The subject of repentance tends to bring to mind certain troubling questions. We're always grateful to hear the truth that God forgives us when we repent, but somewhere in the back of our minds questions may lurk about certain sins or passages of Scripture we've read which may have left us confused. Last week we asked the questions: What is repentance? How does God convict us of sin? And, if Christ died for me, why do I still need to repent? But this week we'll look at some of the troubling questions that may come to mind when this topic is discussed. Our goal in exploring this subject further is to prevent the enemy from stealing our confidence in the power of Jesus Christ to forgive us. Frankly, there is nothing more important if we are to be bold in our prayers, step out in ministry or find the true inner peace we long for. Knowing the answers to the questions we'll address today will help to prevent us from becoming either careless about our sins or overwhelmed with guilt.
1. What is repentance? ("metanoia")
- The choice to stop a wrong course of action or thought and to submit to the will of God
- A course correction, an attitude adjustment
- It begins when God reveals His view of my attitude or action and then this revelation forces me to make a choice. Will I keep going or stop? Will I repair the damage I've done? Will I move in a new direction?
- 2 Corinthians 7:8-11
2. If I don't repent of a sin am I still forgiven?
- "If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1Jn 1:9)
- Each of us sins at times and we don't even know it so what matters is that we have a general attitude of desiring to please God. We do not need to fear if we forget to mention some sins, but our goal should be to maintain a humble, repentant heart.
- "In Christ" all our sins are forgiven (Eph 1:7) yet we still confess our sins to one another, that we may be healed (Jas 5:16).
- The courtyard of the tabernacle gives us the proper perspective. We are given the gift of forgiveness by the shedding of blood (altar, Ex 27:1-8), but we keep our hearts humble before God by repentance (washing at the laver, Ex 30:17-21).
- The Lord purifies us when we enter a lifestyle of repentance.
3. How often can I repent of the same sin?
- "Seventy times seven" (Mt 18:21, 22)
- But doesn't my continued failure prove I never really repented? If I truly repented wouldn't I stop? This question usually arises when someone is in bondage to an addictive behavior (sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, cursing, temper, smoking). They promise God they'll stop and then fail again. This cycle is repeated over and over until they become too ashamed to ask for forgiveness again.
- Actually, it's important to keep repenting, otherwise the devil uses shame to separate us from God.
- We need to admit to God that without His intervention we are helpless to change. We begin to exercise faith that He will help us stop ("show me the death in it").
- Our freedom will often involve: confessing to trusted elders, spiritual warfare, asking others to pray for us, receiving counsel from those who've found freedom.
- God gives us mercy up to the point we refuse the "way of escape" He provides (1Co 10:13). Then He will discipline us so we'll not be "condemned along with the world" (1Co 11:32).
- Stumbling vs. practicing sin: Practicing is a lifestyle that has emerged because opportunities to stop have been ignored.
4. Are some sins worse than others?
- 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21
- Yes, because some sins create greater bondage or do greater harm.
- Paul says some will take a person to hell even if they profess to be a Christian. This is why a church must discipline believers who continue to practice such behaviors. We must warn people so they will not be deceived into believing they can keep doing certain things and still go to heaven.
5. Is there an unforgivable sin?
- Yes [Mt 12:22-31; He 6:4-7; 10:26-31; 1Jn 5:16, 17 ("a sin unto death")].
- What is it? Though the Holy Spirit has shown you who Jesus Christ is you decide to completely violate your conscience by refusing to accept Him because you don't want to submit to His lordship (Mt 21:33-41) or you choose to discard Him after becoming a believer ("trample underfoot the Son of God") because you aren't willing to suffer the persecution that comes because you're a Christian (Mt 13:20, 21).
6. Conclusion: So how does God want me to think about sin and repentance?
- He wants me to trust His power to forgive me and deliver me from sin.
- He wants me to keep my own heart tender and submitted to Him by repenting quickly and often.
I must remember that nothing has the power to take me out of God's hands (Ro 8:31-39), but I must also continue to choose to respect the addictive power of sin and flee from it (1Ti 6:11). I must choose to do the things necessary to keep my faith in Him burning brightly (Mt 25:1-13).
1. Have you ever been caught in a place where your head tells you you're forgiven but you can't seem to forgive yourself? Why do we sometimes have a hard time forgiving ourselves? How did you resolve this struggle?
2. What are some practical steps a person can take to get free from the cycle of addictive sin?