Confession. Forgiveness. Repentance. Three essential steps to eradicating the stronghold of sin in our lives.
We tend to be pros at confessing our sins and asking God for forgiveness. But we suck at repentance.
But first, what exactly is repentance?
Webster describes it as “the action or process of repenting especially for misdeeds or moral shortcomings.” Okay…so what is repenting? It’s “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret or contrition; to change one’s mind.”
That makes sense, right?
And when compared to the Hebrew and Greek renditions of this word, there’s agreement, with one significant difference—when we turn from sin, we turn back to God.
Understand, repentance is no flippant, “I’m sorry.”
- It’s a heartfelt regret that moves you to choose to make a life-altering U-turn.
- To turn your back on your old way of life.
- To run from your past patterns and sin.
- To face God and pursue Him and His righteousness.
- It’s a remorse that instigates authentic change.
- That causes you to deliberately alter the motivation and direction of your life.
- This contrition propels you to change your mind on what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Repentance is throwing yourself on God’s mercy, realizing you’re entirely dependant on Him for everything. And then putting aside your pride and humbly following Him.
In my blog post, But I Don’t Feel Forgiven, I asked my friend:
“Have you repented of your sin? Have you turned from it? Or do you find yourself sliding back into those same old patterns?
“That my sweet Sister could be what you’re feeling—conviction for willfully riding the merry-go-round of your sin. Meaning, you fall into your old patterns of behavior, feel convicted and guilty, and ask for forgiveness. Then you’re “good” for a little while or even a long while. But eventually, you find yourself in the same old place. You feel guilt. You ask for forgiveness. And around and around you go.”
The look on her face all but screamed, Yes, That’s it!! But she asked, “Is there no hope for me?”
OF COURSE, THERE’S HOPE!!!
But first, we need to STOP the Merry-Go-Round! We must get off and walk away—never to return.
We MUST “repent of [our] sins and turn to God, so that [our] sins may be wiped away.” (Acts 3:19)
I always start by reading and praying through Psalm 139 and encourage you to do the same.
- Acknowledge God knows everything about you.
- Thoughts. Movements. Location. Actions. Words you think and speak.
- This isn’t meant to creep you out or make you paranoid
- This is a good thing!
- Nothing shocks or surprises God.
- Thoughts. Movements. Location. Actions. Words you think and speak.
- Acknowledge there is nowhere you can go that God is not.
- Your conception, development, birth, life, and death are all in His hands.
- Nothing can hide you from His presence
- The grave. Ocean depths. Darkness. Nothing.
- Rejoice that He guides, strengthens, and supports you
- Celebrate that His thoughts about you are precious and impossible to number
Next, open your journal.
Oh, don’t give me that look. Yes, journal. (If you don’t have one, get one. An empty notebook will do.) And in your hand, write Psalm 139:23-24 in your favorite version of the Bible (here are a few different options ):
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
Then, spend some quality time in prayer.
I write mine out in my journal—uncensored. I don’t edit or hold anything back. I’m open. Vulnerable. Honest. Raw. Scary I know, but worth it!
Writing out our prayers is personal and takes time and reflection to complete. This recording allows us to better identify God’s faithfulness in answering those prayers later, helps us see how we’ve changed and grown, and forces us to face our sin head-on. Call it what it is. Confess it. And ask for forgiveness.
Beloved, as you pray sincerely ask God to open your mind and heart to make The Truth known. Ask for the courage and humility needed to face that Truth—because let’s be honest, you’re about to deal with things you’d rather not. But humbly, honestly, and bravely facing our depravity is the first step in repentance.
And when we vulnerably tell Him our sin, we’re not only forced to face and acknowledge it, but we take the burden off our back, hold in our hands, and are better able to release it—hand it over.
I often pray these verses and ask God to reveal my sins—especially those I’ve not yet identified, or ones I’ve turned a blind eye to. I also ask for perception and insight into what it is about my pet sins that keep drawing me back.
Third, pick up your pen and start writing.
Not sure what to write? No problem. Here are some questions to help get you started. (Keep in mind, a good counselor may be required to give you all the necessary tools to help you break the cycle, to help you off the merry-go-round.)
- What is it about your pet-sin you enjoy?
- Until you identify the lure this sin has for you, it’s going to be impossible to avoid it.
- Be brutally honest with yourself.
- Is it fun? Enjoyable? Pleasurable?
- Is it an escape from reality?
- Does it give you a thrill?
- Does it make you feel good? Does that “good” feeling last for the long term or is it short-lived?
- Why do you want to give it up?
- This might seem obvious: “Because the Bible says it’s wrong.”
- But why do YOU want to give it up?
- How is this sin having adverse effects on your life, relationships, career, education?
- How is it infringing on your goals and robbing you of your dreams and ambitions?
- When the lure entices you, and you get hooked (again), where are you?
- Who are you with?
- What are the circumstances surrounding your choice to be “bad” again?
- Do you have a solid, godly mentor? Someone, to help keep you accountable?
- Someone who
- pours into you and prays for you?
- will love you with tough-love and be willing to lovingly yet firmly call you out?
- you can call when that lure is enticing you, or when you’ve slipped off the edge?
- will help you get back up on solid ground again?
- If you do, be open and honest with that person. If not, ask God to bring His right one into your life.
- Someone who
- What unsatisfied need is this pet-sin “fulfilling”?
- This may not be quite so easy to identify as it requires our most profound honesty with yourself.
- We have to see ourselves for who we are–good, bad, and ugly.
- And until we identify this, it will be near to impossible to eradicate this sin from our lives.
Once you have done this, lay it all down at Jesus’ feet. Let Him have ALL of it. And then LEAVE IT THERE!
Let His forgiveness wash over you, cleanse you and fill you. Claim it. Own it.
Then ask Him for a few things:
- To take the enjoyment you find in this sin and replace it with satisfaction in developing/growing your relationship with Him.
- Ask for that satisfaction to fill you to overflowing, so you’re complete, lacking nothing.
- To have the courage to remove anything and everything Satan throws in your path to keep you from stumbling. Remember, you are forgiven! Those chains are gone. You are free.
- To help you determine to give up your pet sin.
- This could mean
- breaking-up with friends and/or a significant other (not including a spouse, that is another subject for another day)
- changing where you hang out or avoiding specific locations where you’ve engaged in this sin. (This is easier to identify and employ with sins such as substance abuse, addictions, or sexual sin; but it’s much harder for sins like gossip, bullying, pride, and lying)
- Ask for awareness BEFORE the lure is cast your way.
- Ask Him to make your Spidey-senses tingle when Satan is starting to bait the hook.
- Remember, Jesus doesn’t tempt us–EVER! And when we are tempted, He provides a way out. Sometimes that is by literally RUNNING AWAY from a particular situation. Take advantage of His escape routes; they will save you.
- Ask for a godly, wise mentor. Someone you can trust who will disciple you. Someone who is mature in the faith, who studies the Scriptures, and has an active relationship with God.
- Ask Jesus to satisfy all your needs and CHOOSE to let Him do it HIS way. Again, many look for “feelings” here. But we were never promised to feel all warm and fuzzy. We are never to feel all the feels. BUT we are promised something far greater–HIS PRESENCE ALWAYS!!
Oh Beloved, the last thing I want to encourage you to do, is to start your day with sincere prayer (this could be 5 minutes or 25 minutes or whatever amount of time you need). And in that prayer ask for His grace to sustain you for that day. His mercies are new every morning. And He is faithful, Dear One. He is so faithful! Ask Him to help you live as the forgiven child you are. And let your light shine! Satan hates the light! Blind him, Dear One! Reflect God’s glory all over him. And saturate yourself with Jesus’ love and grace.