.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.