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, 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 are four common threads 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 that 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 not to 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 won’t heal correctly over time, the same is true 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 I had harmed in the eyes 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).
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 rescue you from your brokenness and restore what was broken. True repentance cannot be found apart from Christ.
I hope to see you on the path with me. I’m certainly not done walking it. I’m just 669 days into my journey of repentance.
So let’s press on together.