The British evangelist, Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, tells a story about a man who attended one his evangelistic services one night, was convicted of his sin and accepted Christ.
The next morning he went to the home of a friend and said to him, “Do you recognize that old watch?”
“Why, yes,” answered his friend. “Those are my initials; that is my watch. I lost it eight years ago. How did you get it, and how long have you had it?”
“I stole it,” was the reply.
“What made you bring it back now?”
“I was converted last night,” was the answer, “and I have brought it back first thing this morning. If you had been up, I would have brought it last night.”
Conversion to Christ causes change in one’s life. The Bible calls it repentance. Based on Biblical case studies of repentance like King David, the prodigal son, and the apostle Peter, here are six observable steps in repentance.
(1) Recognition of Sin. The prophet Jeremiah condemned the people of Israel who plead, “I am innocent….I have not sinned!” (Jer. 2:35) Yet they were guilty before God. In contrast David said, “I have sinned.” (2 Sam. 12:13)
(2) Remorse. The Bible says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). There is a huge difference for being sorry for our sins, and feeling sorry that we got caught! Suffered embarrassment. Or lost position, prestige, or income.
(3) Resolve. When the lost son in Jesus’ parable “came to himself,” he decided to make things right. To go home. To confess sin. And accept the consequences.
(4) Reformation. The fruits of repentance are realized in a reformed life. A changed life. A different life. A new life. A change both inside and outside.
(5) Restitution. When possible, repentance results in restitution. In making amends. In repairing damages. In restoring what is right. Like returning a stolen watch. This was the spirit Zachaccus, the tax collector, had when he told Jesus, “If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Lk. 19:8)
(6) Rejoicing. When we really repent, we will feel joyful. Real repentance results in restoration. Renewal. And revival. Sins are remitted. Relationships are repaired. Spiritual regeneration is received.
Repentance is required for God’s forgiveness. But the ancient Augustine was right, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman