Step 1: Repentance

Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”


The first step for the (to-be) Christian is to repent, followed by believing.


Repentance is essential not just for beginning but also for continuing. The puritan Thomas Boston in his work titles “Repentance, turning from sin to God” writes this:


More than a day’s work

Because their turning from sin is never perfect till death, therefore so long they are ay turning, and renewing their repentance. They are not true penitents who look on it as the work of some days or weeks, at the soul’s first conversion to God (John 13:10). A true penitent will ay be repenting, as long as he is sinning. He sees that he is often falling into the mire, and therefore he must be often washing; daily contracting new debt, therefor must be daily crying for forgiveness. And the more heinous his miscarriages be, the longer he lies secure, his repentance will be the more bitter when he rises up again.


Sin, and therefore repentance has in large been something thought of, to great harm to the body of Christ, in generalities. In looking at it in that way we come into agreement with God the notion of sin, the recognition that we fall short but the lack of specificity fails to take real responsibility for sin and is not indicative of Gods perspective of sin. One thing we can take from, especially the first five, of the books of the Old Testament is Gods specificity to the state of His dwelling place and to sin.


So how should we think of repentance and what does a good start into our faith with repentance look like?


Repentance is acknowledging the sin in our lives, the every action and inaction that is against God’s word. Real repentance is wrought from a sense of the loathsomeness of one’s own sin. This sense of humiliation has the effect of turning one away from the sin and towards God. Repentance is God centred.


Job 42:6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Jeremiah 8:6(b) no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’

Ezekiel 18:30 (c) Repent and turn from all your transgressions,

lest iniquity be your ruin.



To highlight some nuance to repentance let’s have a quick look at what repentance is not.


Repentance is not regret. Regret it a feeling focused on the self. Being unhappy how one’s action or inaction has effected the desire of oneself. Regret can be brought about because of sin but is not repentance.


Repentance is not remorse. Remorse is a feeling focused on others. Being unhappy how one’s action or inactions have unjustly effected another, knowingly or unknowingly. Remorse can be brought about because of sin but it is not repentance


Luke 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.


Repentance is God focused. Being convicted how one’s actions or inactions have transgressed God’s Holy nature and law.


The man leaves his sin, not for the inferior motives only of danger to himself by it, but from the higher motives, namely, because it is offensive to God, dishonours his Son, grieves his Spirit, transgresses his law, and defaces his image. If your turning from sin proceeds not from these motives, God will never regard it as acceptable in his sight.” Thomas Boston (Repentance pg. 89)



Lets have a look at the practical parts of sin and we can break it down into three main areas of thought, word and deed.


Thought: Simply put this is conviction of sin. Once we have been convicted of sin it is our responsibility to come into agreement with God about it. After coming in to agreement that the behaviour is sin we are tasks to renew our thinking towards the sin. God convicts us of sin by his Holy Spirit. Romans says it is written on our hears and consciences. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the word of God (the bible), prayer and circumstances too.


Romans 2:15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them


John 16:8-9 And when he (Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;


Right thinking compares our lives with the life of Jesus, not the life of others. Many people overlook their sin because it’s not as bad as others. This is a deception in thinking because our standard of righteousness is not shown in men but in Jesus alone. In correct thinking we have a great high view of God and a humble view of self. May we ask the Holy Spirit in fear and trembling “is there anything in my life you so not like?”


Word: Simply put confession, the naming of our sins. This is what most people think repentance is in full. It is an important part of repentance. A confession of sincerity is a catalyst from the deed of turning to come.


Confession has two parts: Self-accusation and self -condemnation.

Self accusation: is one saying that they approve Gods law as being holy, just and good and the y disapproved of their sin. The sinner is humbled acknowledging they cannot hide his ways from God and is convicted not to deny it.

Self condemnation: in acknowledging the law of God the sinner now is right to assign to himself before God the due penalty for that sin. The wages of sin are death and in the eternal sense being sent to hell. We shall not take lightly the mercies of God for those in Christ or presume upon them. Righteous repentance confesses both the offense and the penalty of sin and allows God his place in being the sovereign judge.


Deed: The actions of ones ways in response the exposure of sin, the renewing of the mind and the confession of the sin before a righteous God. True repentance brings us intimately into the knowledge of Gods Holiness, his Righteousness and Mercy.

It is from this knowledge of God holiness and our wrongdoing that causes us to act in two ways from true repentance.

Firstly we hasten to restoration and reparation. Restitution, to make good on the wrong doing in a tangible quantifiable way greatly exemplified through Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Reparation: not all sin will have a quantifiable measure to restore, in some cases our error may degrade someone’s reputation or even by our actions the image of God to a cynical crowd. In these instances we take our example from Job 42 “ Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” And James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Secondly we pursue Holiness. Coming grievously into a true knowledge of ones depravity in their sin results in a visible change a fleeing from the slavery of sin to the servitude of a Holy God.


Thomas Boston puts it like this. “He that stood in the way of sinners before now leaves it, when once the grace touches the heart (Isaiah 55:7). The penitent not only has a pure heart but clean hands. Repentance will make a visible change on one’s life: for it sets men to mortify the members of the body of death (Romans 8:13); to refuse compliance with lusts and temptations (Titus 2:12); to starve the lusts of the flesh (Romans13:!4); and to nail the body of sin with all its members to the cross of Christ (Galatians 5:24) They turn from the gross pollutions of the outward man (Psalms 24:3,4). An elect soul before conversion may be a habitual profane person, as well as others: but if he may be so after conversion, where is the difference between Christ’s sheep and the devil’s goats? It is true, they may make gross slips, as David and Peter did: but they do not lie in them, they recover again by repentance. A profane life is the mark of an impenitent state (Galatians 5:21). It is a wonder how men can pretend to repentance, while they live in the habitual practice of drunkenness, swearing, sabbath-breaking, lying, dishonesty, and other gross pollutions of the outward man where one would think the profane devil is not so much as gone out, far less cast out.


He goes on to say:


They become tender with respect to the sins of common infirmity, labouring to make conscience of their words and actions (Acts 24:16). What others account light of, they will stand at a distance from, as having felt the smart of sin; and that not only before the world, but even in secret where no eye sees but God’s. They will stand aloof from temptations, and even from the appearance of evil: and in which they are overtaken through the frailty of the flesh, they will mourn for it before the Lord.



How can we help others and ourselves to enter into this abiding and saving grace with real repentance?


Firstly, we must be serious. Serious about God and serious about sin. The bible would refer this to a state of the “Fear of the Lord”. Repentance is not to be taken lightly as though it was the element of faith to skip around and to rest only in the blessings of God. Without repentance no one will see the Lord.


We must take very seriously God’s hatred of sin and we must take very seriously our responsibility for sin and the just penalty due us and the reality of our need to account for it.


Secondly, we must be specific about sin as God is. We should as someone, or ourselves “Which sins would you like God to save you from?” Now many may answer “all of them” but we would be loving to remind them they have not committed all of them and redirect them to be specific. We can also ask, and should ask ourselves “what is our besetting sin?” Without being specific we will be prone to justification, lack conviction and be without the accusation and condemnation for anything.



Lastly, we should be sensible. We should approach repentance with a discerning mind, from Gods perspective and not from ones emotions. “What are you trying to put right?” Remember as we mature in our faith our knowledge of sin will be ever increasing.


Rightly orienting ourselves in the reality of the spiritual nature of man and the eternal nature of his Spirit sets one up to be able to come into repentance with a perspective rightly suited to it. It reminds us of the eternal consequences of our sin. It also reminds us of the holiness and magnificence of Our Heavenly Father and the indescribable, unmeasurable love that he showed for us in Jesus Christ. That even with the knowledge of our sin, so grievous to him and so abounding in all of us he sent his SON! Who was perfect in everyway, without any sin to die the penalty for ALL sin. The death in which faith in Christ and obedience to his lordship covers us in his righteousness and appropriates his sacrificial death as the payment for our REPENTED sins.



Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the grace of repentance.

Lord, convict our hearts with a great revelation of yourself and your Holiness.

equally convict us with a revelation of our sin.

Give us wisdom to keep a short account of our sins toward you and protect us, giving us eyes to watch and your Spirit to pray that we enter not into temptation


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