A frequent theme in our counseling and shepherding is repentance. Many of us were taught that you needed to repent and believe once to receive your ticket to heaven. Others understand a part of repentance but do not actively, fully repent on a regular basis or remember the last time they repented. I would like to share six stages of repentance from Pastor Mike Wilkerson’s book Redemption in hope that we would be a people marked by repentance and belief. As Martin Luther famously said, “All of life is repentance.”
STAGE ONE: CONVICTION
Often we skip this or move to confession too quickly because of pressure from our community or the desire to promptly fix our situation. This leads us to a cycle of deception and despair because we are “repenting” of something we are not fully convinced is sin. “You have to be convinced by the Holy Spirit working through Godʼs Word that you are guilty of sin.” (Mike Wilkerson, Redemption).
As Isaiah saw the Lord and beheld his glory and holiness he was convicted of his sin crying out, “Woe is me…for I am a man of unclean lips.” The tax collector in Luke eighteen does not lift his eyes to heaven and beats his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” We must see our sin before the face of God and agree with what he calls it. Many of us minimize our sin or justify it in comparison to others and thereby cheapen Christ’s work on the cross. We prefer to look remorseful and repentant to others rather than being broken by our false worship and glory-thieving against God.
“We must see our sin before the face of God and agree with what he calls it.”
In light of God’s holiness and law we see how foolish and destructive our rebellion is. If your life is marked by worldly sorrow instead of godly grief I encourage you to behold who God is and what he has done, namely, the atoning work of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Feel the weight of beholding the glory of God and choosing to turn your back on it. Being grieved by the sinfulness of our sin propels us to turn from our idolatry and worship Jesus.
The next “stage” is to confess your sins specifically to God and others which you can find here.