Sanctuary for the Abused
Thursday, October 12, 2017
"I'll Change, I Promise": 6 Signs of Real Repentance
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 about God's path of wisdom, and His Spirit awakens our spirit to a new vision of a better life. 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.
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 God on a revived belief that His way is truly best and His righteousness is life's greatest treasure.
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.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.
People who truly desire to be clean are completely honest about their lives. They don't ignore, evade or duck questions. 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 people. 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 and sex addicts must put strict limitations on their time with members of the opposite sex and account to their partners.
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.
One final thought. Repentance is not a solo effort. God doesn't expect us to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. 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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