Steps in Repentance

“And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (Acts 19:19, NASB95)

We all sin, there is no doubt about it.  We fail, we fall short, we intentionally deviate from God’s word, and we seek to serve ourselves and not love God and others.  In scripture there is a clear answer for what we should do after we have sinned – we should confess our sin (which is to say the same thing that God says about our sin), and then we are called to repent of our sins. One of the most common struggles and questions that arises in our Christian walk is: what does it look like to repent?

For each situation, that answer will be very different, and will usually require more than a quick and easy surface solution.  For example, for the man who is looking at pornography, the true answer is not a simple move of the computer into the living room or installing some monitoring software; or for the wife who is bitter toward a husband for making mean comments, they can’t just say a nice thing once a week and it’ll all be better; or for the child who lied to his parents, it can’t be an empty promise to do better next time.  Repentance has to be a much more purposeful endeavor, and it has to ultimately get to a heart change.

Practical Change

In our passage there was really clear examples of what it looked like for these folks to repent of their sins.  They burned their magic books.  Those books could have got them a lot of money.  Those books could have been something they fell back on one day.  They chose however to completely repent.  And for that there was a marked change. So, in your particular battle with sin, I would encourage you to make your repentance about taking practical, tangible and measurable steps of growth and change.  If,  for example you are struggling with anger, write down three to five ways this week that someone can easily look at and confirm that this is something that you have changed. Make sure there is little wiggle room.  Much of the Christian life is “squishy” – find someone to keep you accountable and help you see if you are meeting your goals.

Chop at the Root

Again, going back to our passage, those folks were completely getting rid of that life.  They would completely change. In order to actually repent of your sin you will not only need to go for the mere actions that you are doing, but go for the heart issues that are motivating this behavior.  A helpful metaphor is to think about a tree.  You might be able to pick apples off of a tree, but until you cut down the tree and uproot it, apples will just keep coming. So, repentance needs to focus not only on what you are doing, but your heart issues as well. For those in Acts 19, by burning those books, they showed that they were going to have a whole heart change.

Earthly Sorrow verses Godly Sorrow

Many times when we sin there are consequences attached to it.  Our natural desire is to try to get out of these and seek to blame and explain. This is called earthly sorrow.  Godly sorry is not as concerned about consequences as much as it is about making things right with the person that has been sinned against.  So, in your repentance, don’t try to get out of consequences, seek to see how you can make things right.

This week, when you are wrestling with your own sin, seek to put these items into practice and you will see the difference it will make!

Joshua M. Greiner
Josh has been on staff with Faith since 2010. He graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Political Science (2008) and from Faith Bible Seminary with a MDiv (2013), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a ThM in Biblical Counseling (2017) and is pursuing a PhD in Counseling from SBTS as well. He serves as the Pastor of Faith West Ministries, the Chaplin of the West Lafayette Fire Department, an instructor with Faith Bible Seminary, and a Fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He is married to his wife Shana, and they have four children together.