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Posts tagged ‘true repentance’

“I’m Sorry” — It’s Just The First Step !

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Sometimes Words Are Not Enough

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I promise, I won’t do it again”, sobbed Cory, a nine year old who was on his way to his bedroom for the evening after hitting his little sister, again. As parents we’ve all been there. A ninth hour apology made to avoid the consequences of parental punishment.

 As gospel believing, grace-filled parents, what do we do? Do we forgive, forget and encourage little sister to forgive and reconcile with her brother? Do we believe Cory’s half-hearted apology mitigates the sin of what he’s done to his sister, especially since this isn’t the first time?

Or, are there important lessons Cory must learn in order for him to understand that hitting his sister is always unacceptable, even if he’s really mad or tired or hungry, even if she bugs him or takes his video game or sticks her tongue out at him?

As a parent, most of us would implement tough consequences the next time Cory lost control or hit his sister so that he starts to connect the dots – you reap what you sow – if you hit your sister, you lose certain privileges that you enjoy when you don’t retaliate or hit your sister.

 So then why are we so reluctant to embrace this same biblical principle of sowing and reaping when it comes to serious marital sins? Especially when the sins are repetitive and there is no clear evidence of repentance? Even when the one who sins cries again and again, “I’m sorry,” tears of sorrow do not necessarily indicate a sincere change of heart or habit.

Like nine year old Cory did, when someone sobs “I’m sorry” it’s more often due to the pain they’re in or the pain they fear rather than any genuine remorse for the pain they’ve caused another person.

After having said, “I’m sorry” often the destructive spouse believes he or she is now entitled to amnesty, forgiveness, and full restoration of marital privileges without ever having to make amends, suffer long-term consequences, or work hard to repair and rebuild trust. Sometimes we collude with such unrealistic and unbiblical thinking pressuring the injured spouse to forgive and reconcile.

But if she’s not yet ready, or refuses to grant amnesty, or restore full marital privileges until she sees evidence of repentance, we often start to label her as ungracious, ungodly, rebellious, and hard-hearted. Instead of being supported and validated for the pain she’s in, she now feels pressured, scolded, shamed or scared for her “unbiblical” stand or refusal to fully reconcile.

The Bible has some strong things to say about words that aren’t followed up with matching actions. For example Jeremiah warns the people of Israel not to trust in deceptive words that offered them cheap grace. He said to them, “You trust in deceptive words to no avail.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known and then come and stand before me in this house which is called by my name and say, ‘We are delivered – only to go on doing all these abominations?” (Jeremiah 7:8,10).

When someone says they’re sorry but they don’t back their words up with real and lasting changes in their behaviors, sorry becomes meaningless. It is not enough.  John the Baptist says it best when he challenged the religious talk of the Pharisees when he said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

“I’m sorry” is important, but it is only a first step. When Zacchaeus, the tax collector, repented of his love of money and extortion of his fellow Jews, he not only felt sorrow, his change of heart moved him into a critical change in behavior. Zacchaeus offered financial amends to the poor and made financial restitution to those he had harmed by his greed (Luke 19).

Often it takes time to see evidence of the fruits of repentance develop in a sorrowful heart. Like Joseph from the Old Testament did with his brothers, an injured spouse may extend forgiveness but still not be able or willing to offer trust or reconciliation to their spouse until they see evidence over time of changed actions and reactions, especially when tested. (See Genesis 42-46.)

In areas of repeated serious sin, instead of taking someone’s words at face value, let us encourage them to show their sorrow. It is in the showing that the relationship has the best chance of being restored and rebuilt. To pressure a wary spouse into premature reconciliation can be harmful to her, to her spouse, and to their marriage and family. We do not love well when we collude with someone’s self-deception that all is well when it is simply whitewash.

Do you listen when you apologize?

SOURCE:   Alasdair Groves/CCEF

Apologies require us to say something. It could be something as simple as “I’m sorry” or “I shouldn’t have done that to you. Will you forgive me?” All of this is as it should be. But sometimes even wise, appropriate words like these miss a crucial step in the process of reconciliation.

That crucial step is listening.

When you apologize, it’s as important to listen as it is to speak.

As a counselor, I have the privilege of witnessing people apologize to one another. It is a sweet mercy when the Holy Spirit burdens a person’s heart with the awareness of personal sin, and the person is moved to ask for forgiveness. The problem is that sometimes the apology comes out sounding like a monologue. There is acknowledgement of wrong, promise of better behavior in the future and lots of detail about what the offender has been learning about God, grace, being forgiven, etc.

In the right context, these are wonderful things to hear.

But when you do all the talking while apologizing to someone you’ve hurt, you run an extremely high chance of actually further wounding the person. You see, godly sorrow is not only aware that it has wronged someone, it also seeks to understand the specific, personal damage it has caused. The only way to do this is to ask how your sin has impacted the other person.

If you are in a situation where you need to seek someone’s forgiveness, allow me to make a few suggestions:

  1. Start by speaking briefly. Explain what you’re sorry for with all the clarity, detail and passion you can muster. Name your sins specifically. Avoid vague generalities.
  2. Then aim to listen for the last 90% of the conversation. Ask, “How has my sin impacted you?” It’s probably best to offer the chance to respond now or later because the person may need time to think. “You don’t have to say anything right now. I understand you might not be ready to share. I can wait until you’re ready.”
  3. Obviously, don’t force a response, but if the offended party is hesitant to respond, you can start with a couple guesses to get the ball rolling.1​“I would really like to understand what this has been like for you. I can only imagine that when I _______, you felt _______. Living with the experience of ______ must have been really ________. But I know that’s probably not the half of it. Maybe that’s not even in the ballpark. Would you help me understand how what I’ve done has impacted you so I can be truly sorry for the real effects of how I hurt you and learn to change?”
  4. When the one you’ve offended is ready to answer you honestly, your goal is to put yourself in this person’s shoes as you listen. You want to not only hear, but also be moved and grieved by the hurt the other has experienced.
  5. Close the loop (for now): apologize again, owning the specific damage as your fault. Express both thanks for the person’s honesty and sorrow for the hurt you’ve caused.“That makes sense. I can see why that would be really hard. I have never thought about it that way. I am so sorry for putting you in that position/putting you through that/doing something that made you feel _____, etc.”

Apologies are hard under the best of circumstances. What I’m suggesting makes them harder still.

Yet we must listen and be willing to hear how we have hurt another person. In order to do that without collapsing in despair or flying into a defensive rage, we must cling tenaciously to the forgiveness we have been granted from the One we have grieved most deeply. Only when we taste his mercy, despite how horribly our sin impacted him  on the cross, can we own the impact of our failure on others and drown our defensiveness and despair in the ocean of Jesus’ grace.

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1 If it is hard for you to imagine what the person may feel, ask a friend what it would be like to deal with the sins you’ve committed. At the very least, this will help prepare you for the emotional impact of hearing yourself as the bad guy in someone else’s story.

How do you know when someone is truly sorry?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.

Hosea 7:14

As biblical counselors, sometimes it’s hard to discern if someone is truly repentant.

Tears are often the language of the heart, but when one is crying in the counseling office, it’s important to hear what the person’s heart is really saying.  The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  As Christian counselors, it is crucial that we learn to distinguish between the two especially when we are doing couples work.

Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self. The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were. Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.

·         I can’t believe I did such a thing.

·         Why is this happening to me?

·         Please forgive me. – Implying, please don’t make me suffer the  consequences of my sin.

·         Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)

·         I’m so sorry (sad).

·         I’m a horrible person.

·         I wish I were dead.

·         I hate myself.

Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5).  After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide.

It is natural that we feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain. However, it’s crucial that we not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind that leads to biblical repentance, especially when we are working with both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.

Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

Below are eight things I have found that demonstrate those fruits of genuine repentance.

·         Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.

·         Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).

·         Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.

·         Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.

·         Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.

·         Makes amends for damages.

·         Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.

·         Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long term.

In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not their sin that destroys most relationships. All couples experience sin. The destruction comes when we refuse to acknowledge it. It is our blindness to it and our unwillingness to humble ourselves to get help, be accountable, and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.

I’m Sorry If, If, If…

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 127

If, If, If… 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…
Ephesians 4:32

The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt.

The most common way to do this is to say, “I’m sorry if I’ve done something to upset you.” The word if ruins this confession, because it implies that you do not know whether or not you did wrong. The message you are communicating is this: “Obviously you’re upset about something. I don’t know that I have done anything wrong, but just to get you off my back I’ll give you a token apology.”

Food for Thought

How often does if show up in your confessions?

A great way to ruin your engine on your car? Never, ever change the oil.

A sure-fire way to ruin your credit rating? Never, ever pay your bills on time.

What about ruining your reputation at work? Never, ever keep your appointments.

And the best way to ruin a confession? Each and every time, use the word “if.”

[Be mindful] of the power of this little two-letter word. Too many times, it leads to an empty confession. All the words may be right and proper (I’m sorry), but the heart is missing. And anything without a heart is usually dead, good for nothing.

The word “confess” means “to agree with” — you’re agreeing that you’ve done something wrong. If you’re not ready to agree, then don’t confess. Because that ruins everything.

True Repentance – 5 Ways To Know It

SOURCE:  Based on quotes of J. C. Ryle/Erik Kowalker

Repentance is a thorough change of person’s natural heart, upon the subject of sin. We are all born in sin. We naturally love sin. We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming.

There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride and foolishness. These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up of themselves, even when boys and girls are brought up alone. The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man.

Now when this heart of ours is changed by the Holy Spirit, when this natural love of sin is cast out, then takes place that change which the Word of God calls “repentance.” The person in whom the change is created is said to “repent.” They may be called, in one word, a repentant person.

But I dare not leave the subject here. It deserves a closer and more searching investigation. It is not safe to deal in general statements, when doctrines of this kind are handled. I will try to take repentance to pieces, and dissect and analyze it before your eyes. I will show you the parts and portions of which repentance is made up. I will endeavor to set before you something of the experience of every truly repentant person.

True Repentance Begins with a Knowledge of Sin

True repentance begins with a knowledge of sin. The eyes of the repentant person are opened. They see with dismay and confusion the length and breadth of God’s holy law, and the extent, the enormous extent, of their own transgressions. They discover, to their surprise, that in thinking themselves a “good sort of person,” and a person with a “good heart,” they have been under a huge delusion. They find out that, in reality, they are wicked, and guilty, and corrupt, and evil in God’s sight. Their pride breaks down. Their high thoughts melt away. They see that they are a great sinner. This is the first step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces Sorrow for Sin

True repentance goes on to work sorrow for sin. The heart of a repentant person is touched with deep remorse because of their past transgressions. They are cut to the heart to think that they have lived so madly and so wickedly. They mourn over time wasted, over talents misspent, over God dishonored, over their own soul being injured. The remembrance of these things is grievous to them. The burden of these things is sometimes almost intolerable. When a person sorrows like this, you have the second step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces Confession of Sin

True repentance proceeds to produce confession of sin. The tongue of a repentant person is loosed. They feel they must speak to that God against whom they have sinned. Something within them tells them they must cry to God, and pray to God, and talk with God, about the state of their own soul.They must pour out their heart, and acknowledge their iniquities, at the throne of grace. They are a heavy burden within them, and they can no longer keep silent. They can keep nothing back. They will not hide anything. They go before God, pleading nothing for themselves, and are willing to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before You—my iniquity is great. God be merciful to me, a sinner!” When a person goes thus to God in confession, you have the third step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces a Breaking Off From Sin

True repentance shows itself in a thorough breaking off from sin. The life of a repentant person is altered. The course of their daily conduct is entirely changed. A new King reigns within their heart. They put off the old man. What God commands they now desire to practice; and what God forbids they now desire to avoid. They strive in all ways to keep clear of sin, to fight with sin, to war with sin, to get the victory over sin. They cease to do evil. They learn to do well. They break off sharply from bad ways and bad companions. They labor, however feebly, to live a new life. When a person does this, you have the fourth step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces a Deep Hatred of Sin

True repentance shows itself by producing in the heart a settled habit of deep hatred of all sin. The mind of a repentant person becomes a mind habitually holy. They abhor that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. They delight in the law of God. They come short of their own desires not unfrequently. They find in themselves an evil principle warring against the spirit of God. They find themselves cold when they would be hot; backward when they would be forward; heavy when they would be lively in God’s service. They are deeply conscious of their own infirmities. They groan under a sense of indwelling corruption. But still, for all that, the general bias of their heart is towards God, and away from evil. They can say with David, “I count all Your precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Psalm. 119:128). When a person can say this, you have the fifth, or crowning step, of true repentance.

Summarizing the 5 Marks of Repentance

True repentance is never alone in the heart of any person. It always has a companion—a blessed companion. It is always accompanied by lively faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Wherever faith is, there is repentance; wherever repentance is, there is always faith. I do not decide which comes first—whether repentance comes before faith, or faith before repentance. But I am bold to say that the two graces are never found separate, one from the other. Just as you cannot have the sun without light, or ice without cold, or fire without heat, or water without moisture—you will never find true faith without true repentance, and you will never find true repentance without lively faith. The two things will always go side by side.

Editor’s Note:  John Charles Ryle [1816-1900] was a prolific writer, vigorous preacher and faithful pastor in England.

Reference: Old Paths, “Repentance”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999]

”I’ll Change, I Promise” – Six Signs of Real Repentance

SOURCE:  An Article by Dr. Bryce Klabunde

 Many changes come naturally as we mature. Sometimes, though, negative habits form deep ruts, and it seems we can’t change, no matter how much we want to. Friends urge us to alter course and warn us of dangers ahead if we don’t. We read in Scripture about God’s path of wisdom, and His Spirit awakens our spirit to a new vision of a better life in Christ. With tears of determination, we tell ourselves, our loved ones, and our Lord that things will be different. “I’ll change, I promise,” we say. And we really mean it. We feel a deep sense of sorrow for our sin, even disgust. However, as time passes, the pull of the rut overpowers our most sincere promises, and we fall back into old patterns.

Part of the problem may be our mistake in thinking that sorrow and confession are enough to produce change. Another part is the misunderstanding of the process of change—a process the Bible calls repentance.

 Is repentance the same as remorse?

According to the New Testament, there’s a difference between repentance and remorse. Judas “felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders” (Matthew 27:3). He even confessed his crime: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (v. 4). Judas had come face to face with the hideous beast of evil in his soul, and he shrank back in terror and shame. Tragically, instead of leading him to God and life, his guilt hounded him to the gates of death. Eventually, his shame turned to self-hatred, and it drove him to suicide.

The apostle Paul calls this “the sorrow of the world” because the world offers no hope for people racked with guilt (2 Corinthians 7:10b). But there is another sorrow that produces life, as Paul describes:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10a)

 The sorrow of an alcoholic, for example, can either drown him in crashing waves of self-pity . . . or carry him to the shores of a new life. The determining factor is not the sorrow itself but whether the sorrow brings the sinner to repentance.

 What Is Repentance?

Repentance is first a decision. The most common Greek word in the New Testament translated “repent” is metanoeo, which is based on the word for thoughts or intentions, nous (see Acts 8:22) and literally means to “change one’s mind.” Penitent people take a deep look inside and face the truth about themselves—how they’ve been excusing their sins and hurting others. They come to a decision point, or what Paul called, “the point of repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:9), in which they change their mind from pleasing the flesh to pleasing God, from trusting in self to trusting in a Savior.

This repentance decision may come at the moment of our salvation as we place our faith in Christ for the first time. It may also be a point of recommitment as we determine to follow Christ with our whole heart. In either case, it is the beginning point to a process of change.

Hand in hand with this decision is a second principle: turning. The Old Testament prophets preached a message of repentance using a special Hebrew word that means, “turn around, return.” The Lord urges His redeemed people to return to Him because He has forgiven their sins:

“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud, And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22)

 The Lord is asking His people to take a completely new direction in life. This implies two parts: turning away from sin and returning to the Lord. And it implies a relationship between us and God—much like the relationship between the prodigal son and his father in Jesus’ parable. After the son comes to his senses in the pigsty, he turns from his sin and returns to his father (see Luke 15:11-32).

 to The decision of repentance and the turning of repentance are demonstrated by the fruit of repentance—deeds that flow from the life of a changed person. The prophets described these deeds in practical terms: “Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice” (Hosea 12:6a). John the Baptizer specified the fruit of repentance this way:

“Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise.” And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:11b-14)

 Repentance, then, is not merely feeling sorry for sin. A person may feel deep remorse for his or her critical spirit, anger, or greed. A pastor caught in immorality may kneel before the congregation and weep bitterly over the condition of his soul. As important as it is to feel the weight of our sin, these emotions are not repentance. In fact, if we accept these tears as repentance, we can actually hinder the person from doing the really hard work of change.

With all this in mind, let’s draw up a definition: Repentance is the process of turning from our sinful way of life and turning to godliness. It is characterized by a change of thinking and a change of behavior.

The path of repentance often leads through dark periods of self-examination and painful surrendering of selfishness and pride. Repentance includes letting go of cherished sinful pleasures and being accountable to others who help us lift our wheels out of the rut as we plow a new course in life. It marks a renewed relationship with the Lord based on a revived belief that His way is truly best and His righteousness is life’s greatest treasure.

 What Are Practical Signs of Repentance?

How do you know if you’re on the path of repentance? What does the penitent life look like? How can you tell if someone you love is really changing? People who are serious about change tend to display similar behaviors that let you know they are on the right track. Here are a few signs you’ll find in a truly repentant person:

1. Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them in trouble. A house isn’t clean until you open every closet and sweep every corner. People who truly desire to be clean are completely honest about their lives. No more secrets.

2. Repentant people face the pain that their sin caused others. They invite the victims of their sin (anyone hurt by their actions) to express the intensity of emotions that they feel—anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment. Repentant people do not give excuses or shift blame. They made the choice to hurt others, and they must take full responsibility for their behavior.

3. Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt. They realize that they can never completely “pay off” the debt they owe their victims. Repentant people don’t pressure others to say, “I forgive you.” Forgiveness is a journey, and the other person needs time to deal with the hurt before they can forgive. All that penitent people can do is admit their indebtedness and humbly request the undeserved gift of forgiveness.

4. Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians. They gather a group of friends around themselves who hold them accountable to a plan for clean living. They invite the group to question them about their behaviors. And they follow the group’s recommendations regarding how to avoid temptation.

5. Repentant people accept their limitations. They realize that the consequences of their sin (including the distrust) will last a long time, perhaps the rest of their lives. They understand that they may never enjoy the same freedom that other people enjoy. Sex offenders or child molesters, for example, should never be alone with children. Alcoholics must abstain from drinking. Adulterers must put strict limitations on their time with members of the opposite sex. That’s the reality of their situation, and they willingly accept their boundaries.

6. Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them. We serve a merciful God who delights in giving second chances. God offers repentant people a restored relationship with Him and a new plan for life. Listen to Hosea’s promise to rebellious Israel:

Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. (Hosea 6:1-2, emphasis added)

 After healing comes living. Repentant people accept responsibility for past failures but do not drown themselves in guilt. They focus their attention on present responsibilities, which include accomplishing the daily tasks God has given them.

 One final thought. Repentance is not a solo effort. God doesn’t expect us to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Through His indwelling Spirit, God shapes and molds us to make us pure and blameless in Christ. Listen to Paul’s hopeful words: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). For many people, the first cry of repentance is, “I can’t change by myself; I need You, God.” Thankfully, those are the sweetest words to God’s ear.

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