In the first two stages we looked at conviction and confession.* We have felt the weight of our sin by seeing it as God does and confessed it to Him and others. Before we move to next stage I want to warn you of turning these stages into a checklist. Anytime there is a numbered list I am uneasy because I know our hearts tend towards trusting in religious acts. The purpose can quickly become doing this list trying to keep God pleased so he will continue to bless you and answer your prayers. Tim Keller has said “religious repentance is selfish, self-righteous, and bitter all the way to the bottom. In the gospel (the good news of Jesus), however, the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ to weaken our impulse to do anything contrary to God’s heart.”
The gospel dispels the lie that repentance is despairing. The gospel dispels the lie that we will never make much progress. The gospel dispels the lie that you should go inward with your conviction. The truth is repentance is the way we become more like Jesus. Conviction is his kindness which leads to repentance. And a life marked by pervasive repentance is one of progress and joy.
STAGE THREE: REPENT
The act of repenting is turning from your idols to God (see 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:21). It’s a total change of mind. A swapping of your love of false gods to the one true God made known to us in Jesus. It’s turning your worship from creation to Creator.
“Repentance turns your whole heart—your whole person—to God in love, trust, and obedience instead of to idols. It trades hates and loves, hating the sin you once loved and loving the God youʼve hated by your sin” (Redemption, Wilkerson).
In turning we forsake our former love and become more enamored with Jesus than anything else. Our love for Him pushes out our love for idols. This is a miraculous work of the Spirit in our hearts (Romans 8:13). His grace propels us to worship him which is joyful. You are turning from the lesser joy to the greater joy. You are beholding your Creator, King, and Redeemer.
The next three stages (restitution, reconciliation, rejoicing) are a walking out of this repentance. We are beholding the glory of God.