Beloved Christian, is the following not a familiar path? You sin; guilt is incurred; you feel bad because of the guilt of sin; you confess your sin; you ask for forgiveness of your sin and are restored to both God and one another; and then you do what is right instead. In one-word summaries, the well-travelled path of every Christian is a path of Sin—Guilt—Remorse—Confession—Forgiveness—Obedience. Such is the path of true repentance, first experienced at our conversion in a full sense, and subsequently part of our daily walk of faith.
Due to the deceptive nature of sin and the influence of the world, we rarely follow this path through each step to the blessed end. We pretend to have found shortcuts—like forgiveness without confession, or confession without remorse, or forgiveness without obedience. Or we accept the detours of the world, believing they bring us to the same end, detours like ‘self-forgiveness’, false-guilt, manipulative remorse tactics, guilt-avoidance, sin-minimisation, superficial confession, incomplete obedience, and blame-shifting. This ought not so to be!
Thanks to the Scriptures, we are very well informed of this path in all its detail. Every Christian is experienced in this daily path from sin to obedience. Every Christian is, and ought to be, an expert on true repentance. Let’s clear this path of all worldly debris, and restore it again to a truly Biblical condition.
Here are brief, but important truths for every step on this repentance-path that every Christian travels every day.
You sin. You do something that the Lord has forbidden, or you fail to do something that the Lord has commanded. In thought, word, or deed, you come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
Your sin incurs guilt. This is not so much an act as it is an immediate result of your sin. Even if the sin was committed unintentionally (Lev 4:27), or even if the feeling of guilt is not yet present, the guilt is yours.
You feel remorse. Remorse is the feeling of distress because of the sense of guilt. We ought to feel guilty when we are guilty—that is true remorse (even Judas felt remorse for his guilt Matt 27:3). Remorse by itself is not repentance, but godly remorse will always produce full repentance (2 Cor 7:9).
You realise your guilt and confess your sin. Thanks to the Word of God informing our consciences (Rom 2:15), or perhaps thanks to the care from other Christians (James 5:19-20), we come to realise our guilt and confess our sin. To confess sin means to acknowledge the guilt incurred by the sinful act (Lev 5:5; Ps 32:5). Full confession will assert “It is sinful, and I did it. I am guilty of that sin and will testify to it. I deserve the full punishment and consequences that such sin deserves.”
You ask for forgiveness and are forgiven. Asking for forgiveness is necessary simply because there is no other alternative, besides condemnation, for sin. Though restitution or punishment for sinful deeds might be required by various laws, the guilt of a sinful act is not thereby removed. Guilt can only be removed through the cancellation of guilt by the offended party. Therefore a true request for forgiveness is always a plea for mercy (Ps 51:1). God, because of His great mercy, always forgives by removing our sin and making it truly un-rememberable (Is 43:25; Jer 31:34).
You obey. Forgiveness is such an excessive and underserved act, that it compels worship, the hatred of sin, and the love of righteousness (Ps 51:10). This is truly the final necessary step of true repentance. True repentance will stop the sin and replace it with righteousness (Ps 34:4; Is 1:16-17).
Throughout the Scriptures, God has affirmed the steps in the path of true repentance. Not every occurrence of repentance in the Bible has every detail explained, but every detail is always present. Read the following passages, and match them together to make you once again an expert on repentance: Judges 10:10-16; Psalm 32; Psalm 51; Acts 2:37-42; 2 Cor 7:8-13.
Sin—Guilt—Remorse—Confession—Forgiveness—Obedience. For every daily sin in deed, word, or thought, this ought to be the well-travelled path of every Christian.