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Sometimes apologizing doesn’t cut it. To the eyes of some, this means nothing but a quick way out after getting caught. Instead, what’s better than uttering sorry is genuine repentance, a move to change for the better.

“I’m sorry, I’ll change. I won’t do it again.”

How many of you have uttered this statement upon committing a mistake? Without statistics, a considerable chunk of the population has used this to show how sorry they are. But how many of these numbers have done something about it?

Tens? Hundreds? None?

Many can apologize and confidently say sorry like it’s routine. But not a lot can do something to observe genuine repentance, and perhaps, not everyone knows what it means.

Thomas Fitzhugh Sheets has written about this ideology in his book, The Death of the Promise, where he provides readers with Biblical perspectives of spiritual redemption and repentance. His book accounts for what it takes to achieve a profound and grace-filled transformation through these processes. Continuing his previous book, Sheets continued writing about his understanding of God’s message to the world through what’s reflected in the Bible.

What Is Genuine Repentance From the Bible?

In Matthew 18:8-9, Jesus laid out a few characteristics of how genuine repentance shows in people. He asked: “Would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin?”

Obviously, this shouldn’t be taken literally. One doesn’t have to cut and lose limbs for repentance. Instead, His question measures what the person is willing to do or sacrifice to fight against the same mistake. Genuine repentance, in the eyes of Jesus, is determined by how zealous people are in avoiding the same path as they previously did. It may not be an instantaneous change, purification, or cleansing from sin. But this avoidance or the determination to steer clear from sin should be what God’s Spirit does to a repenting individual.

Consider a basin of dirty water.

One will never rid it of dirt if it stays where grime and soot are being dumped over it. However, one can’t quickly move it away, given its weight. But if he continues pushing, determination in mind, and successfully move the basin away from the spot, change becomes possible. The dirt can be gradually drained away, and he can refill the basin with clean water.

Although the process wasn’t quick, one genuinely desired change. To the eyes of Jesus, that should be enough – more than a simple statement of apology.

How to Achieve Repentance in Modern-Day?

From Jesus’ words, genuine repentance then becomes the decision to change. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the outcome, but rather the process toward that. Repentance is also neither the sorrow nor the remorse one feels for sinning. After all, a person can be profoundly remorseful but aren’t repentant. Someone can weep after committing a mistake but not do anything to change.

Hence, genuine repentance can be achieved when one turns toward godliness and away from sin. It’s changing one’s mind and behavior against their previous, sinful way.

The Willingness to Confess

When someone undergoes genuine repentance, they can name all their sins without making excuses. They bare their sinful past without needing to appear clean in the process. Instead, people must allow themselves to experience godly sorrow. For this, they must feel sorry for committing their sins, not just because they got caught.

Additionally, their confessions shouldn’t only include the sins that got them in trouble. People must confess all of their sins in the past and the present. They shouldn’t wait to have the truth pulled from them or only pick sins that others know about. Genuine repentance must be transparent. To holistically clean themselves, people must open every door and reveal the truth.

No secrets. No exceptions.

The Courage to Face the Pain

Those who are genuinely repentant are willing to face the consequences of their actions. Apologizing relieves the sinner of their burden. But it never appeases the pain, anger, or intense emotions others have gotten from the sin. Genuine repentance doesn’t shift the blame, nor is it selfish to only take care of the burden the sinner carries.

People who have sinned must make amends, even if it’s uncomfortable. They must also realize that it’s not their choice whether their victim forgives them. Forgiveness is a separate journey from repentance, each taking a separate time to deal with. It’s not the sinner’s choice when one heals and forgives. They can only wait for the proper time for forgiveness.

The Strength to Brave Through Consequences

What comes along with one’s sin isn’t only the victim’s reaction. There will also be the external consequences of it, such as distrust or physical limitations. How long these consequences last depends on the victim, and the penitent must be willing to wait until these are lifted.

Genuine repentance accepts and understands why these limitations happen. As part of their journey toward receiving forgiveness, they must patiently and strongly brave through these without asking for exceptions or forcing second chances upon them.

Again, they’re only limited to the gesture toward change. They don’t have control over when people will forgive them and act indifferently toward them.

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