We love to sing to God, raise our needs to Him, and cry in His arms. But we are much less excited to repent. Maybe it is because we have forgotten the benefits of repentance.
Repentance is a basic action of Christian life and the first teaching of Jesus. “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17 NKJV). Even though it is part of our spiritual basics, repentance is a little misunderstood. Often we compare it to regret. We apologize for overeating or slipping a curse into a conversation, and then we move on with our lives. This is not repentance.
The best definition of repentance is found in Acts 3:19. “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”, (NKJV). To repent is also to convert. To convert is to change direction, to change the way we act. To repent is to ask forgiveness for eating too much cake or having slipped a curse, but it is not complete until we also take the steps so that we don’t repeat these sins.
However, changing our habits is difficult. Not only because our flesh is strong, but if we are honest with ourselves, it is because we love these sins, and we do not want to let go of them. The second plate is so delicious, and our swearing made those around us laugh. We don’t want to change. We know God doesn’t want us to have premarital sex, but an orgasm is so pleasurable, and the feeling of attachment is so uplifting that we don’t want to change.
Now, the problem with sin is that we only view it as a forbidden pleasure. And no one likes to be told “no”. But the Bible tells us that sin is slavery. We are in the grip of this sin until we give it up. We are in chains; this thing controls us. We want to be free from our debts and our illnesses, but we don’t realize that we also need to be delivered from our sins because they control us. When God asks us to convert and renounce sin, when He asks us to change our habits so we won’t fall into sin again, He desires to see us free. He does not want to exasperate us and deprive us of pleasure, He does not want us to be a slave anymore. He wants us to be free. “Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”, (John 8:34-36 NKJV).
It is challenging to change our flesh ourselves. But since God desires to see us free, He has given us his Spirit to fight our slavery. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 NKJV). And among the character traits of the Holy Spirit in us, there is “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22 NKJV).
So we have to change our view on sin and be determined to get rid of it. If we view our sin as an evil master who wants to control us, we will be much more determined to fight it than if we see it as a forbidden pleasure. And by the way, it’s not just over-eating, swearing, and immorality as sins. We can see gossipping as slavery. (“I couldn’t refrain from talking about them behind their back”) Holding a grudge as slavery, (“I can’t forgive him”), fear as slavery (“I can’t control my fear”), laziness like slavery (“I can’t get myself motivated to move”). If we see slavery this way, we may become more intolerant of these sins. Repentance is not just showing regret, it is the decision to change our habits to be free from the control that this bad habit has over us. “No fear, you won’t control me anymore!” “No laziness, I’m not listening to you anymore.” It is time for us to take our authority and regain our position of domination over ourselves. “I am allowed to do all things,” but not all things are good for me to do. “I am allowed to do all things,” but I will not let anything make me its slave” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NCV).