There are three essential ingredients in faith-driven repentance.
Wake Up: Come to your senses
Real repentance means that you see that your biggest problem is you, not your circumstances. No matter how difficult things may be, your deepest need is to know and be known by God. In the case of the prodigal son, it took difficulty and poverty to awaken him to his true condition. Doesn’t God often use Heat to bring us to self-awareness? What may begin as shallow repentance begins to grow and deepen. When you “wake up” in some of the following ways, change is beginning.
- You see life as a moral drama of immense proportions.
- You have a new sobriety about the reality of sin, suffering, and your need for grace.
- Momentary pleasures no longer hold your attention.
- Biblical truth begins to make sense as you think about your situation.
- The Bible gets personal. It’s not just talking about them; it’s talking about you.
- You begin to make connections between your heart and your behavior.
- You begin to see that God is a God of grace and mercy, and He becomes increasingly attractive.
Own Up: Admit your sin
The wake-up call is followed by repentance. If this is happening, we will not treat God’s grace lightly. Three things are involved:
- Godly sorrow, not worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is only sorrow that you were caught, or that you failed to live up to your own standards and potential, or that you are experiencing the consequences of your sin. Worldly sorrow is self-centered, while godly sorrow focuses on how God was offended and others were hurt. Godly sorrow especially sees that God’s love (not just his commands) has been treated lightly. Worldly sorrow produces tears of self-pity, but godly sorrow produces tears of true humility.
- Seeing the sin beneath the sins. You begin to see the heart sins beneath your behavioral sins, the idolatrous lies that drive you to do what you do. Remember, before you violate the commandments 4-10, you violate commandments 1-3 by forsaking God for something else. When you see this, you begin to see how spiritually blind you have been. There is no more excuse making or blame-shifting ; instead, there is honest self-examination. You start to be self-critical without getting defensive or depressed.
- Repenting of sin and righteousness. You start repenting of your righteousness, not just your sins. What does this mean? Every time we try to build our lives on who we are apart from Christ, it is an attempt to justify ourselves. It is a way to create a righteousness apart from Christ so that we can feel we earned our acceptance before God, others, and ourselves. A Christian not only sees the Thorny behavior that results from these false identities; he also sees the many outwardly good things that may be motivated by the worship of something other than God. He repents of those things as well.
Shift Weight: Receive your father’s gracious embrace
When you admit the depth of your sin and repent, as the prodigal son did, the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit gets increasingly attractive. The false identities and idols that were once so alluring lose their appeal. You start to experience the love of Christ, and change results. Notice how the father’s lavish love is so prominent in the story of the prodigal son. He runs in the direction of his repentant child. What does this tell us about what true repentance looks like?
- You begin to rest in Christ’s work as you confess your sins, asking for forgiveness and grace.
- You get smaller and Christ gets bigger. You have a godly self-forgetfulness that is very different from self-loathing.
- You look at Christ, not just at your sin.
- You receive new energy, joy, gratitude, hope, perseverance, and purpose.
-edited excerpt from How People Change by Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp
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