Ezekiel 18:30-32

‘Repent and turn from all your rebellious acts, so they will not become a sinful stumbling block to you. Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.’ This is the declaration of the Lord God. ‘So repent and live!’

Acts 3:19

Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out

God is a patient God. He gives us many opportunities to come to Him, to change our ways, and to follow Jesus. But if we are slaves to the flesh, we can not do what we ought to. We must learn how to become slaves to righteousness.

Christians are not exempt from struggles with the flesh (we are still human, right?), but we have the Holy Spirit within us to fight it (1 John 4:13). What should we do when we give in to our fleshly desires, to temptation, and to sin? We should repent.

Repenting is not just a one-time occurrence. Repentance is a daily act of dying to the flesh. When we sin, we have a Father who understands and has extended grace to us through His son, Jesus. We confess and repent whole-heartedly, and turn away from the sin that so easily entangles us. If it happens again, we repeat the cycle: confess – repent – move on.

The cycle gets many of us frustrated. We sin, we confess, we repent, we live. We sin, we confess, we repent, we live. And by “live,” I mean that we move on and get back to the righteous path. We don’t wallow in self-pity or guilt. We move on, knowing that God forgives us. But then…it happens again. And we repent, and we move on again. We may even get confident in “our” abilities to deny our flesh. And then…it happens again. And what should we do? The same thing. Confess. Repent. Then we move on.

Repentance has varied for different cultures and people groups. We see in the Old Testament of the Bible that repentance was a time of confession and was accompanied by mourning and sincere regret. Usually, the sinner would tear their clothes (Joel 2:12-13), and crying would ensue. But then a complete turning away from the sin often followed. In the New Testament, things were a bit different, but the confession of sin and the subsequent turning away from it were still the same.

We see in Luke 19:1-10, Zacchaeus, the tax collector, expressed pure joy when Jesus came and stayed with him. Not only did he joyfully welcome Jesus into his home, but he also repented in verse 8 by acknowledging that he was a sinful man (as he was accused of being in verse 7). Then he agrees to give half his possessions to the poor and pay back those he extorted.

The difference in the New Testament is that joy and celebration are found with repentance. We rejoice because Jesus came back and died for our sins. We no longer have to feel guilty or condemned. We are forgiven once we repent sincerely in our hearts. Our slate is wiped clean. And for that reason, we must celebrate. We must give thanks to God for sending His son and for Jesus dying for us and giving us a new start.

So how do we not feel guilty when we sin? Guilt can be a natural reaction, but don’t allow yourself to linger there if you experience it. If you are a Christian, feelings of conviction, or godly grief, should be present and will lead you to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). After repenting, guilt should be no more. The devil uses guilt to condemn us and make us feel like we have no hope or a future. But the Bible says differently (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Here are some practical ways to repent:

Immediately confess and repent after sinning

Once you sin, there should be some conviction in your heart that what you did was wrong. Humble yourself before God and immediately confess your sin through prayer. Repent so that you won’t have a chance to beat yourself up. It can be hard to get rid of deep guilt.

Move on

It seems easier said than done, but move on from what happened. If you need to ask for forgiveness from someone, do so. Do not allow yourself to wallow in self-pity.

Continue seeking God

Continuing to seek God is a big one! Sometimes we still feel guilt after repenting and will say to ourselves that we do not deserve to be happy, or we do not deserve God’s love. Do not let those lies stop you from doing what you may have been doing before. Continue reading and studying your Bible. Continue going to church and meeting with small groups/life groups. Continue serving in the church. The devil would do anything to see you stop.

Hopefully, these ideas and tactics will help next time you sin. Remember to confess, repent, and move on!