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How to Repent of Your Sins

Understand What Repentance Really Is

And Why God Must Be the One Who Gives It 




Over the years it seems that the word "repentance" has often been abused by evangelists who preach an in-your-face message. It seems many love to bludgeon people with guilt, attempting to hammer their listeners down on their knees. I find these such messages full of a judgmental spirit.

Of course nonbelievers love to make fun of these preachers, labeling them as religious extremists like the guy who stands by the side of the road with a sign that reads: "Repent! The End of the World is At Hand!"

Because of this, many don't fully understand what repentance is all about. The true meaning of the word repentance is simply "to change one's mind" about something. So when the Bible says you need to repent what is meant is that you will let God open your mind and your eyes about sin.


You see, sin is a universal problem we all face. Most people realize they're sinners to some degree, but they don't really see their sin as being all that bad. If that's your situation, then you haven't seen the true nature of what sin really is. You need to adopt God's opinion about the nature of evil. If you never truly change your thinking about how bad your nature is, even if you feel a little convicted about your sin, it will probably won't result in any real lasting change in your behavior. Why? Because you don't feel much of a real need and "your Christianity" will likely be based upon an illusion.

This is why it is so vital for you to change your mind about the problem (or shall we say the condition of sin) that we all have. God wants to convict your heart so that you view your sin in the same way he doesóthat it is an evil so wicked that it brings upon each of us our very own Eternal Life Death Sentence.


Just How Bad Is Sin?


Think the results of sin invading our world. Evil was so bad on earth that God gave mankind his Law (as in the 10 Commandments and others) to tell the world what his standards were. But men love to sin. And absolutely no one could keep those simple commandments. That's right. In all of human history no one (accept Jesus from Nazareth) has been able to live a sinless life and keep all of God's commandments.


And because of that, all of mankind is under the curse of sin and the punishment God promised for those who refuse to turn from our self destructive ways. He says clearly that the "soul that sins shall die." And after we die comes the final judgment. No one actually would go to heaven as a result of mankind's behavior.


"But wait," you're thinking. "I can understand murderers and rapists going to hell, but I'm a good guy. I haven't done anything like that kind of stuff." But you see, that's where you're wrong. Jesus made it plain that if you look at a woman with lust in your eyes you've already committed adultery in your heart in God's eyes. The same is true with hatred. If you hate someone, you've committed murder in your heart. So God doesn't just look at your physical actions, he looks into your heart. He can see what your heart is really like. And his word makes it plain that the thoughts of man are always continually evil in nature.


Now there is no question that some people are unbelievably evil. The mass murderers and the sadistic military men who enjoy rapting and torturing innocent people. Men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others definitely deserve to be deep in the pit of God's fiery hell. But for every person that does such heinous acts there are millions of people who would do the same acts if they could just get away with it. Mankind is just hopelessly mired in the worst forms of evil. 


We Were Born In Sin


The Bible tells us that we are born into sin. We come into this world kicking and screaming with a self-centered sin nature. Some of us learn to control our evil urges better than others, but we all have these self-centered drives that lead us to put ourselves first. If we're honest, we are the center of our own universe. And from birth, you really worship only one god, and that is yourself. Our whole world revolves around each of us, how we feel and think.


The Apostle Paul talks about how he wants to do what is right and goodóbut he doesn't do it. He doesn't want to do what is wrongóbut that's what he ends up doing. (Romans 7:18-19). He verbalized just how difficult it is with this inbred sinful nature that we have to do the right thing. He says, "Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24b NASB)


The evil in the world and in our lives is so bad that God realized that no set of laws would ever save man from the wickedness in his own heart. That's why he took the most difficult and painful step any father could possibly have to take. He sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place. Don't think that was easy for the Father, because it wasn't. But he realized that it was the only way to save mankind.


So Jesus' death on that cross paid the penalty for all of mankind's sin because he was God in human flesh. His sacrifice on that cross is sufficient to wash away our guilt and sin, IF we are willing to agree with God about our sin.


You see, this is where repentance comes in. We must agree with him that our sin is so bad that Jesus had to take our place. In essence, Christ had to go to hell for us, so that we would not have to suffer that same fate (which we deserve). So that's why we must repent and change our opinion about the depravity of our human hearts. This is why we must change our opinion about sin and begin to see our situation from God's point of view.


Although we have this selfish nature, we are not doomed to obeying its every impulse. We can turn to God. And that's why repentance is the beginning of that process. As we look carefully at ourselves and our nature, we should begin to feel about sin as the Lord does. Then we are closer to truly repenting.


When true repentance fills your heart and mind, it causes a change in your actions (see Acts 3:19 and Luke 3:8-14). When you realize God is right about how bad sin really is, you'll want to turn your back upon sin. It will then be much more likely to allow a radical change inside your heart and let yourself be drawn towards his light. Acts 26:20 says, "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." And that's what God wants to do in your life. He wants to change your mind, turning your thoughts and direction toward God. The proof that has happened and that you have repented will most likely be the changing of your behavior and your turning to Christ.

What Kind of Sorrow Do You Have?


The concept of sorrow over your sin can be confusing until you realize that there are different types of worldly sorrow (as the Bible calls it). Let me give one example: I counseled a man a few years ago who had had an affair behind his wife's back. So she booted him out of the house, and the next thing he knew, another man had moved in to take his place.

When we talked about his sin, he told me that he had repented and that he just wanted his wife and his kids and his house back. So I asked him, "what bothers you the most? What are you most upset about?"

It turned out that he was most upset about the fact he'd been replaced by another man. I pressed him a little on what he had done which had brought his wife to the place of giving up on him and moving on, and it became quickly obvious that really didn't seem to bother him much. He was really much more concerned about what he had lost than about what he had done wrong to cause that loss.

So I told him, "You're sorry you got caught in this affair, right? And you're sorry you have been replaced." And he nodded enthusiastically, agreeing with me. "My friend," I continued, "that's not repentance. What you have is worldly sorrow. You're just sorry that your deeds have now come to light. Your not really all that sorrowful about what you did that was wrong. My guess is that you don't really feel your actions were all that bad."

Worldly sorrow is when you're unhappy about getting caught or about the losses your sin has caused. That kind of sorrow won't save you. The Bible tells us that this kind of sorrow will only produce spiritual death in your life. Sin is abhorrent to God so if we do not change our opinion about it, we'll never really come to Christ.

What you need is the right kind of sorrow. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV). What you really need is true Godly sorrow which causes you to look hard at your behavior and end up crying out: "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!"

When you have adopted God's opinion about sin, your heart should feel broken. But instead of fleeing away from God, you must now run towards him, showing deeds consistent with your repentance. (If you do not now feel a sense of conviction click Coming Under Conviction.)

Repentance and faith go hand in hand. You see, you can't place you faith in Christ unless you first change your mind about who he is and what he has done for you. Now this might be a change of opinion about your rejection of him or repentance from your disinterest or ignorance of him. Either way, it's a change that takes place in your mind.

I have really mistitled this as a "how to" article. You must understand that repentance is not some kind of "work" that you do in order to please God so that you can earn salvation. No one is actually able to repent and come to God unless God first draws that person to himself. Jesus says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:44 NASB).


There are other places in the Book of Acts that also indicate that repentance is something God gives to us. (Acts 5:31 and 11:18). So you cannot truly repent unless God grants you the power to do so. Everything about salvation is really from God. From repentance to faith, to having our eyes opened and the final transformation of our heartsóit's all the result of God's work in drawing you to himself.

So if you truly want to learn how to repent and come to Christ, you must let God change your heart and mind about what he's like and about sin so that you can become convicted over your own sin. Ask him to draw you in towards himself through the power of the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment that's coming upon the world. "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:8 NASB).


If you seek the Lord while he may be found, you will be able to find him. Now take a look at the article entitled: How to Become A Christian.

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