What is Biblical Repentance?

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

In this episode we look at Scripture’s definition of repentance and Berkhof’s threefold approach of intellect, emotions and will in the repentance process. Phy also answers five questions about repentance: 

  • how to know your repentance is genuine
  • what to do if you repent, then sin again in the same way
  • whether we need to repent of ignorant sins

and more.

 Mentioned in this episode:

  • Milton Vincent’s The Gospel Primer
  • Berkhof’s Systematic Theology


Listen Now



Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masehimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before, and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey because Every woman is a Theologian.

Hello, friends, and happy December. I am so excited to share this episode with you mainly because I didn’t realize how many of you had questions about it. So I was so surprised when I went on Instagram before I started my social media sabbatical on November 30th, and I asked you all, what are your questions about repentance? And when I did that, I thought I’m probably gonna get 5 or 6 questions. This isn’t, you know, a super popular topic or anything, but I was so wrong.

So many of you wanted to know what does biblical repentance look like? How do I do it? How do I make it a part of my life? How do I know it’s sincere, and so we’re going to get into some of those questions in this episode. So as you guys know, I’m on social media sabbatical during the month of December, but I have recorded ahead all of our podcast episodes for this month to kind of carry us through in my absence. And, of course, I am still sending out my weekly newsletter, The Conlectio, which has all of the important updates for Every Woman a Theologian in December. If you’re not in my newsletter, I invite you to join in. It’s right on phyliciamasonheimer.com/newsletter, and this is the place where I put all of my favorite things, my updates, a personal letter, and I’ve started doing extra Ask Anything Monday questions in the newsletter as well. The big thing, though, that I want you to be aware of is we have upcoming in the new year 2 really big announcements. First of all, we’re going to be releasing the cover of my new book, which I can’t tell you the title because I want you to see the cover. You could probably guess the title, though.

That book comes out February 28th. And on January 2nd, we’ll be revealing the cover. And all through January and February, we’re gonna be doing 2 super exciting things. First of all, we’re going to be reading through the Bible in a year as a community, and you can do this on your own or you can join in the Every Woman a Theologian program that we’re developing, which will have a whole set of materials and tips for your own personal study and an app for you to do it in community and to comment and interact with one another off of social media as you read through the Bible in the year. So the newsletter’s going to have all of the updates about the Bible in a Year community that’s coming up, and the people in that Bible in the Year community get to be a big part of helping to spread the word about the launch of the new book, February 28th. So if you’re interested in that, stay tuned to my email list. Wanted to be sure you knew about that before we jump into this episode. 

So repentance, how do we understand this? I care a lot about the nature of biblical repentance because I struggled so much with these questions when I was walking through sexual addiction and sin. And if you haven’t listened to my episodes about that, you can scroll back and see the episodes I have on finding forgiveness from sexual sin, and biblical sexuality. I have multiple episodes about that. But As someone who struggled in that area, repentance was really a big question mark for me. What does the Bible say about repentance? How do I know that I did it right? Is there a formula for it? Like, how do I go about this? And so through reckoning with that in my early twenties and then in studying for my religion degree and looking what scripture said about it. I found so much freedom, and joy in the true repentance that scripture talks about. But before we can get to that point, we have to know what the Bible says about it. And the Bible talks a lot about repentance. In fact, Jesus talked extensively about repentance. And if Anyone tells you that he didn’t, they’re not preaching the full gospel because Jesus preached a message that said, you need to turn and change your mind and come into the true kingdom of God.

But let’s start in the Old Testament first. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 39 says, for the lord your god is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him. Joel 2:13 says, rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 

And now we get to the New Testament where Jesus says, repent for the kingdom of God. The kingdom of heaven has come near, Matthew 4:17. In Acts, the Apostles then began preaching this gospel that Jesus had lived. And they said to the people who were coming at Pentecost to hear Peter speak, repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the lord. And lastly, 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

So it’s worth looking at what the word for repent means in the Old Testament Hebrew and in the New Testament Greek. In Hebrew, the word repent means to return to the starting point, to turn back, or to start again. In the Greek, repent means a change of mind, specifically, a turning from sin toward God to think differently about sin or to reconsider your path. 

Now in today’s world, I’ve seen some people say that to repent simply means a change of mind, so it can be a change of mind to whatever it is you want to change your mind too. So we’ve had people reinterpret the word repent to mean, well, I changed my mind, and now I don’t believe that life is sacred or I don’t believe that sex is holy. And so, therefore, I’ve quote, unquote repented because I changed my mind and I still fall within the biblical ethic. But this argument not only isn’t linguistically or intellectually honest to how these words are used in their context. It also denies what Jesus and the Apostles were saying as well as what the old testament was teaching because everything the prophet said about repentance was in the context of the revealed law of God in the Torah. So the Torah would be from Genesis through Deuteronomy, the law of God that he gave Israel, a grace for them to live with him, with a holy God. God gave the law not because he was trying to just show them how they couldn’t keep it, but to give them a way of communing with his glorious holy presence. So God’s law, his moral law, the things that he said, this is for your good in the Old Testament are then filled through Jesus.

And Jesus raises the bar, and he says, you remember how I said that you should take care of your neighbor. Well, I want to get to the heart of why you don’t. I want to give you a new heart so that you can love your neighbor, and I want to give you a new heart so you can love your god because these 2 commandments, love God and love your neighbor as yourself, these are the foundation for all of the commands of the Torah. So this then is our basis for understanding what sin is. And without a foundation for understanding what sin is, we have no need for repentance. Because in scripture, repentance is always talking about a turning back, a returning to the starting point away from sin and toward God. It is not I’ve changed my mind about God’s law, I don’t like it anymore, I don’t agree with it. So, actually, I’ve picked up this new ideology that I’m fitting into scripture, and that’s what I’m repenting towards. No. Repentance has to do with the revealed word of God as it was understood by Jesus, by the Jews in his day that was laid out in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in the New. 

So knowing this then knowing that scripture talks a lot about repentance, and I only took a few of the verses. There were a lot more I could have used. We can then begin to look at repentance for what it is. 1 scholar says it is a change of heart, not behavior reform. But because it is a change of heart, the behavior will inevitably follow.

So this is where we end up with a lot of questions. Right? Because you might have a change of heart or emotion temporarily, but your behavior long term doesn’t change. So did you actually repent in that moment, or did you just feel sorry for a day or so? What about when you do repent and you are sincere and you’re grieved by your sin, but then the temptation comes again and you fail. What then? Or how about repenting of sins you didn’t know you committed? Do you have to do that? Or do you need to tell other people when you sin? Do you always need to tell them or confess to them and also confess to God? So We’re gonna talk about all of these questions in this episode.

But to lay that foundation, I want to look at what pieces make up biblical repentance. So as this scholar said that repentance is a change of heart, not just behavior reform, It’s also behavior that’s a reflection of that heart change, so it goes hand in hand. And if you’ve heard me talk about discipling little kids, this is something that we regularly teach with our children. Because in today’s parenting climate, this teaching, this scriptural teaching is often left out. We try to teach our kids that you can reconcile without repentance or you can sin against someone and not have to say you’re sorry or at least make things right with them. And a lot of this is coming from a really unhealthy view, an unbiblical view of repentance, either let’s just reform the behavior or let’s just reform my own feelings and what other people feel about it or how they were impacted that doesn’t matter. And so our biblical view of repentance actually really impacts our parenting, especially in the little years as well. 

So Repentance is not just intellectual. That’s the first thing I want you to take away from this. Repentance is not just intellectual, although it is a change of mind. Berkhof’s systematic theology laid out a really great way of understanding this. He said that repentance is intellectual. It’s a change of mind, but it’s also emotional, a true emotional response to sin. And lastly, it’s volitional, a change of purpose and intent. So what does this mean? It means that when I sin And I realize it. I start with intellectual response. I have the revealed word of God to show me what is sin. I have the law of God that Jesus upheld, by the way, and then raised the bar. Said, what’s the heart of the law? And he said, I want you to not just not commit adultery. I want you to deal with the lust in your heart. I want you to not just tithe, you know, all of these little tiny things to the temple. I want you to have a heart that worships God. Jesus was bringing the law to the spirit of the person.

And so we look at the law of god, and we say, Okay. I can see where I’ve sinned, and that’s the intellectual piece of repentance. I acknowledge this in my mind that I was wrong, and I need to change something. That’s the first part. But the second part is the emotional piece, And this is when we have an emotional heartfelt grief over our sin. It’s when we realize the impact that it’s had on us and on other people and on the heart of God. It’s when we see the weight of it and we grieve that even with tears, and we say, oh God. Like, the tax collector in the book of Luke who said, oh God, oh God, turn your face to me, a sinner.  When we have that emotional reaction, we’ve moved beyond the intellectual to the emotional response to the weight of sin. And that is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. 

The third thing, though, is the volitional change of purpose. So this involves your will. After you’ve intellectually seen this is sin and you emotionally feel the grief of it, a response to the Holy Spirit’s work in you. You then have to walk in obedience, and this is the 3rd step of of the repentance process where you say, okay. I grieve this, but what am I gonna do about it? I grieve this, and it grieves God. What is God asking me to obey here? What is he asking me to remove from my life so that I can walk in obedience to him? And this is the piece that we often leave out, or this is the piece we skip to. We skip from intellectual ascent to volitional boundaries without ever allowing our heart to be grieved. And so people pick pieces of these often without knowing it, and then wonder why my repentance doesn’t stick or why doesn’t it lead to progress, and sanctification. Why isn’t there some improvement here? And I would argue it’s because one of these 3 pieces is missing. And it’s usually the emotional or volitional piece.

So how would this look in a healthy way. How would this look if I have sinned? So I’ll give you an example, a recent example from my own life. Josh and I, earlier this year, 2022, we are really struggling. We’re under a lot of stress financially and otherwise, and we were just struggling in our marriage and really feeling disconnected and, like, we couldn’t communicate really well, and I was feeling really just upset and, like, I felt like I had the right to be disrespectful because I felt really offended in my spirit. And 1 night, he was gone at a meeting, and I was home, and I was just so upset, and I was crying, and I was praying, and I was writing out my prayers. And so I just sat and asked the lord, lord, what am I supposed to do? Like, what am I supposed to do here? And the Lord spoke to my heart and said, you need to repent. Well, that’s definitely not what I wanted to hear, but I know the voice of God well now after years of walking with him. And I thought, well, this doesn’t feel really fair to me because I think that Josh has actually done a lot of things that are wrong, but, lord, what specifically do I need to repent of.

And the lord, again, prompted in my spirit through the holy spirit. If you’re like, Wow, Phylicia. I’ve never heard of this kind of communicating with God. Go listen to the how to hear God’s voice episode. You’ll see why this is biblical. And the Lord prompted my spirit and said, you need to repent of your disrespect. And so I looked up a couple articles online. I started googling, and I was like, I just wanna read, like, a few perspectives on this.

And the 1st article that I read was a testimony from a wife who had been in almost the exact circumstances as me where she felt really justified and what she was upset about. Now, obviously, this is not my husband is a wonderful man, and he’s not abusive. This was just a big disagreement for us. Abusive situations are totally different. But for this woman and for me, there was this moment where we came to the Lord with the situation and the Lord said, You have a choice, and it’s to repent of your part in this and to repent of your, in this instance, your disrespectful attitude and tone and behavior. And so the next thing that I had to do was, first, look in the word of God. What’s the word of God say my job is? Right? Well, if we even look basically at Ephesians or any of the other epistles. It says that we are to honor other believers. Right? Or to honor them and respect them or to treat them with love and kindness to not be rude, proud, arrogant, to quote 1 Corinthians 13. So right They’re not even looking at marriage passages. I’m clearly in the wrong. Right? And so the word of God intulectually confronts my sin. So step 1, intellectually, the word of God met me in that sin of disrespect and said, you’re wrong, but there’s a way out. There’s a way for you to find grace and to find peace and to make this right.

So, intellectually, I met the word of God and allowed it to speak to me about my sin. So the second step is to allow the Holy Spirit to bring me to a healthy grief over that sin. So if you remember, I was still pretty upset about what I felt like was Josh’s role in that whole thing, but I can’t control him. I can only control myself, and God isn’t using me to deal with him at that moment. He God is dealing with me. So in that moment I then asked the lord. I said, I feel like this isn’t super fair. I feel really upset about this. I am still angry. So I need you to just show me how to repent of this disrespect because I don’t feel sorry about this.

And so I spent some time praying about that and asking the lord, like, show me in your word. Show me personally as I pray, like, what this is doing. And through that time, which this was, you know, 15 or 20 minutes, through that time, the lord really did give me an emotional response, a grief over that sin. And this is gonna look different person to person. I feel very deeply. I don’t allow that to dictate how I behave publicly or online, but I do feel very deeply. And so in my private time with God, that is sometimes a very overwhelming emotion, but other people don’t feel things exactly the same way. So it’s not like people who feel things more are more sorry. The Lord will work in your heart according to the personality he’s given you. But you know yourself what that grief will look like, and there should be more than just a mental acknowledgement that the word of God said this is a sin. There should be, and I have grieved him, and I have grieved this other person. And that’s the conclusion I came to that, you know what? Yes. I can’t deal with, you know, Josh’s side of this right now, but I can deal with my side. And I know that what I’ve done has grieved God, and it hasn’t led peace or joy or anything good in my marriage. And so, yes, I do feel like this was wrong. And I need to allow the Holy Spirit to continue to work in me in that way.

So that’s the emotional part of that process. And then lastly is the volitional process. What am I going to do with this? And so then my prayer was, okay, lord. Well, obviously, I really am struggling with this disrespect in this behavior, in these words. I’m sorry. I’m repenting to you for this. I’m returning to the starting point with you. Now what do I do? And that’s when you set boundaries and you set a new path.

And sometimes those boundaries might be with people, but oftentimes, for me, those boundaries have been around, like, things that I might say or consume or watch or anything that’s encouraging me in that behavior, I’m saying, okay. If I’m returning to the starting point, then I have to remove everything that encourages me back towards this sin even if it doesn’t make sense to the outside world, even if it seems drastic, even if it seems like something extreme. Jesus said if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter paradise, right, without your right hand than to go to destruction and separation. Don’t perpetuate a sin, a lifestyle of sin that is separating you from peace with God. Or in the case of perpetual lifestyle sin, unrepentant sin, separating you from God eternally. Because if you live in unrepentant sin, scripture scripture says this over and over. Unrepentant, not returning, not turning to god again. You are separated from God. And that should be a serious thing. That should be something that makes us go, okay, God. I don’t wanna live in that place. I want to walk closely with you.  And if you listen to the sexual sin episode or if you followed me for, you know, 7 plus years, you know my slogan is you are as safe from sin as you are close to Christ. As in the closer you abide in Christ, the easier it is to resist sin. The more you listen to the Holy Spirit, the easier it is to resist sin.

So I gave you this example personally because I wanted to put some meat on the bones of this conversation. And so what I had to do after that prayer time, which ended up for me at that time, it was probably an hour long, I then had to say, okay. I have to have some boundaries around the words I use, the tone that I use, and maybe some things that I’ve been watching that are harmless seemingly, but maybe they cultivate this dismissive attitude or something towards my husband. I need to be careful what I’m saying. And so I then apologized to Josh the next day when I saw him and, you know, began trying to listen to the Lord’s voice day to day so that I could obey him in that area. 

So that’s what this practically can look like. That repentance process begins intellectually. It involves a grief of your spirit, but then that grief and that intellectual knowledge should drive you to set real boundaries, make real changes. And if you don’t, then, yes, we can say your repentance was not genuine because you weren’t willing to make sacrifices, to walk in the holiness God asked you to walk in. And I know this because there have been times, especially when I was struggling with sexual sin where I thought, well, I am sorry that I did that. And I know it’s wrong, but I don’t wanna be, like, weird and strict and, like, I kinda wanna, you know, just see what could happen, you know, when you’re dating or with the books I was reading since I was addicted to erotica, which is pornographic romance novels. I mean, can I can still read fiction? I’ll be fine. And what I discovered was that in my own story, I had to be very extreme to find freedom. And that meant I stopped going to the movie theater, which was a thing back then. I stopped going to watch movies that I couldn’t screen first or fast forward at home. I stopped reading fiction completely for 7 years. I read it now, but even then, I still have to be very selective about what I read. I won’t watch, oh, I won’t watch nudity if I know that it’s in a show. If it shows up in the show, I’ll flip past it. Things like that that I had to say, you know what? This was a struggle for me at one point in my life. And because I repented of it, I’m going to put some pretty hard and fast parameters around this for myself. And so people might have asked me, and they did ask me, well, why why this? And it was actually a great opportunity to say, you know, this is something that has been a temptation for me in the past, and I just really am convicted not to watch this or engage with this. 

Your repentance, your walk with God, your willingness to stand on your convictions to protect the holiness God is working in your life is a beautiful witness to other people. It’s a way to open doors to conversations. Don’t be afraid of setting boundaries and setting a change of lifestyle that alarms those around you because the thing that’s alarming to them may actually just be conviction. It may just be something to make them think.

So that was a little bit long, and now I’m gonna get to your questions. But I really, really wanted you to to get this idea of the threefold nature of repentance. So to kind of continue the conversation that we were just having about sexual sin, let me go to our first question. Am I truly repentant if I keep stumbling over the same sin? So let’s look at these 3 qualifiers. You have the intellect, the emotion, and the purpose. 

So it seems like for most of us, the intellectual ascent, it’s there. But the question is, do we have a true understanding of the weight of sin? Have we partnered with the Holy Spirit’s grief over it? Have I allowed myself to feel the full weight of the sin and allowed that to drive me to God’s grace? Okay? Wanna pause here because I have a little more on this, but there’s a lot of conversation about shame these days, and shame pushes you away from God. It it gets you into this spiral of like, oh, I’m a terrible person. I did this. I can’t believe that I did this again. I can’t go back to God. 

And I read when I was struggling with sexual sin, I read in this book. It’s called The Gospel Primer or Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent, And it’s a thin little book, super good. And in it, he said, if you feel like you’re being presumptuous to cast yourself on the grace of God immediately after your sin. You don’t understand what the grace of God is for. The grace of God is there precisely so you can cast yourself upon it. You don’t have to wait 2 days and make yourself feel more and more sorry to repent. You can run back right after you sin, and God is there. Jesus died on the cross to cover that sin. It’s not presumptuous to run back and say, god, I did this, and I’m so sorry. I did it again. I don’t want to do this again, and yet I did. And so I’m back again. The sooner you go back, the quicker you go back, the more you let yourself grieve that with God instead of running away from God and getting into a shame spiral, the more true you are to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

But here’s the thing. Shame and conviction can feel very similar at first. And so I do want to add something I think is very important. In today’s society, we have people who want to completely remove any feeling of shame/conviction. So they do something wrong, and they feel bad about it. They don’t wanna feel bad. So instead of saying, God, help me to make this right and repent, they instead try to change the standard for sin. Changing the standard to escape shame is both unbiblical, dishonest, and it is wounding your soul. The answer to when you feel bad about something, about doing something, is not to get into a self focus spiral where you go, oh, I’m such a terrible person. Oh, I can’t believe I did this. Don’t turn inward and focus on you. Turn outward. Fix your eyes on Christ who was raised up on that cross to take what you just did. He took it already. It was beat into his body on that cross. Fix your eyes on him, not on yourself. Shame will fix your eyes on yourself. Conviction will fix your eyes on Christ, but you have a choice in what you do, and God will let you choose it. 

So when you repent, if you have been repeating the same pattern, if you have been looking at porn and you did it again, don’t get into this spiral of looking at yourself. Turn your eyes, fix them on Christ and what he did. Allow yourself to feel the grief, but let that grief drive you to the grace. That’s the answer. And I’m telling you this is someone who’s been through it, been through it so many times in my teens and twenties. You can trust me on this. This is the answer. This is what scripture offers. Don’t let somebody change the standard for sin to try to give you a false hope that your sin doesn’t matter, to make you not feel bad about it. We should feel bad about sin, but the feeling that we have can be taken and lifted by the redemption of Christ. That is the hope of the cross. If you try to remove that conviction, you have denigrated, desecrated, and basically taken away all power from what happened on the cross in the gospel. There is no gospel. There is no hope if there is not sin. Jesus went to the cross to take the shame, which means you’re going to feel some shame for sin because that’s what sin does. It makes you feel shame, and that’s why we run to Jesus and we let him take the shame. We don’t try to hide from it. We don’t try to change the standard for sin. 

Okay. So after you have allowed the grief to bring you to god’s grace, you have to accept the grace. You have to accept it. And this is where you may have to cry out to God and say, God, help my unbelief here. I’m not believing your graces for me. Go into scripture. Read everything it says about God’s grace, Take the time, and this is why I I say over and over, you have to be in the word of God. Devotionals are great. My books are even nice, but I want you in the word of God. This is where your hope is. This is where you find out about the grace that you believe. So look in scripture at what it says about God’s grace. God, help me trust your grace over this sin. Help me cast myself on it knowing full well that you went to the cross for this reason. Let me tell you something. There is no reason for Jesus to go to that cross and die for you for eternity if that eternal weight of glory is not also for this present moment. The sin that you’re battling right now, That’s what the cross was for. That’s what it’s for.

Where else would you go? And this is what I had to realize when I was struggling with a besetting sin. Where else am I going to go? Who else is going to take this from me? Who else is going to free me? Nobody will. The only alternative I have is to get further and further into numbness and apathy and bitterness and sin. That’s the only alternative. I can go to Christ or I can go that way. And I chose to go to Christ, and Christ set me free. And he has that for you too. 

So after you’ve partnered with the Holy Spirit’s grief, you’ve allowed that to drive you to god’s grace, accepted that grace, have you confessed to someone else who can hold you accountable. This is important for repeated sins. James 5:16 says, therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. So this verse is fantastic in so many ways. First of all, the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. This is profound. It’s why we need Christian community. It’s why we need people to pray with and for us.

But note this first portion, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed. There is healing in confessing to fellow believers. There is healing, spiritual healing in saying this has a hold on me, and I need help. But it’s not just, you know, sitting there and having someone be like, wow. That’s really sad. I’m really sorry you failed. Hey. I’m praying for you. Right then, right there, the prayer of the righteous person in that moment is powerful and effective. And that is the key here.

So you bring other people into this, that will help you get victory over that same sin that you continue to struggle with. Now here is the pivotal point. If you don’t make any changes in your boundaries or your purpose, you know, you haven’t volitionally changed your will in accordance with your grief, and repentance. It can be reasonably asked if you are truly repentant because repentant people do whatever it takes to eliminate the temptation or draw of the thing that causes them to stumble. Remember that temptations are not sins. Right? The temptation is not a sin, but let me give you an example of a situation.

If I know that I struggle with alcoholism and I continually go to meet my friends at a bar. Is that wise? No. It’s not wise. It would be better to have a conversation and say, hey, you guys. I’m really not comfortable meeting at this bar because this is something I’m trying to eliminate from my life right now. I would love it if we could go to a different restaurant or maybe if we could meet at someone’s home. That’s an example of setting that boundary in accordance with your repentance. One of the big stumbling blocks to getting victory over a besetting sin is people pleasing.

When people are a bigger deal to you than God, you serve them more than you serve God. You’re going to have a very hard time asking them to respect the boundaries you need to be holy. And here’s something, friend. People can get in line behind what God has asked you to do. They might not like it. They might not even respect it. They might not agree with it, but they can get in line behind what God has asked you to do, and you can share your standards in a godly and respectful and kind way. And if they don’t wanna be your friend because of what you need to do to pursue holiness, they don’t have your best interest at heart. And here’s the thing too, your non Christian friends, they probably respect you more for having those standards and sticking by them. They might mock you for it, but they deep down respect you for your convictions.

So let’s remind ourselves that If we don’t make any changes in our boundaries, we don’t follow through on changing the patterns we’ve been living in, it can be asked if we’re really repented. We probably aren’t because, Yeah. We felt sorry, and, yeah, we know what’s wrong, but we haven’t actually done anything with that. So we aren’t bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. This is what John the Baptist said to the Jewish leaders. He was saying, hey, guess what? You said you were you were repenting, but you haven’t born any fruit as evidence of it. Until I see that, I know you were not actually repentant. So same thing here. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. However, I wanna, like, have red lights flashing as I say this. However, even our best boundaries can sometimes be transgressed. The difference is when you are in the process of getting victory over a besetting sin, the difference is that if you do transgress that boundary, when you have truly repented, you feel a greater grief than before.I recently saw someone post, I think, on Instagram, it was honest youth pastor, I think, is his name. He posted a clip of a sermon where a guy was talking about this where he was ministering to a young man who he was holding accountable. The man called him and said, I messed up again. I I feel horrible. Like, I feel like I’m just a total failure. And the pastor said to him, you know what? I’m glad. And he said, what are you talking about? Why are you glad? I messed up. Didn’t you hear me? And he said, because this is the first time you’ve cried about it. This is the first time you felt grief about it, and that tells me that something is changing in you, that you’re feeling a holy grief over this sin. There’s progress being made here. Even though you didn’t win this time, even though you didn’t say no to your flesh, you feel a holy grief over it, and that means something’s changing. And I agree with that. Which means that, yes, you might still fail in the process of getting victory after you’ve repented, but take note of that grief that you feel. That’s the holy spirit at work in you. That’s progress being made, and let that progress compel you to stay closer to God next time and to create the boundaries that you need. 

Okay. That was a lot of an answer to that 1 question, but let’s go on to the next one. Is it true repentance if you don’t confess to others what you have done? So this would depend on the nature of the sin. If you sin directly against someone else, you offended someone else, then, yes, you should confess to them what you did, or, you know, tell them that you’re sorry. If you are sorry, acknowledge the wrong, make it right. Or do you need the accountability and healing of a community in order to progress? So in the case of a porn addiction, for example, you might think the only person who I’m offending is myself, but if you’re married, you’re offending your spouse. You’re essentially cheating on your spouse. If you are in a leadership position, you are offending those you’re leading. So you need to be held accountable for that behavior. It doesn’t only impact you.

So in those cases, I would say you do need to be confessing to somebody for healing, like James 5:16 says. However, there are some things such as personal pride or judgment or a specific thought that we simply need to confess to God. And so the Holy Spirit brings that to mind and says, hey. You don’t need to be doing this. This is a sinful behavior. For instance, my disrespect towards Josh, I needed to confess that to Josh, but that’s not something that I confessed to anybody else at that time. He was the one that I had offended, but I had offended him with my words and actions, not just thoughts in my head. So I confessed to him and apologized, but most of that work was done between me and the lord.

So there may be other things that we have offended or hurt someone and we need to make things right. However, here’s my personal opinion. This is 1 Phylicia 115. Personal opinion is you do not need to apologize to someone for what you’ve thought of them or how you felt about them in the past. Only how you’ve treated them, your behavior. I have been more deeply hurt by apologies for past, quote unquote, thoughts or feelings then I have been helped by them. So there was a point 1 year where I had, like, 4 different people come for like, message me and say, hey. I used just really not like you. And now I’d I really do like you, and I just want to apologize for how I felt about you. And I was like, well, gee, you know, I didn’t know that you didn’t like me. I thought we were totally fine. So now I feel like our whole friendship has been a lie, so I don’t think that we need to be apologizing to people for private thoughts. I think that’s something we need to deal with with the lord. Because when you put that on somebody, they didn’t know you were thinking that and now they do. It really is less productive. It’s not really that helpful, but talk to the lord about what to do in that area.

Next question is, how do I create a habit of repentance? So I would call this a spiritual discipline of confession, and it is to be paired with the spirit leading in conviction. So we must become aware of that feeling of shame over sin, seeing it as a sign to move toward confession rather than hiding from the discomfort. Remember, Christ is there to take away the shame. He removes that from us. He took it on the cross. So the habit of confession would follow that daily habit of prayer, especially focused prayer time. So a great way to integrate this would be to use the ACTS Model of prayer, I think I talked about this in the prayer episode, which is adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. 

So adoration is worship of God. You can pray scripture. And then confession would be, for me, is sitting and saying, lord, bring to mind anything that you need me to be working on right now. What is your Holy Spirit convicting me of? So recently, the Lord showed a specific area of my life that I needed to work on, in my words, some certain things that I had said that I realized were just not appropriate and fitting to the occasion, and it happened because I was talking too much. And so that was something that the Lord revealed to me in a prayer I’m and so I’ve been praying about that. Where are you leading me in this, Lord? What do I need to do? What scriptures can I study about this issue? Etcetera. So confession is not just like, oh, I’m gonna wrack my brain and think of everything I’ve done wrong. It’s asking the lord, lord, I’m here before you. What do you wanna work on in my heart? Sometimes it’s really obvious. Sometimes you’re like, oh, I yelled at my kids and here I am trying to teach them self control. I need to go apologize to them. That’s the Holy Spirit working in you. And so it’s not like you have to say certain words or do a certain formula. It’s that life on life, day by day, abiding in Christ. It’s just a constant communication with him. And you can, as I said, cast yourself on him. Lord, I’m sorry. I yelled at my kids. Forgive me for that, Lord. Help me to do better. Show me what to do, and he has you know, he guides you to go apologize to your kids. So habit of confession is really interlinked with that habit of daily constant prayer that’s just communicating with God throughout the day.

Okay. Next question is how to discern shame versus healthy guilt? I think I over repent. So a book I wanna recommend on the difference between shame and healthy repentance is the book When People are Big and God is Small. This book sounds like it wouldn’t talk about repentance, but it actually talks a lot about shame and people pleasing, And those are really closely connected to this conversation. Because as I said, if you’re only repenting because of what people said or because of an outward, like, guilt instead of an inner transformation. It’s not true repentance. So we need to be operating from what the Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts, not what people are saying to us. So that book really has some good chapters on the difference between biblical shame and sinful shame, like, what shame does to us when it’s not driving us towards God. 

So the issue here with over repenting may not be so much with the repentance as with this person’s understanding of the cross. So a high view of the cross, understanding it rightly, leads to freedom from shame. Remember, Christ took your shame on the cross. I think I have an episode about shame, actually, if you go all the way back to the very beginning of the podcast. So looking to Jesus, who’s the founder and perfecter of our faith, He, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2. He took the sin and the shame. So what it sounds like if you’re over repenting, you’re actually trying to take the shame onto yourself. And, again, shame, sinful shame, will always direct us towards ourselves. It will have you look at yourself and turn you inward instead of turning you outward. Why? Why would the enemy want your eyes fixed on the cross? Right? He hates the cross. He wants you fixed on yourself and your sin. So that can start to be a cue for you. If you’re getting into this spiral where you’re fixating on yourself and your own sin, you can know that that’s not what God wants. He wants you to direct your eyes to the cross, And it’s as simple as saying, God, I have done wrong. Create in me a clean heart. God help me. I know you died on the cross for this, so I’m here casting myself on you. And I’m choosing to trust your grace over me and that the cross applies to me right now, and I’m gonna walk in that freedom. And then you get up, and anytime that nagging idea comes back, Hey. Remember what you did? You say, no. In the name of Jesus, I’m free, and I don’t accept this thought. Or you just let it roll through your mind and you say, well, that’s not from the Lord. Just going back to the how to hear God’s voice episode, knowing the shepherd’s voice, my sheep know my voice. That’s not his voice. I’m not gonna listen to it. 

Okay. The last question I have is, how do I repent of the sin of omission or sinning and ignorance? So sinning and ignorance is not the same as a sin of omission. So a sin of commission is an intentional willful sin. So God tells you to do something. Let’s say, let’s treat him like a parent. Father God says to his child, hey. I’m asking you to do this. I’m asking you to be respectful, and then I’m not respectful. I have committed a sin of commission that’s revealed in the word of God. A sin of omission would be God tells, gives a directive, and you don’t go against it, but you just don’t do anything. You’re just neutral. But that’s a sin of omission because, ultimately, you’re still not obeying God. 

This is an example of this would be king David When he neglected his kingly duties, when everybody went out to war and he just hung out in the palace and then he saw Bathsheba while he was just hanging around being idle, there there he sees Bathsheba, and he gets himself into all sorts of sinful trouble. He started with the sin of omission. He wasn’t walking in his responsibility of leadership, and then that led to a sin of commission where he was committing adultery and murder.

Sinning in ignorance then is not the same as the sins of omission or commission because you can repent of a sin of omission or commission. You know what you were doing. But say you didn’t know about the consequences of a certain action or you didn’t think it through or maybe you are still A new believer, and you did something that you didn’t know was wrong. What do you do there? Well, I believe that this is why the Holy Spirit is so important and so powerful. One of the many reasons he’s given to us to convict us, comfort us, to counsel us, which means that he will bring to mind the things that he wants to work on in our soul and in our spirit. And he’s not gonna overwhelm us. He’s not gonna be like, you need to work on all 800 things at once, he’s going to lead you into what area he wants to work on at that moment. He’s going to bear the fruit of the spirit in you as you are in the word and in Christian community and actively growing and seeking God’s face, persevering in prayer, living a lifestyle of walking with him. He’s going to do the work in you. It’s not you doing the work. It’s you obeying what he leads you to do. It’s you remaining with Jesus. 

So that’s being the case. If you did sin in ignorance, he will bring it to mind as you pray. He will bring it to mind and show you what to do, and then if It’s in your mind and you go, woah. I’m realizing now that what I did there was wrong. You can proceed through those 3 facets of repentance. Okay? Intellectually, I know that this was wrong. I’m feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit and grief over this, and now I’m gonna set up a plan to obey God in this area in the future. And that’s what you do.  So, really, it’s this freedom of just letting the Holy Spirit lead you in repentance and letting God direct you into that heartfelt transformation that leads to sanctification, that makes us into the image of Christ. 

You guys had a lot more questions I wasn’t able to include in this episode, but I tried to cover some of them in the longer section. So I hope that this was helpful to you. I hope, most of all, that it was freeing to you. And sometimes I feel like I always come back to the same thing over and over and over again when I talk on the podcast that this is about the word of God brought to fruition by the spirit of God in you. It is not about memorizing a list of works. It’s not about buckling down and making it happen. It’s not about a formula. Formulas are easy, but they remove the relationship with God, and they make you stop listening for his voice. This is about you listening for the voice of God and letting him lead you into repentance at the appropriate times and for the appropriate things. And when it’s God’s voice, it’s a gentle voice, and you’ll know that when you feel shame about your sin, he’s there to free you from it and to let you go and live your life and do better next time by the power of the spirit in you. This is why abiding in Christ is true freedom because we’re not following a list of rules. We’re learning about him in the word, and then Jesus Christ himself works that in us as we go about living our lives. And that, my friends, is why repentance is a joy and not a drudgery or something to fear because it is what sets us free and breaks the shackles and takes the shame and lets us live a life that is not under the burden of the law, but fulfills the law because we have a savior who has taken our sin, and doesn’t ask us to carry it anymore.

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you, and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into god’s word and the heart of Jesus Christ.


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