(Information & Edification Series – Batch 8)
Dear Christian, you messed up somewhere along the line (as all Christians do from time to time) and you’ve told God you’re sorry BUT HAVE YOU REPENTED?
I know that you are thinking, what are you getting at? Doesn’t repentance mean that one tells God that they’re sorry for what they’ve done and ask him for forgiveness?
Well, the answer is yes but also no.
Repentance, genuine repentance is more than that. I have dealt with this issue in detail in Article 11 under the ‘Broken Daughters’ page, entitled: ‘WHAT IS REPENTANCE?’ However, I feel the need to mention the issue briefly again here.
As Christians, when the Lord gives conviction, in his mercy, it is our place to repent. When it comes to what we have done wrong though, genuine repentance does not seek to MINIMIZE it, FLY PAST it, EXCUSE it, JUSTIFY it, PRETEND WE DID NOT DO WRONG, FLIP IT SO WE CAN FOCUS ON SOMEBODY ELSE’S SIN INSTEAD OF OUR OWN or to PULL EVERYBODY ELSE OR WHOEVER WE CAN FIND, INTO it, on the basis that all have sinned or others have sinned as well.
No. The genuinely repentant person sees HIMSELF ALONE and the wickedness of what HE ALONE has done and how HE ALONE is guilty before God, as an individual OR ELSE IT IS NOT REPENTANCE!
I cannot stress this enough. In the room of repentance (so-to-speak), it is the sinning person and his God ALONE in that space, nobody else.
The genuinely repentant person spends time grieving in godly sorrow over what HE has done and that HE wronged God. He sees nobody else but HIMSELF, in that moment, as guilty before God, undeserving of his mercy and his forgiveness and wretched, in light of the ugliness of what HE has done.
Genuine repentance gives no thought to what others have done or how they too may have messed up. No. The genuinely repentant Christian is filled with remorse for how HE ALONE has wronged God, how HE ALONE is deserving of God’s judgment and how HE ALONE needs to get things right with God.
Others may have done wrong yes but the genuinely repentant Christian who has sinned, does not have this as his main concern, nor does he spend time focusing on this, UNTIL HE HIMSELF has gotten things right with God personally.
In humility, the genuinely repentant Christian comes before God (because God invites the sinner, including the sinning Christian to come) and he confesses SPECIFICALLY what HE ALONE has done (He does not seek to generalize it) and takes FULL RESPONSIBILITY for it (He does not seek to proffer excuses for it or to blame others for it or include them as also being liable for it because he wants company in the guilt that he feels. No!).
He acknowledges that HE is without excuse, that HE chose, of his own volition, to do this wicked thing, that it is indeed wicked and that it reveals the wickedness of his own heart. Having done that and spent quality time in shame and sorrow reflecting on HIS SIN (not anybody else’s), in that frame of mind, he then asks God to forgive HIM.
The question remains therefore, if you are a Christian that has messed up (as we all do from time to time), although you may have asked God for forgiveness (because your conscience bothers you and God has convicted you of your sin), have you yet REPENTED?
I ask this question because it is so easy to tell ourselves that we have repented, that we are good before God, when we have not. In our pride, it is easy to mutter some prayers, to look for company in our sin and to prefer to generalize our sins before God because we don’t like how being genuinely repentant makes us feel.
Yet, there is no getting away from it. To be genuinely repentant before God, we MUST put away our pride, we MUST put away any air of self-righteousness that we may have, we MUST humble ourselves and come down from that lofty place of self-piousness that we have elevated ourselves to, we MUST admit the truth and we MUST bear the burden ALONE, of what WE have done, by ourselves.
We cannot seek to include others. There is a saying, that misery loves company and when it comes to the issue of repentance, some people love to pull other people into their mess.
This is exactly what Adam tried to do when God held him to account for his sin. He tried to pull Eve into it as well and to pass the blame off on her. Eve had sinned yes but God was focusing on Adam when he confronted him about his sin. Instead of being introspective, humbling himself, being honest and confessing his sin which was without excuse, Adam instead sought to escape it by projecting the blame unto Eve and in a subtle way, seemingly, even God, given that it was God that had presented Eve to him to be his wife in the first place.
That is the thing about false repentance. Insincere or false repentance always seeks to find an escape route, to dismiss one’s wrong, to project the blame, to excuse one’s self and not to be held to account for what one has done. This is the exact opposite of the fruit that genuine repentance bears.
In Genesis 3:11, God asked Adam, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Instead of owning up to his disobedience and admitting that he had, Adam instead sought to point a finger at Eve and at God, so as to evade responsibility. He replied, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (vs. 12).
Adam sought to hide behind Eve, instead of accepting full responsibility for what HE had done and similarly today, some Christians try to hide their wrong by passing the blame entirely over to others or by pulling other people and even an entire congregational group or assembly, into their mess. Instead of saying, “Lord I have sinned” therefore, they prefer to hide behind someone or in a group of people and say, “Lord, your Word says that ALL have sinned and that if any of us say we have not sinned, then we make you a liar.”
The Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked and it is true. If we are not careful, instead of genuinely repenting for what we have done, we may try to use scripture skilfully, to excuse ourselves and to pull other people into our mess. Instead of repenting for what we have done therefore, as individuals, when we chose to sin, we prefer to say, “Lord, all of us are guilty. All of us have sinned. Forgive us.”
This may seem noble on the surface but really and truly, discernment reveals that it is nothing but an attempt to get ourselves off. We delight in using “us” and “we” because we wish to avoid admitting to “I” and “me”. We are uncomfortable with the conviction that we feel personally and so, instead of going before God as an individual, confessing specifically what we have done, we hide behind verses that talk about how “all” have sinned and ask God to forgive “us” as a group. For, this seems more palatable to our pride.
In short, instead of genuinely repenting, we have sought to hide behind people or in a group of people because the idea that all have sinned makes us feel better about ourselves and the sins that we have committed by ourselves, as individuals.
Notably, when the Prodigal son returned to his Father in the Bible, he said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” (Luke 15:21). He saw his wretchedness, understood that he was undeserving, did not fish for any excuse and did not seek company for his sin. It was him before his Father, alone, nobody else. Others may have done wrong, like his brother for example but in that moment, he was dealing with the weight of his sin, alone.
The same is true of the Publican. When praying to God, the Word of God says, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13).
The Publican saw no one else but himself and his sinful condition before God, although there was another man in the temple with him. He came in a posture of humility, overwhelmed with sorrow for it, admitted that he was a sinner and therefore at the complete mercy of God. The Pharisee next to him was also a sinner and a great one at that but he was not the Publican’s focus at all. Unlike the Pharisee who was so aware that the Publican was standing next to him, that he mentioned him disdainfully in his prayer to try to score points with God, the Publican was focused on the sins he had committed against God, reaching out to him, the only one that could provide a pardon and release him in his mercy, from the weight of his guilt.
When we have sinned and we KNOW it, seeking to pass the blame unto other people or to bring them up before God as greater sinners than ourselves or to hide behind people or a group of people is not genuine repentance. Of course, there is a time and place for corporate repentance but there are things that we have done as individuals, where we need to get alone with God and be honest with him about it, looking for no excuse and for no company. Genuine repentance does not say, “I have sinned” and then race to see how quickly it can accuse everybody else of being guilty of the same thing or worse. No!
Also, as mentioned before, it is not sufficient to do wrong and then generalize it in our prayer. This is our way again, of trying not to own up to what we have done. When we know what we have done (because God convicts us of it), we ought not to go to him and say, “Lord, wherever I have sinned, please forgive me.” No. We know where we have sinned so we need to tell God EXACTLY what we have done. We need to NAME THE SIN that we have committed or the SINS (if plural). After we have repented SPECIFICALLY for those sins that we KNOW we have done, if we are not sure if there are others, we can then generalize to ask God for forgiveness for any other sins that we may have committed and not realized it or that we forgot about.
Generalisation should therefore be used as a SUMMARY at the end of our prayer, to encompass anything we may have forgotten to include specifically or not realized, not as the SUBSTANCE of our prayer.
(Written on 13th January, 2023)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying or you want to learn more about what repentance really is, you may be interested in reading the following:
- Note 11- ‘What Is Repentance?’
- Note 12 – ‘After Repentance – Deliverance From Guilt And Shame’
- Note 13 – ‘Backslider, Repent!‘
- Note 22 – ‘After Repentance, Must You Wear A Perpetual Badge Of Shame?’
- Note 28 – ‘It’s Not A Big Deal…Or Is It?’
Also, under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters’ page:
- Note 134 – ‘So You Have A Prayer Life – How Is Your Repentant Life?’