We know that when we commit a sin, we are supposed to repent and ask God to forgive us. But what does it mean to repent and how do we do it?
The Oxford Dictionary offers three definitions for “repent”:
- Feel deep sorrow about one’s actions
- Wish one had not done, regret; resolve not to continue
- Feel regret or penitence
We’re going to assume that, because we desire to repent, we already feel deep regret or sorrow for our actions. So the definition we are looking for is the last part of #2, resolve not to continue. Repentance means that we firmly decide not to continue with the sinful behavior for which we are repenting.
Let me give you an example. When I was young, I used to lie to my parents a lot. I lied about even the smallest things, like whether I had finished my milk or done my homework. I’m not proud of it, and I finally repented of this behavior, making a firm decision to start being honest.
We all make mistakes–you can repent for something and then commit the same sin again later. If that’s the case, then you probably need to talk to God about why you continue to commit this sin and repent. It also helps to find a friend, parent, or church leader to whom you can be accountable; accountability helps us stop the sinful behavior that we are trying to leave behind.
Repentance is closely tied to forgiveness, so if you are repenting of sinful behavior, use this as a general guideline:
- Confess the sin to God
- Ask God to forgive you
- The Bible says if you have sinned against someone, you need to confess the sin to him or her and ask him or her to forgive you as well
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24)
- Repent! Determine in your heart to do the opposite of the sinful behavior
The process of repentance isn’t complicated, but it does require a heart that sincerely desires a change in behavior.
How important do you think repentance is?
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).