What Shall We Do?
In the last lesson, we learned that we are incapable of fixing ourselves. We discovered that only by coming to Jesus can we stop failing over and over again.
But how do we come to Jesus?
That’s just what the Jews wanted to know when, after realizing the enormity of their guilt in crucifying Christ, they asked Peter, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
How did Peter respond? “Repent” (Acts 2:38).
What Is Repentance?
True repentance must include two things: a hatred of our sin and a turning away from it. Either one without the other isn’t repentance at all.
Imagine that I walked up to you, slapped you in the face, immediately said, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” and then slapped you again. Had I really repented?
Of course not! If I had really repented, I wouldn’t have slapped you the second time. True repentance always leads to a change in what we do.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
There is another type of false repentance. This kind of repentance regrets sin’s consequences instead of the sin itself.
This is the kind of repentance that Judas had after he betrayed Jesus. He didn’t hate his sin. His supposed repentance was forced from him by a dread of the consequences he feared would follow.
How Do I Repent?
We don’t naturally hate the sins that give us what we think is pleasure. We actually quite enjoy them – at least in the moment. So, how do we come to the place that we hate, not just the consequences, but the sin itself?
The first thing we must realize is that all true repentance comes from God.
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).
Have you ever felt so bad you didn’t think you could pray? I have. But I’ve found that this feeling couldn’t be farther from the truth. Thinking that I can’t come to God until I fix myself is like thinking that I should scrub myself down before I take a shower so I won’t get the water dirty.
It’s only by coming to God that we can become repentant. God gives us the desire and the ability to repent. Only He can fill us with a passionate love for everything beautiful. We can’t repent on our own.
Then how do we receive repentance?
First, pray and ask God to help you to dislike your sin and to turn away from it. Be honest with God. He knows your heart. And if you ask Him to help you to repent, He will help you.
Second, study the two topics in the Bible that tell us about sin: the law and the cross. The Ten Commandments tell us what sin is (Romans 7:7; 1 John 3:4). The cross tells us what sin costs, and, more specifically, what our sin cost Christ (Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:20).
The more you study these two topics, the more you will understand just how awful sin really is, and the more a hatred of sin will be planted in your heart.
A Lifestyle Of Repentance
Repentance is not a one-time event.
In His mercy, God doesn’t show us everything we need to change all at once. He shows us a few things and asks us to repent of those, to let Him give us the victory over those. In this way, repentance is a step-by-step process that continues throughout our Christian lives.
“The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in distinct contrast with his perfect character. Be not discouraged; this is an evidence that Satan’s delusions are losing their power, that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you, and that your indifference and ignorance are passing away” (The Bible Echo).
Activity: Turning Away
Read: The best way for us to understand the seriousness of our sin is to really understand what sin costs—specifically the intense humiliation, shame, and abuse that it cost Christ to save us from it. This week, read Isaiah 53 and John 18–19.
List Your Lead-Ups: Another way to turn from our habits is to take a serious look at what leads to them. Make a list of the things that precede your falls. Record places, people, moods, and activities. Keep this list and add to it as more causes become apparent. Once you identify the things that lead you into sin, you’ll be able to see the warning signs and run to Jesus in prayer, thereby avoiding failure.