Summary: Paul describes real repentance.
In this series, we’ve defined repentance as a change of mind that results in a change of heart that results in a change of action. Last time, we said that false repentance is the result of worldly sorrow. We said that worldly sorrow focuses on self, not God; and on sin’s consequences, rather than sin’s failure. Today, we’ll conclude by considering the characteristics of real repentance. (READ TEXT)
We shouldn’t be surprised that just like worldly sorrow results in false repentance, godly sorrow results in real repentance. Unlike worldly sorrow, the focus of godly sorrow is on God, not oneself; and on the failure of sin as opposed to sin’s consequences. Godly sorrow produces real repentance, which is characterized by seven things.
1. We see our sin for what it is - “earnestness”
Real repentance sees sin for what it is - an offense to a holy God. My sin sent Jesus to the cross where He paid my penalty so I wouldn’t have to. So, every sin I commit is a sin for which Jesus died. And when I sin, even though Christ’s sacrifice has covered my sin debt, so I can have a relationship with God, my sin grieves God and disrupts my fellowship with Him; and prevents His Spirit from being able to work in my life.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” - Ephesians 4:20 (NIV)
It’s seeing sin for what it is; not a mistake, or a failure, or an error, but an offense to a holy God that brings about repentance that causes a change of mind that results in a change of heart that results in a change of action. It moves our awareness of sin and the need to turn to the Savior from the head to the heart, and eventually to our hands.
“A man must first recognize and consider what his sin is, and know the plague of his heart before he can be duly humbled for it. The eye is made both for seeing and weeping. Sin must first be seen before it can be wept for.” - Thomas Watson, Puritan Preacher
2. We confess our sin as what it is - “eagerness to clear yourselves”
We say the same thing God says about our sin, in other words, we confess our sin to Him (homologeo).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
Real repentance does not color code sin, excuse sin, or justify sin.
I remember the advice given by David and Teresa Ferguson in their book, “Intimate Encounters.” They said we shouldn’t say, “I’m sorry” when making apology to a person we have hurt, but rather we should say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Because we can be sorry for all sorts of reasons like, “I’m sorry I got caught; or I’m sorry you have a hang-up with my words or behavior; or I’m sorry I’ve got to take the time to fool with apologizing with you, there, can we move forward now?”
But by saying, “I was wrong. Please forgive me,” we communicate that we are looking at our behavior through God’s eyes, admitting how wrong we were, and how in need of forgiveness we are.
That’s how we confess our sins to God when we’re really repentant. We come clean with God and with others we have hurt by our sin.
A. Since all sin hurts God, we must ask His forgiveness.
B. If my sin has hurt another person, I must ask their forgiveness.
C. If my sin has hurt a group, I must ask the group’s forgiveness.
A person who is truly repentant, is willing to go as far as necessary to clear themselves and come clean with God and others.
3. We look at our sin as God does - “indignation”
The dictionary defines “indignation” as “anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.”
God is indignant about sin, because it results in Him not being treated fairly. He is creator, but because of sin, creation doesn’t acknowledge Him. Sin brings separation, and the fact God is indignant means He hates being separated from us. The Bible presents God’s attitude toward sin with strong feelings of hostility and disgust. Sin is described as putrefying sores (Isaiah 1:6, NKJV), a heavy burden (Psalm 38:4), defiling filth (Titus 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:1), a binding debt (Matthew 6:12-15), darkness (1 John 1:6) and a scarlet stain (Isaiah 1:18).
Now, when we really repents, we look at our sin as God does. We’re indignant about sin because it causes separation between us and God. We hate being separated from God just as He hates being separated from us. We recognize there is but one provision for the problem of sin and one solution for the separation it causes - a full confession and turning from our sin and full surrender and turning to our Savior.