All of us have said something, thought something, or done something we’ve regretted. If we could do it all over again, we would. If we could take it back we would. And we’d do it different. Aren’t there times you wish you could just start over? Start with a clean slate? Take a mulligan? I know there are for me.
What if I told you that was possible? What if I said you could start again? What if it were possible to have a clear conscience?
You can. It’s called repentance. But most people don’t get what it means. The failure to repent is the greatest obstacle for growth for most Christians. We tend to be pretty good at confessing – that is, agreeing with God that we’ve done wrong – but we generally aren’t very good at repenting. But repentance is the key to moving beyond your past and charging forward to the future God has for you.
The prophet Jeremiah gives a good definition of repentance. To a people who were in desperate need to be reconciled to God, he says,
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”
That’s repentance: (1) take responsibility for your sin, (2) turn away from your sin, and (3) turn toward God and His grace.
Repentance is not rationalizing your sin. You also can’t minimize it, excuse it, or blame someone else. Repentance is not merely agreeing with God that it’s wrong. Repentance is turning from what you’ve been doing wrong and start doing what’s right. Repentance is literally a change of mind. I stop wanting to do it my way and start doing it God’s way.
David reflected a change of mind in his Psalm 51. Did you catch it? After a lengthy confession and expression of remorse over his sin, he said,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me… grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”
Psalm 51:10, 12b
David was asking God for a change of mind – a steadfast spirit and a willing spirit – a spirit desiring the things of God. That’s repentance.
Pray (speak!) Psalm 51 out loud.
What do you need to repent of? What sinful habit or attitude have you been excusing or living with for years? Follow the advice of Jeremiah, pray the prayer of David (you might even want to read it out loud) and move on with your faith in Jesus Christ.