By Melissa McLaughlin
What does it mean to repent?
I had taken a leave of absence from my teaching job that year. After giving birth to our first child, I longed to be home and devote my time and love to our precious newborn daughter. My husband graciously supported my decision. Money was tight, as we were down to just one income, so I picked up a few part-time tutoring jobs to help ease the financial strain.
One evening while driving to my next tutoring session, out of nowhere bright lights flashed in my rearview mirror and a fierce siren blared, invading my quiet commute. My heart skipped a beat. “What is he doing?” I wondered. “Is he pulling me over?”
After parking at the side of the road, I waited as the police officer walked resolutely toward my car. He requested my license and registration, then proceeded to ask if I knew that I was speeding. In a firm voice, he stated the speed limit was 25 mph and my speed had been clocked at 45 mph.
My first instinct was to assume that the officer must be wrong. Surely I could not have been driving that fast. Maybe he made a mistake. But there was no discussion. He had the readings from the radar gun and that was that. In hindsight, I realized that after turning off a heavily traveled road, I had not paid close enough attention to the abrupt change in speed limit once I turned onto this small side street.
As he wrote out the ticket with my fine, the truth set in. And so did the consequences.
I frantically began calculating the grocery money for the week. How would I buy diapers and baby formula when we had to pay a speeding ticket with this week’s paycheck? We had exactly $150.00 left in our savings account. The ticket was exactly $150.00.
My mind raced wildly. Sweat drenched my body. The worst part was the drive home. My stomach knotted into a tight ball at the dread of confessing this mess to my husband. He had supported my decision to stay home with our daughter. We both went without the extras week after week so that I could give her my full attention, time and TLC. He cared for her while I tutored. Now I had gone and blown it.
As soon as I got home the story poured out of me. My husband took it all in, including the furrowed brow, the anxious face and the tears shining in my eyes. Shame, embarrassment and fear quivered in my voice as I admitted the truth and told him I was sorry. My husband listened, then quietly assured me we would get by.
The burden of heaviness lifted. A soft ray of sunlight pierced through the dark fog clinging to my heart. What a profound gift he gave me.
Though the ticket still had to be paid and the money would be tighter than usual, I had confessed my wrongdoing and began the process of forgiving myself, for my husband had already done so. My heart melted for him. Love for my husband seeped into previously unknown spaces of my heart as I rested there, soothed by his kindness to me.
What does it mean to repent? Why did Jesus ask us to repent? What does this have to do with me?
In Mark 1:15, Jesus’ first message to the crowds was to repent and believe the gospel.
Repentance means to have a change of mind that results in a change of action.
When we sin, we have turned our backs on God. To repent is to turn away from sin and turn instead to God.
What does it look like when we truly repent?
Here are 7 elements of repentance.
1. Conviction – The Holy Spirit opens our eyes and helps us see what we could not see before. Our prideful spirits are softened, helping us become aware of the simple fact that we are wrong.
This is no small feat! No one, and I mean no one, likes to admit they are wrong. It goes against our prideful nature. We like to be right. We like things our way. We like to be on the throne. Period.
2. Surrender – The Holy Spirit supplies us with a willingness to be honest with ourselves and with God. With His help, we are willing to recognize and admit we are wrong.
Our sins and wrong choices may be willful wrongs or the result of honestly not knowing, perhaps stemming from overall disinterest or having succumbed to being led astray. No matter the reason for being wrong, we finally lower our self-righteous defenses, weakly lift the white flag of our heart and surrender to God and His truth.
3. Godly sorrow or remorse – An appropriate response when repenting for sins is to experience Godly sorrow or remorse at having gone the wrong way and disappointed God.
4. Confess fully (Apologize-Agree-Acknowledge-Ask) – Confess and apologize to God and others. Agree with God’s leadership and the truth of His Word, the Bible. Acknowledge that God is right and we are wrong. Ask for forgiveness.
5. Make restitution when necessary – Sometimes we have to pay for damages we have incurred while walking in a path of sin. Repentance includes making things right when we can. A good example of this is Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who repaid four times the money he had extorted from others, before having turned from sin to follow Jesus. Luke 19:8
6. Reflect on your sins, mistakes and wrong choices just long enough to learn from them. Make a plan to move in a new direction, walking new paths, forging new habits so as not to repeat the same sins and mistakes. A repentant person is willing to be corrected, demonstrating a teachable spirit and desire to learn and grow in Christlikeness.
7. Receive God’s great love and rest in His forgiveness for you! When you recognize how much we desperately need God’s help at every stage, we find deeper joy and gratitude for the finished work of Christ on the cross. The heaviness of sin, guilt and shame has been lifted. Our penalty has already been paid! We are free to walk in the newness of life in Christ! Run to Jesus! His arms are open wide!
It is important to remind ourselves of one very fine line when it comes to repentance. We must guard against the temptation to dwell in regret, shame and guilt. This can be a form of self-righteousness and Satan will use this self-focus to chain you to the past. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. That’s why Jesus came. Let that reality lift you from the ashes and strengthen you to rise again in Christ.
Conversely, when we acknowledge and confess the sin in our lives, we should not flippantly “brush it off” either. Satan is thrilled when we take sin lightly, for then he has made an inroad in our lives that he can revisit and broaden bit by bit.
Make no mistake about it. God does not take sin lightly. God is just. And a just penalty must be paid for every sin. The great joy is that God is also merciful. He sent Jesus to pay that just penalty for our sins. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 Let us never forget, however, this verse begins with the pivotal word “If”.
Repentance is a Gift
Repentance is a gift from God that helps us maintain a humble attitude before Him who is pure, holy and righteous. Repentance helps us avoid judging others and gently chips away at the ugliness of our pride. The more we see the perfection of God and His laws, the more we realize we cannot stand before Him by any strength of our own. Little by little we realize how we are fully dependent on God’s mercies that are new every morning. Repentance allows Jesus to build a bridge from our sin to His love.
When we first become a Christian, we must repent, turning away from our self-made sinful life and instead ask to Jesus to take over as Lord and Leader of our lives.
However, until that day when we finally reach heaven and the presence of all sin is wiped away forever, we must humble ourselves and repent anew each day. This allows a posture of honesty, humility and surrender to reshape our hearts into vessels of overflowing gratitude before our gracious and loving Savior and increases our longing to be like Him.
Jesus asks us to repent, for without repentance we cannot receive the forgiveness He offers. Jesus asks to repent because remorse without repentance leads to utter despair. Jesus asks us to repent because repentance leads to renewed hope, the refreshment of forgiveness and best of all, a deeper love for Him.
A Repentant Heart
The beautiful truth of repentance may best be captured in the stirring story found in Luke 7:36-50 of the sinful woman who stooped down low and wept before Jesus while He ate. She washed Jesus’ feet with her heartfelt tears, then tenderly dried His feet with her hair. Such humility. Such gratitude. Such devotion. Such love.
When asked about her actions, what was Jesus’ response? “Her sins which are many are forgiven – for she loved much. The one who has been forgiven little, loves little.”
She loved much! The one who has been forgiven much, loves much! That can be all of us!
But you can only receive this forgiveness and love, if you repent!
Why did Jesus ask us to repent?
Because Jesus knew, hope awaits.
Because Jesus knew, forgiveness awaits.
Because Jesus knew, deeper love awaits us.
Because Jesus knew repentance leads us from much sin to much love!
Holy Spirit, sweep through my whole being. Bring me to my knees in complete humility and total dependency. Help me see my sins for what they are. Carve away my stony self-righteousness. Soften my prideful spirit. Turn my mind to the glory of Christ and captivate my thoughts with the truth of God’s Word. Help me surrender fully to You. Help me repent. Help me acknowledge my sin, confess my sin and grow more and more into the image of Christ. Forgive me for my sins, that I may be set free to love You more! Let gratitude roll down from my heart like a mighty river, rushing me ever onward into the ocean of your grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name and for His sake I pray. Amen.
The Power of Sin is Broken! Past, Present and Future! By Melissa McLaughlin
The Sacrificial Lamb – Why Did Jesus Have to Die? By Melissa McLaughlin
What is Repentance By Desiring God
How to Repent: 5 Steps By The Gospel Coalition
What is Real Repentance? By Core Chrisitianity
So good and so true!
Thank you for reading and commenting, Valerie! We may not willingly head toward repentance, but once we surrender, our love for Christ grows exponentially!
Repentance is more than saying you’re sorry.
It’s having a change of mind and heart.
It’s the beginning of our journey back to the arms of a loving Father or husband in your case. 😁
I agree with you, Vernon! True repentance goes much deeper than just saying you’re sorry. Though it is never a journey we enjoy at the outset, what joy comes at the end! The journey back into the arms of our loving Father. (And for me, yes, it was also my husband!) God bless you!
It’s not a once and done thing.. it’s an everyday thing!
So true, John! We are a long way from the perfection of heaven. May we bow down low in the meantime, so we can drink deeply of the waters of God’s forgiveness. Bless you!
“Repentance is a gift from God that helps us maintain a humble attitude before Him who is pure, holy and righteous. Repentance helps us avoid judging others and gently chips away at the ugliness of our pride. ”
I love this!!!!! xoxo
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Cheyenne! Lowering our selves does not comes naturally or easily, but the beauty that grows is worth it – decreasing of an attitude of judgment and pride. Lord, move quickly and take more ground in this area of my heart, I pray!
And mine!! Amen!!
Absolutely one of my favorite Bible Lessons found in Luke chapter 7!!!
Thank you for such a beautiful reading and excellent explanation about repentance.
I love you ❤️!
Dear Sis Esther, it is a beautiful, humble lesson to be learned from the sinful woman who poured out her gratitude and love on Jesus! Thank you for sharing your faith and your pastoral insights here. It is a blessing and honor to learn from you! I love you!
Sometimes the hardest one to forgive is yourself. I love this message. God bless!
Oh Nancy, that is painfully true! I know that too well. May we guard against that, as I have learned the hard way, how it can be another side of pride. I truly believe if we allow God to walk with us gently through the different elements of repentance, we will come out more whole. That is His loving goal all along. Bless you!
Oh, Melissa, I have a similar speeding ticket story that happened about 5 years ago. At the time, we were under thousands of dollars from our son’s ER trip and tests. We were making big payments to the hospital monthly which was a big strain on our finances. One night I left our church where I was setting up and decorating for a women’s event the following night. On the way home, a policeman pulled both me and the car in front of me over and gave us both speeding tickets. Ironically, the speed limit had just changed the day before to a construction zone as they began to expand the road. My ticket was $125 and I cried the rest of the way home knowing my husband would be upset. And I called my friend, Elaine, on the ladies leadership ministry team at church with me for words of peace and comfort. Yes, I would have to pay for my consequences of breaking the law because I didn’t pay attention to the change in speed limit. Such a great analogy to repentance…something we don’t talk about enough. I particularly like this, “Confess fully (Apologize-Agree-Acknowledge-Ask)” I heard someone say true repentance bears fruit and I believe that’s true!
Dear Karen, my heart hurts just reading about the event surrounding your speeding ticket. In both of our cases, we were disappointed in ourselves and upset at the financial consequences we brought about, a cost our families paid, as well. I did learn from that speeding ticket and try to watch my speed much more carefully.
As for repentance, you are right, this is a topic that is often avoided. Especially personally. But learning to walk with an attitude of humble repentance before God and the people in our lives is a true test of the Christian faith in my book. Praising the Lord comes naturally. Saying we were wrong does not. May we yield more and more to the pruning of our Master.
I like your closing comment, “True repentance bears fruit.” Amen!
Beautiful post! I loved this story with your husband! You are so right. As scripture tells us, ‘God’s mercy is new every morning’. And every day we live, we begin again…we ask God for his forgiveness on a daily basis so our sins are swept away, and we start fresh.
Dear Linda, thank you for reading and sharing your insights! I appreciate your encouragement! It is such a blessing to know we begin fresh with God as we daily repent of our sins. The gift of repentance is huge! A fresh start before God. Who else can give such a gift to us?! Bless you!
Such a beautiful post, Melissa, as always! You’ve captured the sweet moments of conviction, repentance, and restoration. This is a well-written post detailing the entire process we all must needs go through every single day, for every day we sin. I love leaning over my Bible and digging into the passage, awaiting the Holy Spirit’s movement in my heart as he pinpoints the sin for me, softens my heart, and moves me through all of your 7 steps recorded so well. So fresh from my morning quiet time where he worked the miracle again within my heart, such precious intimacy. Well done, writing sister!
Thank you, dear Melinda, for your kind and encouraging words! Repentance has not always been a beautiful flowing process in my life. It is something I have come to understand and even embrace, but only after much kicking and flailing before God. Quite embarrassing in retrospect. But God is patient and has continued to help me see how the process of conforming to the image of Christ is very closely tied to this process of repentance. And in the end, it is a beautiful thing, when we yield ourselves to the Living God! Holy Spirit, though it hurts, we invite your spotlight of truth to shine again into those sin-spots hidden from our view. Blessings to you, sister!
Amen, Melissa! Btw, I’m a McLaughlin on my mother’s side. I wonder if we’re related somewhere along the line.
Hi Melissa McLaughlin. I often receive your teachings too. I am a Christian servant of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father. I would like to come to visit the assembly to which you serve the Lord. And attend your meetings. Le jeudi 18 juillet 2019, Melissa McLaughlin ~ Truthful Grace a écrit :
> Melissa McLaughlin posted: “By Melissa McLaughlin What does it mean to > repent? I had taken a leave of absence from my teaching job that year. > After giving birth to our first child, I longed to be home and devote my > time and love to our precious newborn daughter. My husband graciou” >
Good morning Donadoni Golper Nkouka, greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for taking the time to read the Christian teachings on my blog. I am honored and blessed. May Jesus Christ be praised!
I post comments about the teachings here in the comments area. If you have other questions, please tell free to use the contact page on my website. It will email me and I can respond to you there. God bless you, Melissa McLaughlin
P.S. I am leaving for church now. So if you send a message through my contact page, I will answer later today.
Hello Mrs. Melissa McLaughlin. I often receive your teachings too. I am a Christian servant of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father. I would like to come to visit the assembly to which you serve the Lord. And attend your meetings. Le dimanche 21 juillet 2019, DONADONI Golper Nkouka a écrit :
> > Hi Melissa McLaughlin. I often receive your teachings too. I am a > Christian servant of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father. I would > like to come to visit the assembly to which you serve the Lord. And attend > your meetings. > Le jeudi 18 juillet 2019, Melissa McLaughlin ~ Truthful Grace email@example.com> a écrit : > >> Melissa McLaughlin posted: “By Melissa McLaughlin What does it mean to >> repent? I had taken a leave of absence from my teaching job that year. >> After giving birth to our first child, I longed to be home and devote my >> time and love to our precious newborn daughter. My husband graciou” >>
It seems so hard to let things go once we’ve confessed our sins. I can see that it it is a form of pride, like you say. And to accept God’s forgiveness and move on is to be obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So true, Tom. Forgiveness is a gift God offers us and when we can’t then forgive ourselves, we limit the power of God’s love in our lives and diminish the power of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. May we keep our eyes on Him and let His love and forgiveness flow through us…that we receive His abundant love and grace and that others receive the overflow through us!
Hallelujah and Maranatha Sweet Sister in Christ-Messiah Jesus-Yeshua Melissa!!
Love Always and Shalom ( Peace ), YSIC \o/
Hallelujah, dear sister Kristi Ann! May Jesus be exalted in and through us, as we bow before Him in gratitude and humility. Oh, what a Savior!
Melissa, this was the first peace I read on your blog and it is so prayerfully written!
May the peace of God rest on your home. Amen!
Michael, thank you for taking the time to read one of my posts! And I am humbled by your kind words. Glory to God! May God bless and keep you and yours.
Thank you so much for this, Melissa… God bless!
Thank you for reading and for the word of encouragement, Richard! Blessings to you!
I literally cried when reading this. It is because I last night fell in sin by temptation of porn, a sin I always thought I had left but obviously no. Thank you for this wonderfully written post that made us all understand so much better about repentance. Thank you my dear sister and God bless you!