Have you ever wondered what is true repentance after someone has asked your forgiveness, but continues to repeat the same offense over and over again?
Yep, I think we’ve all experienced that in our relationships—with family, co-workers, friends, and even with Christians at church.
Gossip, criticism, abuse, lying, misrepresenting others, bad financial decisions, addictions, explosive anger, and many other actions can become patterns of sin in people’s lives that need true repentance.
So what does repentance look like, and how is it related to asking forgiveness?
Sometimes I have Christians sit in my counseling office who assume they have repented of an action because they sincerely asked forgiveness of another. Not true!
Repentance is not saying, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” even if you ask in the most sincere tone of voice and add a few tears to sweeten the deal. That is asking for forgiveness. It is not repentance.
What is true repentance?
Repentance is an ongoing action that precedes asking for forgiveness.
The literal meaning of “repentance” in Greek is “to change your mind”—meaning that your mind leads your feet in a new direction.
Good intentions aren’t enough. Repentance carries the idea of acknowledging your wrong behavior, renouncing it, and changing your actions to prove that your way of thinking has changed.
When you truly repent, people will know it by “watching your feet”—evaluating your actions. They can see that you are not repeating the pattern of sin that you have walked in before.
After your actions have changed is a good time to ask for forgiveness, because your actions have proved your decision to change.
Unfortunately, our pride usually keeps us from moving beyond words of good intentions and into repeated actions that break a pattern of sin in our lives. Francis Frangipane said it well:
“Pride is the armor of hell. It protects all our other vices from being acknowledged and renounced.”
Jesus called us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8 NIV1984). To do so we must humble ourselves, admit our sin, ask Jesus for the power of grace to change, and then walk out a way of life that produces the fruit of the Spirit.
Not easy. Yet, how you walk out repentance will determine a great deal about the kind of legacy you are building.
What have you found to be helpful in walking out repentance?
Growing with you, Susan
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