recovery in Christ when life is broken

Four Threads of True Repentance

On January 19, 2015, I found myself sitting on an airplane finally ready to confess my sin. For 7 years, I had been stuck in the world of gambling. Worse still yet, I had been stealing money from my company in order to help fund my destructive behavior. Seemingly, the longer I hid my sin, the more I felt like I was dying on the inside.

It was on that plane ride home I knew it was time to repent. I had been a believer in Christ for a long time, but I had clearly lost my way. By God’s grace, I began the path of repentance that day. And I have been walking that way ever since. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been beautiful and freeing.

I call repentance a ‘path’ because it’s not just a single act in a moment of time, but rather it is a new way to live the rest of your life. There can be a lot involved with repentance. It looks different for each person, struggle, and situation. But I do believe there is a common thread of behavior found in truly repentant souls.

 

Thread #1: Confession of Sin to Another Human Being

I once thought confession was punishment, something meant to embarrass me in front of other people. But after struggling against my sin for almost a decade, unable to defeat it on my own in silent isolation, I learned confession was not punishment. 

Confession is a gift. Confession is the only way out from the confinement of our sin.

If we are followers of Christ, we are already forgiven for our sin. But sin can still control us, which is why we must confess it to another human being. We confess to one another not to embarrass ourselves, but so that we may be healed (James 5:16). It’s the first step to get help. It’s the first step of repentance.

 

Thread #2: Follow Christ Fully

The goal of repentance is to not just stop sinning. Don’t get me wrong. We are to rid ourselves of sin and flee lusts (Romans 8:13, 2 Timothy 2:22).  

But the real goal of repentance is to begin following Christ fully. We do this by reading his words in the Bible. We find a church and get connected to other believers. We look for ways to serve others.

Following Christ fully leads us to a life filled with faith, love, righteousness, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11). That’s a full life. And even when we mess up (which we still will), we go back and confess quickly.

 

Thread #3: Seek Forgiveness and Make Amends

I have a friend that is an aspiring theologian. We once lamented there was no such doctrine in Christianity as “unsin.” But alas, you simply can’t take back something you’ve done wrong. You can’t undo the pain caused. Just as physical wounds must be well treated or else they don’t heal correctly over time, so too for pain caused by our sin. We must faithfully deal with (or treat) the wounds our sin has caused.

We do this by seeking forgiveness and making amends for our sin.

So how did I faithfully deal with my sin? I looked people in the eyes whom I harmed and asked for forgiveness. I paid back the money I stole. To this day, I try to honor their grace toward me and Christ’s grace to me by living in a manner worthy of how I have been loved and forgiven.

You see time does not heal all wounds. But, time plus obedience and faithfulness can heal wounds.

 

Thread #4: Boldly Testifying to Christ’s Grace

Ultimately, those who have experienced the grace of Christ in all its fullness cannot help but tell others. They must share. They cannot help but scream Christ’s love from the rooftops.

Repentant souls go and strengthen their brothers and sisters (Luke 22:32). They teach other sinners about the grace of God (Psalm 51:13). They use every opportunity to remind others of their weakness because it points to the strength of their Savior (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

Conclusion

If you are a follower of Christ, be comforted in knowing that this path of repentance has been walked by countless others. It’s not always easy, but it is beautiful and freeing.

If you’re not a follower of Christ, I encourage you today to take the ultimate step of faith (and repentance) by trusting Him and His provision for your sin on the cross. Only He can redeem and reconcile your past. Only He can resurrect that which sin has killed in your life. True repentance cannot be found apart from Christ.

I hope to see you on the path with me. I’m for sure not done walking it. I’m just 669 days into my journey of repentance.

So let’s press on together.

-Jeff P. 

How To Make Amends With Someone Who Is Dead Or Unavailable

 

Making amends is an important part of recovery and God's peace-making process. It involves engaging those you have hurt to do your part to repair the damage of your sin. A Biblical amends makes no excuse for your sin and carries no expectation of receiving any good in return from those you have hurt. 

But what do you do when a face-to-face amends meeting is not possible or may cause more harm than good? Consider writing a letter.

Letters can be useful tools when making amends. Letters organize your thoughts before a face-to-face amends meeting. Using a letter can be a safe way to contact someone if you are unsure of his or her availability, or if a meeting could potentially cause greater damage. When someone is dead, unavailable or godly counsel advises against an amends meeting, an amends letter can be effective tool for healing. Read the example below of an amends letter from a dad to his child.

 

Dear David,

This is your dad. Until recently, I would not acknowledge that I had lost a child. But today, I need to be honest. My sin contributed to the loss of your life. When your mother told me she was pregnant, we were starting college. We were not married. We were terrified. I was selfish. I did not want to give up my life for anyone. I told her, “I will support your decision but I cannot be a dad now.” Then, I stopped talking to her. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to be alone at that time. A week later, she told me that our problem was taken care of—she had aborted you. Initially, I felt relief but then I could not forget you. Relief was replaced by guilt, then shame, then emptiness. Soon our relationship ended. I realize now you were not the problem to be taken care of—you were our child who we did not care for. My sin and selfish plans for life were my real problems. I was supposed to protect and provide for you. It was my job to care and be a voice for you. But, I loved me more than you, God or your mom. I was wrong. Over time, my emptiness grew. I tried to fill the void with everything until I finally broke. That’s when our Heavenly Father showed up to take care of my problem. He showed me that he loved me despite my sin. His Son laid down his life to pay for the sin that wrecked my life and yours. When I accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, I accepted God’s forgiveness for my role in your death and God began to heal me. I wish I could say this to you face–to–face, but a letter is the best I can do. Will you forgive me too? I cannot repay you but I can begin to honor your life. Until now, you have not had a name, a dad, or anyone other than God to love you and say that you matter. But, today I am naming you David. It means “beloved.” I will not be silent about you anymore, David. Your dad will tell the story of your short life, my sin, and God’s grace. I pray that God uses your life to protect others, to offer hope, to bring healing and to reveal his love and mercy. Your life matters. I love you. You will always be my son.

Love, Dad

 

Romans 8:1-4, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

Romans 13:8, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."

 

If you would like more examples of how making a Biblical amends can change your life, watch Melody's story or watch re:generation's Step 9 teaching.

 

recovery in Christ when life is broken.