Questions on Repentance

Yesterday I wrote Eleven Words on Repentance. Here are some questions I asked myself as I wrote the post.

Can I keep repenting for the same sin?
Yes. If Christ told Peter to forgive seven times seventy, then we can assume that God’s mercy is wider (Matthew 18:22).

What if I keep repenting, but do not see change in my life? 
There are several options here. One is that you are changing, but your perception is skewed because you are too close. Find someone who knows you well and will be honest with you. Ask them if they are seeing change. Many times we are hard on ourselves. An outsider can help us see that we are growing. Second, you may not be using the tools God has given you to overcome your sin. Are you just repenting and hoping change strikes you like a bolt from heaven? Or are you reading and memorizing Scripture, attending worship, spending time with godly men, working hard, praying, etc.? God works through means. Finally, it is possible you are not regenerate. One sign of a regenerate heart is not just the desire to repent and change, but the actual power to do so (I John 3:9). The good news is that Christ casts out no one who comes to him (John 6:37). Flee to Christ, trust in Him, and He will give you His Spirit so that you might begin overcoming sin.

How much fruit does true repentance bear? 
The short answer is some.  There is no growth chart to tell us how much fruit we should be bearing. But there should be signs of growth over a long period of time. I encourage people to look at large sections of time in their lives. It is hard to see growth in a week. It shouldn’t be hard to see it in a year. Also remember that God usually works on certain areas of our lives before moving on to other areas. For example, right now he might be working on anger in me. I fight anger. I memorize verses to kill anger. I repent of my anger. But after some years, by the Spirit, I begin to overcome anger. God then usually brings up another sin, such as bitterness. This can give the illusion of not growing.  But what has happened is you have moved from one sin, which you have under control, to another sin you do not.

Does my repentance need to be emotional? 
This is a tricky question. There can be a lot of tears spilled and no repentance. There can be no tears shed and a man be repentant. Repentance should involved the whole man, including his feelings. We should feel our sin. But not all of us express our feelings the same way. We even express our feelings differently at different stages of our lives. So yes it should involve our emotions, but we should not judge our repentance or anyone else’s on outward expression of those emotions.

How do I know I truly repented? 
Did you look to Jesus to take away your sins? Do you trust in Him and his work alone to remove your sins?  Good then you repented. Don’t ask questions like, “Did I really feel repentant?”  “Was I totally sincere?” In certain situations they might be helpful, but often they turn us inward in a way that is not healthy. Looking to Christ and the promises given in the Word are the keys.

Are there any keys to leading a life of fruit bearing repentance?
There are no magic bullets in the Christian life, but there are few things that can help.

First, realize that you are a much worse sinner than you think you are. Without a deep sense of our sinfulness repentance will be in short supply.

Second, realize that you are rightly condemned by God’s law outside of Christ. You cannot in any way earn even a sliver of your salvation. When God declares you “not righteous” he is being entirely just. It is not an unfair judgment.

Third, realize that God’s mercy shown to us in Christ is great. Jesus has saved us to the uttermost. Your sins, as great as they are, are overwhelmed by Christ’s blood. His mercy is free and the fountain does not run dry. This is a great spur for us to keep repenting and fleeing to the cross no matter how often or how grievous our sins.

Fourth, believe that because of Christ’s shed blood you are forgiven. Trust the promises given in God’s Word that tell us He forgives (Micah 7:19-20, Luke 24:47, Ephesians 1:7, and I John 1:8-9). You are really forgiven. It is not a hoax.

Fourth, long for and love God, Jesus, the Spirit, and holiness. These things must be treasures to us, not just people we “must” love or things we “must” do. Our affections must be fixed on God.  Too often we combat sin by talking about how ugly sin is. This can be helpful. But we also need to emphasize how glorious God is. We need to repent not just because we chose sin, but because we rejected the glory of God. When we choose sin we toss aside happiness, blessing, joy and life (Jeremiah 2:12-13).

Fifth, the Word must be a constant presence in your life. Memorize it. Read it. But most of all hear it preached. When we read God’s Word we see it through our own eyes. Preaching however forces us to look at the Word from a different angle. Therefore reading God’s Word is not enough.

Finally, spend more time on your own sins than you do on the sins of others. One of the surest signs someone is not leading a life of fruitful repentance is that they think much of the sins of others and little of their own sins.

Do you have other questions about repentance? Put them in the comments and I will try to reply.