As Christians, we all hope to move through life without error or sin.
We try to follow the word as written in the Bible while extending love to those around us and conducting ourselves in a Christ-like manner at all times.
However, for most people, this simply is not a realistic expectation, although it is a noble ideal. After all, as Romans 3:23 explains, ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’
The most important thing, says 1 John 1:9, is that ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
Based on the verses above, it is clear that remaining free from all sin from birth until death is not a requirement for being a good Christian.
Instead, the most crucial thing any Christian can learn is how to repent.
On the surface, this may sound easy: ‘So, all I have to do is say sorry?’ Well, in a sense, yes – but it’s not quite that simple.
True and earnest repentance often takes a lot of bravery, emotional honesty, and self-reflection. It also involves confession and genuine efforts to do better in the future.
This article is a guide to Christian repentance that will help you to make peace with yourself and others on your journey to salvation.
How To Repent?
1. Admit Your Sin To Yourself
The first step to repenting for your sins is to admit to yourself that you have sinned in the first place. This might sound like an easy and obvious step, but it’s typically the most difficult.
After all, it is uncomfortable to admit wrongdoing, even to oneself, because it often comes with painful emotions such as guilt, shame, sorrow, and even fear.
Despite the discomfort, you need to admit that you have sinned so that you can proceed with the necessary process of repentance.
Remember, it is not the total absence of sin that God values so much as the ability to recognize sin in the fallibility of human nature and repent for it.
Therefore, your sin should not frighten you, but inspire deliberate and thoughtful change.
2. Feel Remorse
Once you have admitted that your actions constitute sin, it is important to make space for the emotions that come with this realization.
Be prepared for difficult feelings to arise. You might feel anger towards yourself for having done wrong. You will probably feel some level of guilt, and maybe even shame.
Sadness, disappointment, and anxiety are all common emotions after admitting to sin, and they are all normal responses.
Some individuals, especially if they have not had cause to repent previously, might feel something akin to grief for the person they feel they were before they committed a transgression.
The good news is that your ‘former’ self is not gone.
You are simply growing through a difficult experience, and part of that growth is allowing yourself to fully feel the remorse that comes with acknowledging wrongdoing.
So, take the time you need to feel your emotions without dwelling on them excessively.
3. Resolve To Change
Feeling remorse for your sin should be a catalyst for change. Remorse and guilt are indicators that you have done something that does not align with your values.
The way to proceed from here is to make a firm resolution to change. This doesn’t need to involve any grand declarations, just a personal commitment not to repeat the sin and to do better.
4. Confess To Someone
In order to obtain forgiveness from God, it is wise (and, according to some denominations of Christianity, necessary) to confess to your sin.
Depending on your denomination, the person to whom you choose to confess may be a Priest.
Alternatively, you might confess to another person in your Church who you see as a mentor, or simply another trusted person on the Christian path.
When confessing, you should outline your sin in as much detail as is necessary, explain how and why this action was wrong, and acknowledge what you should have done differently.
Voice your commitment not to repeat this sin, and ask God, though the other person, for forgiveness.
5. Repair The Damage
If it is possible or appropriate to do so, the next step after confessing your sin is to try and right any wrongs caused by your actions.
For example, if you stole something, you should either return or replace the stolen item and both confess and apologize to the person from whom you stole.
If you spoke unkindly or unjustly to someone in your life, seek them out and apologize for your hurtful words, offering words of love instead.
6. Extend Forgiveness
Through repenting, you are essentially asking for forgiveness from God. In order to not be a hypocrite in this request, it is important to learn forgiveness for yourself.
When we talk about extending forgiveness in this context, we are not only talking about forgiving those who have wronged us, but also ourselves.
Of course, forgiveness comes first and foremost from God, but it is also important not to cling to our wrongdoings after we have confessed and done what we can to rectify the damage.
In fact, once you have asked and received forgiveness from God, continuing to self-flagellate emotionally might be interpreted as a kind of rejection of God’s forgiveness.
So, take this time to forgive those who have wronged you in your heart, and make sure that you are included in that forgiveness.
7. Give Thanks To God
Now that you have repented in full, you are forgiven by God. This is the time to give thanks to God for His forgiveness and love.
You can show your thankfulness to God in many ways. Of course, the feeling of genuine gratitude itself is an indication to God that your repentance is complete.
Jeremiah 17:10 says, ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’ Therefore, if you are genuinely thankful for God’s forgiveness, God will know.
However, you may also wish to show your thanks to God in other ways.
This could be through direct prayer, worship through music, or, as noted above, extending forgiveness to others to demonstrate your understanding of God’s love.
Repentance is not easy, but it’s essential if you want to be forgiven for your sins.
The first step is admitting to your sin, after which you should feel remorse, decide to change, and confess outright.
You should then take any steps necessary to correct your wrongdoing, forgive others and yourself, and thank God for his love and forgiveness in the way that feels most authentic and appropriate to you.
By following these steps, you will grow as a person and in your relationship with God.