8 Steps in Psalm 51 for Real Repentance


My brother and I had a childhood ritual of asking one another’s forgiveness for a laundry list of vague sins from our beds each night. I would lie there after the lights were out, look across the hall to his own open door, and let my voice carry my contrition to his sleepy hearing. Having been warned not to let the sun go down on our anger, we made sure to cover all possibilities of sins we may have committed during the day. “Aaron, I’m sorry for yelling at you, hitting you, being selfish with the Nintendo, and tattling on you today. Will you forgive me?” His answer, along with his confession of the typical older-sibling sins counter to my own (pestering, bossing, manipulating) came back to my room in return. Thus we slept in the peace of the slightly remorseful.

When I read Psalm 51 (written by David after his sin with Bathsheba), I realize how lacking my childhood confessions were. Actually, even many of my confessions in adulthood leave much to be desired.

Often we treat repentance as a statement—an “I’m sorry, please forgive me” that checks a box and (hopefully) alleviates our guilt. But if we look closely at Psalm 51 we see that repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God—a process that doesn’t merely alleviate guilt but cultivates deep joy.

And that’s not the only pay-off. I wrote my book, Real: the surprising secret to deeper relationships, to show that repenting and receiving forgiveness from God leads to real relationships with others, because it leaves us with nothing left to hide.

So how do we grow in a joy-giving habit of repentance? Here’s how.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Ayo Ogunseinde



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