Today, we’ll continue our walk through Thomas Watson’s The Doctrine of Repentance. In the first post, we looked at what biblical repentance is not. Watson goes on to list and discuss six ingredients that characterize true repentance. They are:
- Sight of sin
- Sorrow for sin
- Confession of sin
- Shame for sin
- Hatred for sin
- Turning from sin.
Before we work through this list, it’s important to get a working definition for “repentance.” Watson defines it as “a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.” Notice that repentance is not the result of man’s own power. Men and women must work at and pursue holiness, but it can only be accomplished by the work of God’s Spirit. We must cry out to God for help in turning from our sin. Also, notice that true repentance consists of external and internal change. Both must be present. We cannot claim to follow Christ while denying his word with our lifestyles, and we are not necessarily following Christ by simply changing our lifestyles.
Now, let’s briefly work through the six ingredients of true repentance:
Sight of sin– “A man must first recognize and consider what his sin is, and know the plague of his heart before he can be duly humbled for it.” There is nothing to repent of if a man does not see his fault. Therefore, the first step in repentance is being made aware of one’s sin. This will not happen without the work of the Spirit, so we must be quick to pray for those whom we so desperately desire to come to know the Lord.
Sorrow for sin– People are often sorrowful for their actions, but few are sorrowful for the ultimate reason. Some are sorry that they hurt a friend, while others are sorry they disappointed loved ones. Others, still, are sorry that they got caught or sorry for the consequences of the wrongdoing. Watson writes, “Godly sorrow, however, is chiefly for the trespass against God, so that even if there were no conscience to smite, no devil to accuse, no hell to punish, yet the soul would still be grieved because of the prejudice done to God.” Take a second to examine your own heart. It’s fine and good to be sorrowful over hurting others, but is that the cause of your ultimate sorrow? Or do you have deeper sorrow over rebelling against the Creator of the universe?
Confession of sin– Watson describes this as the venting of our godly sorrow. Confession is where we cry out to God and to others, if necessary, where we have wronged them. Confession is a humbling act, but it is also so very freeing. Have you ever had a sin that you bottled up and tried to hide from God and others, only have to it consume you and weigh down heavily upon your soul? Coming before the Lord in confession brings a freedom that allows you to breath deeply because the weight is no longer pressing on your chest and run freely because the chains of guilt are no longer slowing you down.
Shame for sin– I believe shame goes hand-in-hand with sorrow. If we realize that magnitude of our sin in light of the immense love of Christ, then sorrow and shame will certainly follow.
Hatred of sin– “Christ is never loved till sin be loathed. Heaven is never longed for till sin be loathed.” This, in particular, is where I struggle. I may hate the concept of sin and the effects of sin, but, too often, I find myself being apathetic to or even delighting in sin. I feel great conviction when I read, “Many a one is convinced that sin is a vile thing, and in his judgment has an aversion to it, but yet he tastes sweetness and has a secret complacency in it.” We must hate sin in all respects. This includes hating the consequences of sin, such as death, natural disasters, and broken relationships, and also sin itself.
Turning from sin– This is the final ingredient of repentance because it will happen after the gospel has affected our hearts. Once sin has been revealed in all of its ugliness, the sinner will flee from its grips to the glorious, open arms of Jesus Christ. There we will find forgiveness, peace, and joy everlasting.
Repentance is not easy. But it is possible because the love of the Savior has already defeated sin and death in his death and resurrection. Let go of the sin you’ve been holding onto, and let the power of the resurrection give you freedom.