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Repentance: What it is & How to Do It

Genuine Repentance

Dr. Charles StanleyCharles Stanley preaching with hand out front

 Because we desire to be more like Jesus, we make resolutions, ask Him to help us, and try to behave differently. Yet despite our best efforts to do things God’s way, we slide back into old habits. Frustrated, we may ask Him, “Why can’t I change?” The reason is, overcoming sinful attitudes and behaviors starts with genuine repentance, which has three aspects.

 Conviction. The Holy Spirit will reveal the areas in which we’ve sinned and convict us of wrongdoing. Through Scripture, the Spirit shows us God’s standard and what needs to change. Repentance begins with understanding where we have gone astray.

 Contrition. The next step–grieving over our iniquity–is followed by confession to the Lord. Genuine sorrow arises from the knowledge that we’ve sinned against Him. In contrast, human unhappiness often comes from being caught misbehaving. Other times we are miserable because of where our choices led us, or feel shame that people know about our sin. True contrition is followed by humble confession.

 Commitment to act.  Real repentance is complete when we wholeheartedly pledge to turn from our old behavior and move toward righteous ways. God knows we won’t live perfectly, but He looks for a surrendered heart that diligently seeks to obey Him.

 Paul used strong language when telling us to turn from iniquity: “Put to death… whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5 niv). What sin are you struggling to overcome? Have you genuinely repented, committing to turn from it permanently? Let the Holy Spirit empower you to change.

God’s Call to Repentance

Luke 15:11-24

 In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger brother asked to receive his inheritance early so he might live as he chose. Once the father gave him his share, he made many unwise choices that led to hunger and destitution. What happened next illustrates the principles of godly repentance.

 After squandering all his money, the young man found work feeding pigs, a bottom-of-the-barrel kind of job. One day he came to his senses and recognized his terrible plight. His repentance began with an awareness of his wrong choices and the fact that his bad situation was due to them.

 Knowing that his difficulties came from his sinful behavior, the prodigal grieved over his mistakes and acknowledged that he had sinned against the Lord (v. 18). He declared he was no longer worthy to be his father’s son. Godly sorrow and confession led the young man to leave that place and go home. His repentance was made complete when he turned away from his old ways and returned to his father. The Lord likewise calls us to repent and return to Him.

 What a welcome the prodigal son received. Upon seeing him, the father was filled with compassion and ran to embrace him. Forgiveness and acceptance were extended to the son. Both are blessings that God freely offers to whoever asks Him.

 The prodigal son did not clean himself up before returning home. He simply left his old life, turned toward home, and trusted in his father’s mercy. The heavenly Father calls us to repent and offers us forgiveness when we turn away from our self-centered ways and move toward godliness (1 John 1:9).

For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.

Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

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