How to Repent
“But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:6-10 HCSB
With regularity, the church should call people to repentance. Some people consider the command by God to repent to be a harsh and brutal call. However, when you consider the judgment that comes because of our sin, the call to repent is actually the kindest of calls from the Lord. It is the call from our Heavenly Father to come out of the darkness that brings devastation and into His salvation.
James 4:6-10 gives us a wonderful message about the need to repent and how to do so. Let’s look at four simple steps for our repentance.
1. Recognize the right authority. God alone can offer grace. But we will receive it only when we turn from the idolatry of self and humble ourselves before the Lord. It is also a rejection of the usurping authority of the Devil over your life. Begin your repentance with drawing near to God and declaring His authority over your life.
2. Seek holiness. James directs us to be proactive in washing our hands and purifying our minds. The entire book from James guides Christians to be active in their faith. As we repent, we must actively seek holy living rather than the sinful activity of the world. Holiness does not happen by accident but with intentional effort. Holiness is both for our minds and our hands. We must allow God to empower our active desires to purify our thought life and guide our actions.
3. Mourn. Sin has devastating effects on us and we should weep over it. Too often, we live like toddlers who are sad when we get caught doing something bad rather than actually mourning over our sin. The evil we commit interrupts our relationship with Christ. It should be a miserable experience. Sin is not a pet to enjoy but a beast to slay. Look fully into the dire consequences of sin so you can fully acknowledge your need for God’s mercy.
4. Seek God’s favor. The final verse of the passage tells us to be humble so that God can do the exalting. In repentance, we are not just crawling barely into God’s presence and hoping He does not strike you dead. Rather, we are seeking renewal and restoration. God does not want you to barely make it into heaven by the slimmest of margins. His desire is that you would come under His authority so He can powerfully work in and through you. As you repent, prepare yourself for God’s great work in you. It is a time to celebrate that Christ has provided eternal life and present power for living.