Do you remember the first time you were aware of your sin?
Around age four, I remember stealing a penny I found on the living room floor of my neighbor’s house. I thought about it for weeks. Should I return it and be honest about it? Or should I just casually drop it out of my pocket the next time I’m over there? The world would say, “It’s only a penny.” But for this little girl, my sin lay heavy on my heart. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how the story ends. I’m guessing I was never honest about it, because I am pretty sure I would remember that!
I also remember sitting in Sunday School in our tiny country church in Kentucky as an eight-year-old, listening to the teacher discuss sin, and thinking proudly to myself, I don’t do those things. I can’t even think of one sin!
Thomas Watson, an English Puritan pastor in the 17th century, wrote about the process of repentance. He believed there were six steps to take in understanding and dealing with our personal sin.
1. SIGHT OF SIN
First, we must see and acknowledge our sin as offensive to a holy God.
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:8, 10).
Charles Spurgeon said, “Do not give fair names to foul sins. Call them what you will, they will smell no sweeter.”
Let us ask God to reveal the horribleness of our sin to us that we may see it as He sees it.
2. SORROW OVER SIN
The question to ask ourselves is, “Are we sorrowful because sin is sinful or because sin is painful?” This is a step that can be easily counterfeited. Are we truly broken before God? Or is there some sort of ritual we are going through to deal with our sin in an insincere manner?
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
3. CONFESSION OF SIN
We must take ownership of our personal sin and the pain it has caused, both in generalities and in particulars. No blame shifting should be present. The Lord sees our hearts and we cannot hide behind any walls of deceit with Him. He desires true and sincere confession. We should leave nothing behind and leave nothing out.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Confession is a vital step in repentance.
4. SHAME OF SIN
Watson remarks, “Blushing is the color of virtue.”
David cried out in Psalm 69:19, “You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before You.”
David rightfully felt shame over his sin. He was also aware if its consequences.
Our sin makes us guilty. Our guilt is removed through Christ’s blood. When we consider the cost of the cross, all that Jesus suffered on our behalf, we feel the full weight of our shame. But thanks be to Him that we don’t have to stay under that burden. Christ willingly received our shame.
Spurgeon also said, “When you think of what you are, and despair; think also of what he is, and take heart.”
5. HATRED OF SIN
It’s been said, “Christ is never loved till sin is loathed.” When we get angry over our own personal sin, we are understanding God’s holiness.
Do we hate our sin? Do we take it that seriously?
6. TURNING FROM SIN
The things of Christ draw us away from sin. Repentance isn’t the last step, it’s the first! We then must determine to constantly turn away from it. Fight and flee!
“Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations” (Ezekiel 14:6). The warnings that God speaks through Ezekiel to His people are powerful, unrelenting, and even harsh at times. But the purpose and desire behind those warnings were for their repentance and restoration.
We also see that God does not delight in punishing His people.
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
If we find ourselves repenting of a sin, only to continue returning to it, one of the above steps is probably missing. We weren’t made to fight sin on our own. Let us look to the conquering Savior who emboldens us through His grace and mercy. He was triumphant over our sin! Now let us be!