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How Do I Repent?

By Jenniffer Mann, Communications Team

I recently had a conversation with someone who directly asked me the question, ‘How do I repent?’ 

If I’m honest, my immediate thought was to rehash something I’ve read, heard in a sermon or watched on line because I wanted to sound erudite and articulate. I did check myself, however, and what I actually found myself saying is this, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, the only thing we are required to do is have a contrite heart and a broken spirit.”  

The other person said “But what does a contrite heart and a broken spirit look like?”  

If we have been grieved by someone, we usually use a number of indicators to determine how genuine the person is when expressing remorse. Firstly, have they actually offered an apology? If yes, was the apology offered freely without coercion? When an apology is sincere, the person expressing the apology will usually tell you what they did wrong.  

Confession

God requires us to “confess” our sins. We need to be clear in stating what we are seeking forgiveness for and in 1 John 9 we read, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Psalmist David said in Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” 

In confessing the hurt we caused, we also take accountability. If the apology is swiftly followed by a “but” we know whatever follows next is likely to cancel out the previous admission. God requires us to not only to express our sins but accept responsibility too.  

Changed behaviour

One of the best indicators of genuine remorse is changed behaviour. The change will not necessarily be instant but the efforts being made to implement change, will be evident.  Scripture uses the word ‘transformation’. In reading various dictionary definitions of this word, I like the Cambridge version says transformation is: “A complete change in the appearance of character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved.”  

The Bible states that we become transformed when we stop repeating the behaviour we see in the world.  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2. The person I was conversing with said, “wow, that’s kind of intimidating” and yes, for many, the thought of overcoming certain life-long behaviours will be, if we try to overcome these things alone we will fail but we read in John 16:13 that God’s spirit of truth will guide us to all truth!  

An apology is a show of strength

God does not expect us to know in advance what He is yet to impart! It is not within our gift to fix our broken spirit, that is the gift God gave to us when He sacrificed His son, Christ Jesus, on the cross.  Many people struggle with saying “I’m sorry” even when they feel culpable of inflicting hurt because they see it as a sign of weakness. Ironically, the same individuals will deem an apology from others as a sign of strength.  When approaching God, we need to understand our frailty.  1 Peter 1:24 states, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 

Recognising our insignificance in the majesty of God and our complete and utter dependence on His grace and mercy, means we understand the value of our contrition before God. When we say sorry to another person, we validate their experience and the role we have played in causing hurt. God does not require our validation but we have to acknowledge our behaviour and the price that was paid by Christ Jesus on our behalf. 

Closing thoughts

As you go through this week, ask yourself when you last confessed your wrongdoings before God. Was this something you put real thought into or was it an autopilot response? Perhaps it’s something you have never done. The best thing is that God listens to all our prayers whether Christian or not and wants the opportunity to show you what he can do in your life.  

Let’s pray 

Father, forgive us for our selfish and sinful ways and bring us into a genuine and loving relationship with you. Amen.

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