Repentance -What does look like?

RepentanceRepentance is the backbone of the Christian life. Without repentance salvation would not seem so important to us.

What is the process of repentance?

The process of repentance is misunderstood by most believers today.

According to Steve Gallagher:

“spiritual repentance is an experience whereby a person’s will is altered for the express purpose of bringing it into line with God’s will.”

Repentance is a change in our very will, not just a change in our opinion about whether we have sinned or not.

Repentance is a transformation that occurs in our hearts to bring us in line with the will of God. It is a process that can only be accomplished through the power of the Lord.

Every process must have a starting point.

In repentance a person must come to the conclusion that their ways are not God’s ways and are therefore wrong for repentance to begin.

There must be a need in order for something to come about.

This involves recognition that the problem is our self will. We have placed our own selfish desires upon the throne of our lives which drive us to sin over and over again.

One of the key pieces of the process of repentance involves “having one’s will altered to bring it into subjection and consecration to the will of God.”

Repentance is the process where we change from doing our own fleshly will to doing the will of God.

What does this process look like? How do we get from here to there?

The beatitudes provide an outline for the process of repentance.

They take us from the recognition of the need to the transformation of the process of repentance to showing us the fruit of true repentance.

In Matthew 5:3 we read

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This describes the condition of a person’s heart that has come to the point where they recognize their need for God’s intervention in their life.

When we understand who Christ really is we are humbled. We see that we are powerless over our own sin.

The harder we try to overcome sin on our own the stronger sin seems to get. From this place of lowliness we can look up and see that there is only one way out.

That way is through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. To be poor in spirit means to recognize that we have no ability to overcome sin apart from God’s help.

This is the first step in repentance.

To recognize we need God, because we are helpless without Him. From this place we can begin to move towards freedom.

The next step is to mourn. Matthew 5:4 says

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

This is not to mourn about the loss of a loved one or some thing that we have misplaced.

This is a deep sorrow over how we have disobeyed, offended and hurt the Lord through our sin.

We mourn what our sin has done to God. This is true godly sorrow over our sin.

This begins the process of changing our heart.

At this point we begin to hate our sin because it is what has kept us from true intimate fellowship with the Lord.

We can look to 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 to understand what godly sorrow and repentance is. The sorrow is not over what we have lost or how it has affected us.

Godly sorrow is about how we understand that our sin has effected the Lord. We see what our sin has done to our families, our church, and our community. We have true sorrow over the effects of our sin on others, not on us.

We are desperate for a change. It’s only after we truly hate our sin that we can overcome it.

The problem with trying to do things on our is that we never really get to the point where we hate our sin. We still want the pleasure of our sin more than we want to give it up.

The change happens in or heart through the work of the Holy Spirit. He helps us to see things as God does.

The next step is meekness. Matthew 5:5 says

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Meekness is “the willing subjection one person’s will to the will of another.”

In this step we conquer our will.

We voluntarily submit our will to God’s will.

Jesus provides us with the best example of what it means to be meek. In John 5:30 he says “…I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus spent His entire life here on earth in subjection to the Father’s will. Jesus had a big advantage. He was not born with indwelling sin. He was perfect in every way.

The only way we can experience this meekness is by the breaking of our will. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes us through the process of surrendering everything that we are.

We must recognize that we are not in control of our lives, the Lord is. From this place we can have freedom.

We stop doing it our way. We see that only by doing what God says in His word can we find victory.

Victory is not in our strength, but in reliance on the Lord to deliver us in the times of temptation.

From this place of meekness we have a natural thirst. Matthew 5:6 says

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

When we learn to live under the watchful eyes of the Lord we desire to please Him. We search out righteousness. This longing creates a hatred for sin in us which leads to a desire to get rid of all the idols in our life.

As this desire grows we can lay down our desires, lusts and cravings that we have sought after our entire lives.

When we truly hate the sin it no longer has power over us. We can then fill that hole left by our sin with a truly intimate relationship with the Lord God.

We will long for that intimacy more than we ever longed for our sin.

The next three beatitudes describe the fruit of repentance, Matthew 5:7-9 says

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Our lives will be marked by mercy, purity and peace.

As our hard hearts are crushed mercy takes the place of selfishness.

We begin to seek the good of others instead of seeking self gratification.

The peace of Jesus Christ fills our hearts because He is at the center of all that we do.

True repentance replaces a lonely self focused life that leads to death, with an others focused, life centered on intimacy with the Lord that leads to peace and life forever.


The Grace of Repentance by Sinclair B. Ferguson

The Walk of Repentance by Steve Gallagher