Repentance is a gift from a loving Father in Heaven. Repentance is the process whereby we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. This process of repentance purifies us so that we can be fit for the kingdom of God, to live with him again after we die.
Is this the view you have of repentance?
Unfortunately, many people have been taught that repentance is a negative process, and one to be avoided at all costs. We’ve been raised perhaps to view repentance as something painful, where an angry or vengeful God punishes us for the things we’ve done wrong.
Let’s make this very clear – repentance is not a form of punishment. Rather, it is the experience of letting go of our old ways and embracing becoming a new creature in Christ.
What does repentance actually mean?
What comes to your mind when you think of repentance? I’d bet that you’re thinking of your sins and asking for forgiveness for them. This is a common perception of what repentance involves. However, the true meaning of repentance is actually much broader than that.
From the Hebrew and Greek usage in the Bible, the "repent" commonly means to:
- turn back, or to turn away
- be sorry
- think differently
Isn’t this glorious? There’s no brow-beating involved. There’s no demeaning or groveling.
Repentance is a process where we change our minds, think about something in a different way, or turn away from something.
We realize we’ve made a mistake, and desire to correct that mistake.
Repentance is gentle. It is the ongoing, daily process of putting off the natural man and becoming like Christ.
How do I repent?
The process of repentance doesn't need to be difficult or lengthy. In most cases, it doesn't even need to involve another person!
There are two simple ways you can practice repentance:
- In your formal prayers
- On the go
I like to use both ways of repenting. When I pray, it's a bit more formal as I recap my day. Repenting on the go is pretty quick and short.
Here's what this process of repentance in your formal prayers might be like:
When I pray at night before bed, I think if the things that I did that day that I could have done better. Usually, I am focused on improving only one or two things at a time. So at the end of the day, I think of those things and when I didn’t do so well at being better.
If I’m working on being more patient, then at night, I’ll think of the times I was impatient, and ask for forgiveness. I also ask that I can be strengthened to overcome this weakness and pray for help.
Here's what the process of repentance might be like on the go:
I also like to repent on the go as I go about my day. This helps me be aware of what I'm thinking and how I'm acting.
Whether it’s a thought or an action, if it’s something I immediately recognize that isn’t in alignment with what Christ teaches or with who I’m trying to become, I just quickly say “I’m sorry” in my mind and ask for forgiveness. I then ask for the thing I want instead.
Let’s stick with the example of trying to be more patient.
If I notice that I’ve reacted with impatience to someone (including myself!), here’s what the conversation in my head might be:
“Oh shoot. I am being really impatient right now. I’m sorry. Please give me the strength to accept things the way they are.”
That’s it! It doesn’t need to be a lengthy process.
There are 4 quick steps in the process of repentance:
- know how you want to behave/think
- be aware when you’re not
- ask for forgiveness
- ask for strength or help
Most of the time, this is just an internal conversation. But sometimes I need to let another person know that I’m sorry and that I recognize that my behavior wasn’t right.
If that’s the case, then I’ll say (usually to my husband) – “I’m sorry. I’m feeling frustrated, and I shouldn’t have been so short with you.”
You might be surprised how such a seemingly little thing like that can strengthen and improve your relationships.
Repentance isn’t just about becoming a better person. True repentance is about coming unto Christ.
If you want to follow Christ and live the gospel, repentance is a necessary step.
As we repent, we turn away from worldly things and more toward things of the spirit. We seek more and more to do the will of God over our own will. Eventually, we don’t even have a desire for things that lead us away from God – we only desire to do good.
Find joy in the process of repentance
- Change your idea of what repentance actually means, if you need to. Repent! 🙂
- Find opportunities to align yourself with being the best you as you go about your day
- Apologize immediately to others if necessary. Watch how your relationships improve!
How have your seen the blessings of repentance in your own life?