“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I John 1:9
Let me preface this by saying, I am in no way qualified to talk about such a topic. What is true repentance? I do not know. It is something that I myself want to achieve.
Needless to say, these are just my ideas. 🙂
Pope Shenouda has an amazing book on repentance called “The life of Purity and Repentance”. In it, he discusses what is actual repentance and how can one live a truly repentant life. He outlines several different concepts of repentance of which I have outlined here.
Be honest with yourself
I was talking to someone awhile ago and he was telling me that in order to live a truly repentant life, we must be honest with ourselves. We can’t ignore or put a blind eye on certain sins we do. The first step is, to be honest with yourself, your faults, and sins. I cannot confess let alone repent about something if I disregard the things that I am doing. This is the devils first trick in preventing you from walking on the path to repentance. This is the first obstacle he will put in front of you. Not the priest. Not God. But yourself. You are sometimes your worst enemy. If you are doing something that is wrong in the eyes of God but you yourself are blowing off the fact that it is wrong, then you become your own obstacle for living a repentant life. (Note that this is different than committing a sin that you do not know is wrong. This is why we say “Absolve forgive and remit our transgressions. Those which we have committed willingly and those which we have committed unwillingly. Those which we have committed knowingly and those which we have committed unknowingly“). Sometimes we have a habit of justifying the sins we do in a way that leads us not to repentance.
Someone can wrong me and make me upset to the point that I must respond to them in anger or put them “in their place”. After all is said and done, I feel no remorse for what I did because I am putting my response on the actions of the other person. In this way, my repentance will not happen because in my own eyes I did nothing wrong. This can be applied to many different situations and scenarios.
This is perhaps why St. John The Beloved starts off by saying “If we confess our sins…”. He is telling us that we must be honest in the sins that we commit. How can I confess my sins to Him if I am not honest with myself? Furthermore, our honesty of our sins leads us to a prolonged repentance. Meaning that we will feel the power of this repentance because we know the consequence of our sins. If I look at my sins in a clear light, without excusing them, I will then begin to see the heaviness of my sins. This is overlooked if I am not honest with myself and the sins that I commit. I will feel that it is not a big deal and begin to have a lax attitude about them. Thus, when I repent, I will most likely return to the same state I was in before. For true repentance is not a temporary change but a permanent change of the body, mind, and spirit.
Being honest with your sins might lead you to feel that you are a bad person or someone who does not deserve God’s forgiveness and love. I personally have felt this feeling but the way to overcome this is to know that this feeling is from the devil. God’s love and forgiveness is abundant and He will always love you. You are HIS and HE is yours! Rather you say to Him
Lord you know my weaknesses. You know my sins. Establish for me a new life of repentance by Your Grace. For without you, I cannot do anything.
Thus, by being honest with your sins you overcome several different obstacles. The first is yourself. The second is pride. The third is feelings of unworthiness and despair.
The obstacle of yourself is defeated in the sense that you now take the responsibility of your sins and put them upon yourself.
The obstacle of your pride is defeated in the sense that you are someone who sins and it is your fault alone.
The obstacle of unworthiness and despair are defeated in the sense that God loves me and I am His child. He will always accept my repentance and He loves me with unconditional love. He already knows our sins. I should not be ashamed of telling Him something He already knows for He is omniscient. Rather I ask for His help.
The devil does not like the repentant person. This is because all the work of the devil is becoming undone. The many days, months, and years he spent on you are wasted. He will not let this happen easily. If you trying to live a life of purity, he will not tempt you with impure thoughts everyday. Rather he will say to you ” Good. You should live a life of repentance. You are from God”. This might seem strange. Why would the devil say such a thing?! The thing to remember is that the devil is a liar and a deceiver. Do you think that he wants you to repent? Of course not! Do you think that he wants you to return to God? No he does not! So the question is then, why would he say something like this? This is one of his ways of deception. For if you fall in your repentance, he will start giving you thoughts and words of despair. He will begin to say to you, “You call yourself a child of God but you did so-and-so” “You have done this sin ___ times. Why do you even bother repenting if you are going to do it again?” The worst thing that can happen is the devil removes from you your hope in God. He removes yuour hope>>> You stop relying on God>>>You stop praying. This is what he want to happen.
The help of those who flee to Him the HOPE of those who cry out to Him
The way to look at this is as follows. Yes. I know I am a sinner. So what?. I’m saved by His grace Now this doesn’t mean that you start to have an easy-going repentant life. Rather it is to combat the devils words of despair. This can also be used in the opposite direction. If you seem that you are the best and the devils is saying to you “Wow. You are so good. You are like a saint.” Remind yourself that you are a sinner, lest you fall into self-righteousness and pride.
We all do things we are not proud of. We are all sinners. So what?! He loves me. I want to live a repentant love because I love Him too!!
Until next time,
Your brother in Christ
Pray for me