Living a Lifestyle of Repentance

A lifestyle of repentance is not something we normally practice or think about. Rather than a lifestyle of repentance, most of us live a lifestyle of remorse and resolution. Our usual approach to our sin may be summarized as follows:

Remorse: “I can’t believe I did that!” “I just can’t forgive myself.”
Resolution: “I promise to do better next time!” “I won’t do that again.”

Behind this way of living are two great misunderstandings about our hearts. First, we think too highly of ourselves. We loathe looking at our hearts and seeing what they’re really like. Thus, we’re constantly surprised at how angry, lustful, and hateful we can quickly become. Our response to our sin is then something along the lines of, “I can’t believe I just did that.” Bottom line: We don’t believe what God says about our heart condition.

Second, we think we have the power to change our hearts. So in response to our sin, we make resolutions, or try to impose various laws on ourselves. Since we have a light view of our sin, we think that the law has power to change us. After all, if we have only a minor problem, a few resolutions and laws ought to be able to sort everything out.

Furthermore, since we usually approach our own sins in this way, we also approach the sins of others in a wrong manner. This can be summarized as follows:

Resent: “I hate it when you do that!” “I wouldn’t have done that.”
React: Angry thoughts, dirty looks, cutting words

Although we’re often lenient with our own sins, we can be extremely harsh when it comes to the sins of others. We respond to our own sins with resolutions; we respond to the sins of others with resentment. As with our own sin, we’re surprised at the sins of others, and our usual solution is to give them a couple of laws and send them on their way.

Given the state of our hearts, we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re called to live a lifestyle of repentance. Richard Lovelace notes that sin is “an organic network of compulsive attitudes, beliefs and behavior deeply rooted in our alienation from God.” Our hearts are an underground network of caves, all interconnected, and all full of sin. As light shines in, it reveals a cave together with passageways to ten more. Travel into another cave, and we find ten more passageways. This being the case, we shouldn’t be surprised that we sin daily, and therefore need to repent daily.

Instead of the above responses, our usual response to our sin should be along the lines of:

Realize: “I did do that.” “I can believe that I am like that!”
Repent: “Lord, forgive me! You’re my only hope.”

What does this genuine repentance look like? Hosea 14:1–9 describes this real repentance. In contrast to chapters 6 and 7, where Israel was demanding that the pain and agony cease, Hosea 14 describes people focusing on their sin. Their attitude is, “I did it.” Remember that Hosea 6 describes us when we give a shallow confession, glossing over our heart sins, and then demanding quick forgiveness so we can go watch a movie. Meanwhile, the person we’ve sinned against feels lacerated and blown away by our contempt. Genuine repentance focuses on our sin and what’s driving our hearts. It doesn’t jump on the other person, demanding quick forgiveness.

In Hosea 14, the people finally concentrate on their sin. They acknowledge that their sin has been their downfall. Hosea 14:2 sums up gospel living. “Take words with you” means to be specific about our sin, including our heart sins. This verse teaches us to come to God, asking him to forgive our sins and receive us, so that we may worship him. Significantly, God’s response in chapter 14 is very different from his response in Hosea 6:4. God now promises to heal and love his people.

Through repentance, God changes and renews us. Repentance is foundational to our lives, for through it we are healed and loved by God. Furthermore, from this repentance will flow a genuine love for people, and a realization that others are just like us—sinners who need the life-giving Holy Spirit.

Excerpted from Sonship © 2002 by Serge. Used with permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.

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In this encouraging and liberating Sonship Bible study full of theological truths of the gospel, Serge helps participants apply what they may know in their heads to the nitty-gritty reality of daily life. Designed to be used with Sonship Lecture Series Download, this resource presents how the gospel remakes people. Greater joy and desires await in this course, equipping small groups to share the wonderful news of God’s loving kindness with others.


About the author


Serge unites believers with opportunities to live out and share the gospel around the world through a wide range of work. Serge believes it is at the intersection of capability and calling that we see the gospel transform our weakness and the world’s brokenness. Serge (formerly World Harvest Mission) was officially established in 1983 and has more than 200 missionaries serving in sixteen countries. Serge’s ongoing vision is to plant and equip churches that are empowered by grace for the world’s good and God’s glory. Serge believes the motive and power for mission is the gospel of grace at work in the life of a believer, and this message is clear in each of their gospel-centered, ministry books and small group resources. This passion has resulted in some of the best books for church leadership and a wide array of ministry materials to help pastors and churches.

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