Psalm 51:3-4, 17 | 1 John 1:9 | 2 Corinthians 7:10

Do. Feel. Say. Get.

Josh spells out a simple way to describe repentance: “It’s when you do something, then you feel something, so you say something, and then you get something.” Is he oversimplifying?

Maybe. Let’s take a look at what repentance is.

The influential Christian leader Billy Graham described repentance by first looking at what it is not: suffering punishment, feeling regret, or hating yourself. He said that suffering punishment by itself does not change your attitude or behavior, that feeling regret by itself does not turn you to God, and that hating yourself only makes you feel bad–you should hate what you have done, not yourself.

Instead, repentance is “an act of heroic resolve” that requires conviction, contrition, and change.

Conviction is believing something strongly–in this case, that you have done something wrong. This is the ‘Feeling Something’ Josh mentioned. King David felt this conviction after the prophet Nathan confronted him about Bathsheba.

For I recognize my rebellion;

   it haunts me day and night.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;

   I have done what is evil in your sight.

(Psalm 51:3-4 NLT)

Contrition means having a broken heart–not the kind of broken heart you get when a boy or girl rejects your affections. Contrition is knowing that your soul needs fixing. Again, David provides a great example:

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.

   You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

(Psalm 51:17 NLT)

Once you feel convicted about what you have done to the point of having a broken spirit, you ‘say something’ to God about it and ‘get something’–forgiveness.

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

(1 John 1:9 NLT)

With that forgiveness comes change–God cleans up your heart. This may be the best part about repentance: we do not have to change ourselves.(Hallelujah!) But according to Jesus, we do have to respond accordingly.

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. 

(Matthew 3:8 NLT)

And that’s repentance. But why is it important?

Because repentance is what we need to be saved from our own worldly ways and, ultimately, death.

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

(2 Corinthians 7:10)

Do you feel bad about things you are doing or have done? Don’t get stuck feeling guilty for who-knows-how-long. If you feel convicted, tell God about your broken heart. Then let him forgive you and change your life.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • Do you find it hard to ask God to forgive you and heal your heart? Why, or why not?
  • Why is it so important to admit your fault to God? Imagine someone tries to open a pull door by pushing it. Can they get through the door without acknowledging they were doing it wrong? Can we grow without acknowledging our faults?
  • Why do you think the word ‘repentance’ is not used very much? Is there a more modern word that might mean the same thing?
  • How would you feel talking about repentance with people at school or online? Is repentance a popular concept today? Why, or why not?
  • Is repentance still a relevant concept? Should we concern ourselves with repentance, or is it just an old-fashioned idea?

Imagining Repentance: Application

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

(2 Peter 3:9 NLT)

“What would it look like if someone awful truly repented and let themselves be changed by God?”

Try this:

  1. Pick someone from the news you believe is ‘an awful person.’
  2. Imagine what could happen in their life if they got convicted of their awfulness and let God change them.
  3. Write some notes about their new improved life.

Finally, pray for God to show you if there are any areas in your life that might need some repentance, and to assure you of his love and acceptance of you exactly as you are.