“Return to me and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:7)
Sin is serious! We must treat our sin with seriousness, in the same way we would treat a serious wound.
Imagine being involved in an accident in which you suffered a major compound fracture to your leg. Broken bones and severe bleeding threatened your life. Is it thinkable that you would tell those administering first aid to you, “Don’t worry about it! Just get me home and I can get some rest”? No! Your wound is life-threatening. The seriousness of the wound demands a serious response. It’s a matter of life and death.
Our sin is a serious, life-threatening wound…a matter of life or death! It demands a serious response: repentance! Repentance is not feeling sorry about your sin. Repentance is not reforming your behavior. Repentance is not doing some religious activity or repeating a ritual. Repentance is returning to a love relationship with God! Once the love relationship is established everything else follows.
Repentance involves a change in four areas that begins in the soul and shows itself in action:
1. Change Your Mind–Admit your sin and agree with God’s assessment of your heart condition! No excuses or rationalizations! Nothing short of “I have sinned” is genuine repentance. Repentance means that your thoughts shift away from falsehood toward the truth that is revealed in Scripture: anything less than the character and conduct of Jesus Christ is sin.
2. Change Your Heart–Grieve over your sin…a godly sorrow…that comes from a broken and contrite heart. Your sin is so serious that Jesus died to redeem you and to atone for your sins. Genuine repentance grieves over the consequences of sin. Sin begins with a shift of heart, when you leave your first love. Repentance requires that you return to your first love. That return begins with godly sorrow.
3. Change Your Will–Turn away from sin…it’s your choice. Instead of flirting with temptation, flee from it! Repentance requires radically putting away your sin, getting rid of any idols of the heart, tearing down any strongholds, and removing yourself from tempting situations. That means that you have to make some choices. Surrender your will to God. Ask him to change your desires and he will help you make the choices necessary for putting away sin.
4. Change Your Actions–Return to God’s way of living. When you’ve experienced an authentic change of mind, heart, and will–when you’ve returned to your love relationship with God–you will obey him. Repentance is completed when it demonstrates itself in a new way of living.
Ask God to guide you through the changes necessary for repentance. Pray that the Spirit would convict you of your…
- sin–any shift away from your first love
- idols–“gods” that you worship as a substitute for God
- sins–attitudes or actions that fall short of God’s standard
- strongholds–habits of sin you cling to
Agree with the Spirit’s conviction and confess your sin (change of mind).
Grieve over the condition of your heart (change of heart).
Choose to lay aside even the appearance of evil (change of will).
Commit to living in the energy of the Holy Spirit (change of actions).
[Click here to listen to Psalm 51, the classic prayer of repentance written by King David and listen for each of these four areas of change.]