Moving Beyond “I’m Sorry”
Embracing Repentance that Leads to Spiritual Growth
By Debbie Young — Study Content Specialist
As a young Christian, I constantly strived for perfection. My Sunday school perfect attendance pins and avoiding “the big sins” shaped my definition of success.
Somewhere along the way, however, I discovered the ugly truth. My perfectionism and performance-based evaluation of myself was rooted in pride. In fact, underneath my selfish ambition lurked a host of sins I could not deny.
Maybe you can relate. Take a moment to identify your own struggle. What sin just will not go away? Today, 40 years later, that same need to be perfect still surfaces in many ways. I continue to discover new inroads of the sin lodged in my heart.
This ongoing struggle with sin can be so exhausting that we either ignore it or feel paralyzed by its grip. But in His mercy, God persistently offers a path to freedom from sin.
The path to spiritual growth
The People of the Promise: Kingdom Divided study echoes with the consistent sin of God’s people. However, just as perpetually, God offers His path to freedom in a single word — “repent.”
What comes to mind when you hear that word? We may picture an angry street preacher or an endless string of apologies. But what if I told you repentance is more?
Repentance is a Holy Spirit-driven response to sin that restores and transforms a whole person – our minds, our emotions, and our wills. Repentance is God’s invitation to return to Him.
Repentance is God’s invitation to return to Him.
For years, I viewed repentance as a duty. With a few quick words I could cross “repentance” off my spiritual to-do list. The confession and repentance God desires is much more – the heart-wrenching practice of turning away from sin and back toward God. Joel 2:13 gives us a vivid picture:
“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.”
Through the Holy Spirit, God uses repentance to uncover the root of our sin, not just the fruit of our sin. To “rend our hearts” means allowing the Lord to expose the underlying motives that drive our behavior.
God uses repentance to uncover the root of our sin, not just the fruit of our sin.
Like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, the Holy Spirit’s conviction cuts deep. He slices through our excuses. True repentance involves a God-inflicted wound designed to bring spiritual health and healing. He exposes and extracts our pride, our greed, our selfishness, and our doubt. He lovingly binds our wounds and heals our hearts.
Repentance represents so much more than a painful duty; repentance paves the pathway to spiritual growth. As we regularly respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and turn from our specific sin, we experience fresh doses of God’s redeeming grace.
The comfort of a guiding hand
This comforting truth helps when we feel discouraged by the magnitude of our sin: God relentlessly pursues our wayward hearts. Instead of running from conviction, we can run into it knowing we will always land in Jesus’s outstretched arms.
God never exposes all our sin at once. We could not bear that. With intentional grace, He opens our eyes to recognize specific sin, at specific times, and in specific ways. When God does this, how do we respond? Do we rend our hearts, giving Him access to the hidden darkness within us?
God wounds us to heal us. When His conviction cuts deep, we can lean into the growth He intends through the pain. We confidently lay our sin before the One who bears the scars that purchased our freedom.
God wounds us to heal us.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
My battle with sin continues. I long for the day pride and performance no longer dominate my motives and sin’s discouraging remnants are abolished. But until then I will trust my tender Savior to expose and extract my sin as He deems right. The conviction proves His relentless love for me. Repentance is an act of worship.
Study Content Specialist
Debbie Young currently serves as Study Content Specialist at BSF. As a young mom, Debbie realized that her heart had found a home in studying God’s Word through BSF. Through the years, she has served in various roles in the organization, from leading in a local class to celebrating God’s work in His people around the world. Debbie and her husband Larry have three grown children and six grandchildren.
Submit a Comment
Our BSF staff approves each comment to maintain privacy and security. It may take 24-48 hours for your comment to be posted. Be sure to check back for replies from the author or other BSF members!