How To Walk The Path Of Repentance

Matt Mylin   -  

For many years of my Christian life, I misunderstood the word repentance.

I thought it meant to feel remorseful about something wrong I had done because I should have known better. I’d feel terrible about it and promised myself I would try harder the next time. I assumed repentance meant feeling bad.

However, repentance is not a feeling. It’s an action in response to the good news of Jesus (here’s how the message of the cross reveals God’s wisdom and resurrection power).

C.S. Lewis writes, “Repentance is unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years.”

For followers of Jesus, it is recognizing your human selfish ways, turning from them, and instead following the way of Jesus.

Human instinct is self-centeredness. This means we will not naturally learn to obey what Jesus taught without dealing with our self-centered nature.

Walking in repentance is a powerful, beautiful way to work out your salvation.

For me, it’s an ongoing decision not to make choices based on my human instincts because my desires will change like the wind. Instead, I want to rely on the Holy Spirit to help me practice what Jesus taught.

Simple, but not easy.

Here are a few thoughts on repentance:

1) Repentance can feel like undergoing a kind of death to part of yourself.

“Repentance,” C. S. Lewis writes. “Means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.”

The question every follower of Jesus needs to ask themselves regularly is this:

What part of my self needs to be denied?

The question above is not a natural question to answer. If you’re anything like me, I’m thinking about what part of my life needs comfort.

2) Unlearn self-centeredness by learning to practice what Jesus taught.

A good starting point is recognizing natural human instincts do not automatically lead you to be more like Jesus. I need to know the difference between self and Scripture in every area of my life.

What does self tell me to do?

What does Scripture teach me to do?

The more you read Scripture, the more you’ll see that the difference will be clear.

Human desires don’t naturally align with Jesus’s teachings.

It’s unnatural to love your enemies.

It’s unnatural to guard yourself against temptation.

It’s unnatural to give money generously to people in need.

Practicing what Jesus taught has a cost of ignoring your human instincts and desires and submitting to his instructions. If you’re waiting to feel like practicing what Jesus taught, the feelings may never come. And if they do, they likely won’t last.

3) Repentance is the pathway to walk toward the direction of returning to him.

Do you want to be reconciled to God?

God will never force, coerce, or demand you to come to him. He has made an offer and has given an invitation for every person to accept or reject.

It’s an open invitation. God invites you to come to him as you are, in a humble state of submission, because you love him.

It’s a willing submission. It’s a call to lay down your human instincts of autonomy and bring your life under the authority of God’s Word.

It’s learned humility. God gives grace to the humble. I need God’s grace, so I want to learn how to humble myself (check out what it means to choose humility like Jesus).

4) Repentance leads to gratitude that your debt of sin has been paid in full.

Some people think of the penalty of sin as punishment. However, a better way to think of it is as a debt.

We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness and holiness. Think of your sin as an outstanding debt so great that no human would have the resources to pay it.

A hole so deep you could never crawl out on your own.

A canyon so wide you could never jump to the other side.

The human condition means you need someone perfect in every way to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Only one person who knew no sin could pay it by becoming sin so that we could be forgiven and free.

To be reconciled to God, sin must be forgiven. Forgiveness is freely given to everyone, but it cost Jesus everything.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).