I found this wonderful resource from Wretched…..I will post the link at the bottom for anyone interested to check out and save…SO much good, sound biblical truth in this counsel. This is a question that begs a good solid biblical answer for so many. Blessedly, it is given here! And remember….always look objectively at the fruit…is there fruit of genuine repentance? If not, no genuine repentance has taken place. Just a kind of “paste Jesus onto my life to help relieve my guilt”, which eternally…does not.~AGM†
By Rick Thomas…..
Nearly every person who has come to me for help has asked essentially the same thing. Here are some of the variations of the question:
- How do I change?
- How does he/she change?
- How do I know he has changed?
- What does change look like?
No matter how you slice it, the question is about “change.” Somebody wants somebody to change. Either the person asking wants to change or he wants to know how someone else can change.
Here is another striking observation: repentance, the Bible word for change, is under-valued and under-utilized in Christian relationships. Though the most-oft-asked question is about change, the dynamics of change (repentance) are not regularly active in most Christian’s lives.
Test yourself to see if it is true for you. Let me ask you a few questions to see how you value and utilize repentance:
- When is the last time you asked someone to forgive you?
- How often do you ask your spouse to forgive you?
- How often do you ask God to forgive you?
- Do you regularly ask others to bring loving correction to your life?
- Are you more apt to let a person sin without calling them to repentance?
- Are you tempted to hide your sin from your friends?
How did you do? Are you regularly receiving and granting forgiveness? Are you a repenting friend? Do you live in a community of repenting friends? We can, you know?
Christ came to die because of sin. He gave His life so we could be freed from sin. Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t it great news, the best news? The power of the Gospel in our lives is limitless.
We have something the world cannot experience. They are frenetic in their pursuit to drown out the noise of their guilty consciences. Not the Christian. We have an other-worldly power working in our lives. Regular, daily cleansing is our gift because of the Gospel.
Liabilities of not changing
Are you enjoying these Gospel-riches? Though we were completely justified at salvation, the doctrine of progressive sanctification implies there is still more work to do. Progressive sanctification is the progressive removal of sin.
God gave us a way to remove sin, which is through repentance. The responsibility is on us to access this means of grace so sin can be incrementally removed from our lives.
If we do not regularly repent of our sin then we will be hindered in our transformation into Christlikeness. Un-removed sin creates collateral soul damage. Here is a sampling of what can happen inside of us if we are not regularly repenting:
- Spiritual immaturity
- Spiritual blindness
- Lack of discernment
- Quenching the Spirit
- Grieving of the Spirit
- Hardening of the conscience
- Dullness of our spirit
- Addiction to sin
- The increase of sin
These things will hinder our growth in God, our relationship with God, and our relationship with others.
How do I change?
A regular question I ask in counseling is, “Did you repent?” Sometimes I will follow-up with, “How did you do it?” You may be surprised at some of the answers I have received. More times than not, the answers are vague and outside biblical boundaries.
It is important that we all know how to repent. I think sometimes we can just say “repent,” but not carefully walk a person through the process of repenting. The following steps are what I would consider a biblical process of repentance.
As you read through this process, ask the Spirit of God to scrutinize your life to see if you are actively and regularly doing these things.
- Sin happens. Sin is the condition for repentance. It is important we know what sin is. This requires the ability to identify sin. If you do not have sound and comprehensive sin categories then you may not know you sinned and, thus, cannot repent of your sin.
- After you sin, you are declared guilty by the LORD. This is unalterable, undeniable, and unavoidable. We have no say in this matter. If we sin, we are guilty.
- Accompanying our guilt should be a feeling of conviction from the Spirit of God. This is a kindness from God. Conviction is one of His mercies to us.
- The Spirit of God not only brings clarity to the sinner by convicting him, but He begins to move the sinner’s heart away from his sin by reminding him of the Gospel–God’s solution for sin.
- The convicted man is humbled by the realities of the cross. He realizes what he did and how the LORD is merciful to take his sin and place it on His Son so the sinner can be permanently freed from the sin.
- Armed with a Gospel-centered awareness, the sinner confesses his sin to God.
- The LORD freely forgives and freely cleanses the man from his sin.
- The freed man is now restored and reconciled to God.
- If he has sinned against others, he will confess and repent to them so he can be restored and reconciled to others.
- Freely forgiven, he is now compelled to share with others what God has done for him.
- He may ask a few close friends to help him so he does not sin this way again. He shares his temptations and patterns because of his affection for God and his desire not to fall in the same sin again. He is appropriately suspicious of himself, therefore he solicits the help of friends to serve him in his walk with the Savior.
- Others become encouraged and emboldened to share their sins because they see the hope and the freedom this man has in the Gospel. They no longer want to hide, but desire to be just as free as their repentant friend.
These possibilities sound too wonderful to believe, but they are true. We can be free in Christ all the time. Sin is only a depressing thought to those who have no means to rid themselves from their sin.
Those who understand the Gospel are not overwhelmed or discouraged by their sin. They are ready and willing to attack their sin because they know the power that is found in the Gospel.
The power of the Gospel releases the Christian community to be a confessing and repenting community. Praise God for the Savior’s cross-work on our behalf.
The template for change
The goal of repentance is not vague or hard to discern. Simply put, the goal of repentance is to be like Christ. Jesus is the template or the bench mark to whom we compare ourselves.
If a person is repentant, then there is a conscious effort to continue to grow into Christlikeness. Repentance is the only vehicle that will get us to the goal.
If you want to know what Christ “looked” like so you can model Him, then let me point you to Galatians 5:22-23 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Paul gives us two clear templates of what Christ looked like and how we can imitate Him.
Repentance should not be a mystery. It should be obvious, objective, and measurable. All you or I need to do is hold up the picture of our lives to the picture of Christ. Then humbly move toward Him in authentic repentance.
Caveat – You are not looking for perfection. That is not possible. However, you can look for objective evidences that would signify change from your Adamic ways to Christlike ways. Minimally, you should see objective manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit, even if in embryonic form.
How do I know change is real?
Occasionally I am asked whether or not the repentance was real. This is usually when a spouse is wondering if the other spouse is genuine and sincere in their repentance. This is a huge question that requires biblical discernment.
Some of the elements you would observe in a repentant person are: humility, sincerity, transparency, and honesty. These character traits should accompany anyone who is sincerely seeking to live the Christ-life.
The foundation to true heart and life change is humility. A repentant person is a humble person. Humility is the prerequisite to receiving God’s empowering grace (James 4:6).
- Humility opens the door to empowering grace.
- Empowering grace comes from the Spirit.
- The Spirit not only enables, but He illuminates the mind.
- Now the repentant person has the power and the clarity to identify sin and to change.
This process outlined is essential if change is going to take place. The reason it is essential is because it represents the keys that allow the Christian to live a life of repentance and on-going repenting.
Our life is progressive in nature, which is what theologians have termed progressive sanctification. Our life should resemble the “stock market,” in that we should always be trending upward, though there will be dips all along the way.
How to measure objective change
With the Spirit of God engaging the humble heart and the Word of God actively and powerfully illuminating the mind, any person can change. Though there will be imperfections in exhibiting certain manifestations of the Christ life, there should be a few things that accompany anyone who has authentically repented.
The following, though it is not an exhaustive list, are some of the things I look for when addressing my own heart as well as those I serve:
Teachability: a humble person is a teachable person. He is a learner. He does not push back or resist your counsel, even if your counsel is not the best or even wrong.
The teachable person is not about proving his points any longer. He is more apt to listen than to disagree. Even when he feels compelled to disagree, there is discernible humility in his voice.
It is not about him, which is the exact opposite of what sin craves. Sin is all about “me,” but genuine repentance has a noticeable concern for God and others.
Open to correction: The repentant person is correctable. You can correct him. This is an amazing turn of events in his demeanor. The Gospel-centered person has nothing to protect and nothing to hide.
Personally, I do not enjoy correction, but when I am corrected and by the grace of God receive it, then I know the LORD is working in me. Correction cuts against the grain of my proud heart. You will quickly know if a person is genuinely repentant. If so, then he can be corrected.
Change happens: each new encounter with a repentant person, especially in a discipleship context, should be a “step up” from the previous encounter. I have used the analogy of walking up steps as a metaphor regarding what change should look like when caring for others.
True repentance should look like a person walking up steps. He is getting higher with each step. He is moving forward as each day passes. He is progressively changing. He is changing from week to week, even if only small ways.
He asks more questions and makes less statements: the repentant person is an inquiring person. He is anxious to receive from you rather than telling you why he has done this or that. The proud person talks a lot, making many statements.
The humble person will ask more questions and seek to learn because he wants to change and grow. He is no longer interested in presenting air-tight arguments. He has a growing disinterest in rationalizing or justifying his actions.
The light has been turned on by the LORD: I do not know how to explain this one except to say that a repentant person is being illuminated by the Spirit of God. He understands truth. He understands the Bible. The biblical concepts and truths you communicate to him make sense to him.
On a few occasions I have counseled people, who seem more like a concrete block in that they do not understand truth. Yes, I am aware I can be a poor communicator, but I am also aware the Spirit of God speaks clearly to spiritual people–in spite of me. If there is a lack of repentance in a person’s heart, then there can be dullness in his hearing.
A repentant person is not resistant: I have already mentioned this, but it needs its own category because it is such a big deal. The humble person does not push back from your counsel. Even if you are wrong or do not say it exactly right they are more self-suspicious than defiant. They are open, kind, receptive, respectful, and willing to learn.
They will give you the benefit of the doubt and be quick to see the log in their own eye, while paying less attention to the speck in your eye (Matthew 7:3-5). The bottom line for them is they want to change. They are less exacting and more repentant.
The changed heart
I have had the joy of counseling many repentant people through the years. They bring simultaneous joy and conviction to my soul. Joy, because I rejoice in God at His incredible grace in their lives. Conviction, because the Spirit often reminds me to be like them.
They are my heroes. I wish I could write their stories, to tell you what God has done in their lives. It is an incredible and rewarding job to be able to partner with these humble people. I am blessed to not only know them, but to watch God work so effectively in their lives. They inspire faith in me by their humble repentance and grace motivated determination to be like my Savior.
Call to action
- Are you teachable? Do you create a context of grace in your relationships that frees your friends to correct you?
- Are you changing? If so, how so?
- Are you characterized as a question ask-er, rather than a statement maker? If not, why not?
- In what specific way do you need to change after reading this article? Will you share that thing with a friend?