Moving Beyond “I’m Sorry”

Embracing Repentance that Leads to Spiritual Growth

By Debbie Young — Study Content Specialist 

As a young Christian, I constantly strived for perfection. My Sunday school perfect attendance pins and avoiding “the big sins” shaped my definition of success. 

Somewhere along the way, however, I discovered the ugly truth. My perfectionism and performance-based evaluation of myself was rooted in pride. In fact, underneath my selfish ambition lurked a host of sins I could not deny.  

Maybe you can relate. Take a moment to identify your own struggle. What sin just will not go away? Today, 40 years later, that same need to be perfect still surfaces in many ways. I continue to discover new inroads of the sin lodged in my heart. 

This ongoing struggle with sin can be so exhausting that we either ignore it or feel paralyzed by its grip. But in His mercy, God persistently offers a path to freedom from sin. 

The path to spiritual growth 

The People of the Promise: Kingdom Divided study echoes with the consistent sin of God’s people. However, just as perpetually, God offers His path to freedom in a single word — “repent.” 

What comes to mind when you hear that word? We may picture an angry street preacher or an endless string of apologies. But what if I told you repentance is more? 

Repentance is a Holy Spirit-driven response to sin that restores and transforms a whole person – our minds, our emotions, and our wills. Repentance is God’s invitation to return to Him. 

Repentance is God’s invitation to return to Him.

For years, I viewed repentance as a duty. With a few quick words I could cross “repentance” off my spiritual to-do list. The confession and repentance God desires is much more – the heart-wrenching practice of turning away from sin and back toward God. Joel 2:13 gives us a vivid picture:  

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” 

Through the Holy Spirit, God uses repentance to uncover the root of our sin, not just the fruit of our sin. To “rend our hearts” means allowing the Lord to expose the underlying motives that drive our behavior.  

God uses repentance to uncover the root of our sin, not just the fruit of our sin.

Like a surgeon wielding a scalpel, the Holy Spirit’s conviction cuts deep. He slices through our excuses. True repentance involves a God-inflicted wound designed to bring spiritual health and healing. He exposes and extracts our pride, our greed, our selfishness, and our doubt. He lovingly binds our wounds and heals our hearts. 

Repentance represents so much more than a painful duty; repentance paves the pathway to spiritual growth. As we regularly respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and turn from our specific sin, we experience fresh doses of God’s redeeming grace. 

The comfort of a guiding hand

This comforting truth helps when we feel discouraged by the magnitude of our sin: God relentlessly pursues our wayward hearts. Instead of running from conviction, we can run into it knowing we will always land in Jesus’s outstretched arms. 

God never exposes all our sin at once. We could not bear that. With intentional grace, He opens our eyes to recognize specific sin, at specific times, and in specific ways. When God does this, how do we respond? Do we rend our hearts, giving Him access to the hidden darkness within us?  

God wounds us to heal us. When His conviction cuts deep, we can lean into the growth He intends through the pain. We confidently lay our sin before the One who bears the scars that purchased our freedom. 

God wounds us to heal us. 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). 

My battle with sin continues. I long for the day pride and performance no longer dominate my motives and sin’s discouraging remnants are abolished. But until then I will trust my tender Savior to expose and extract my sin as He deems right. The conviction proves His relentless love for me. Repentance is an act of worship.

Debbie Young

Study Content Specialist

Debbie Young currently serves as Study Content Specialist at BSF. As a young mom, Debbie realized that her heart had found a home in studying God’s Word through BSF. Through the years, she has served in various roles in the organization, from leading in a local class to celebrating God’s work in His people around the world. Debbie and her husband Larry have three grown children and six grandchildren. 

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166 Comments

  1. This spoke deep into my weary soul. Thank you for opening your heart to share your personal journey because I am in relation with it. Oh God we mean well but we fail. I accept my failures forgive myself while He is working His will in me. And I just keep on asking, knocking and seeking the help towards holiness. He is so merciful.

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    • Keep pressing into the Lord and trust Him to give you strength, perseverance, and hope. The struggle shows God is at work within you!

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  2. Thank you Debbie Young for this heart penetrating article. It truly echoes the struggle I have been feeling about “checklist-rote” repentance and clearly reminds us of the answer: To rend our hearts! Thank you for exalting the love, grace and blessing that becomes ours when we give our hearts to the masterful Surgeon!!!

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  3. Thank you so much for the truth brought to light in this blog. So thankful God reveals sin to us one at a time. There was so much in this article that will help me move forward. I feel so overwhelmed with guilt because of succumbing to temptation over and over. Here I come again Lord, over and over. I believe Lesson 16 and the accompanying lecture were meant for me to do and then read this blog. What a gift the Holy Spirit is to believers!

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  4. The blog written by Debbie Young has meant so much to me. She has helped me understand how Jesus has exposed my sins to me, and how I need to receive God’s forgiveness. I need the spiritual growth that repentance gives me and God’s redeeming grace. Thank you, Debbie

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  5. Thankyou Debbie for such a comforting and encouraging post. Your post inspires me to fear not to return to the Savior’s feet in repentance Daily.
    “ Lord, here I am again…. And again… and again … and again.”
    In Christ there is hope and forgiveness. I can trust Him to reveal the root of my repeat offenses.

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    • Again, and again, and again. So true—and our God is unceasingly gracious. I am so glad!

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  6. So true! My daughter just had a surgery that will reap great benefits in the future, but currently causes her much pain. I see myself in a similar situation as I allow my Savior to probe deeply into my soul. I pray that he cuts away, that would not glorify him for eternity.

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  7. Excellent article that leads us to an obedient relationship with God. Sin and disobedience enslaves and robs us from God’s gifts snd freedom He extends to all believers.

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  8. This is entirely in keeping with the current BSF study on ‘A Kingdom Divided’. Joel is the source of much of what is stated here. Repentance is a gift from God. Simply saying ‘sorry’ is not enough. We need to seek the presence of God in line with Psalm 51, and so confront the basic ulginess of our sin before a Holy and loving God. That takes time and requires a depth of prayer that is often not reached by many of us.

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  9. How can someone be a Study Content Specialist?

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    • Hi Angie! Debbie Young is the person behind the BSF studies you use! Along with our content team, she writes, organizes, and edits BSF lessons & notes. She is certainly a specialist. Please pray for all of our content team as they prepare BSF studies for members to use to unpack God’s Word together.

      Reply
  10. Such timely encouragement. Thank you for your testimony and transparency. I too can relate..
    I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist but when it comes to our God and Lord Jesus Christ, I too struggle to be perfect for Him because He deserves my best. I fail and am hard on myself as if it’s up to me when I know full well, there is nothing good about me except My Jesus and His Spirit that lives inside me. Pride is the culprit, I long to rid myself of, and desire humility, because God hangs out with humble. It is His presence I always long to be with.. thank you again for your testimony.

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  11. I thank you for the message. I thought I was going through GOD’s dealing with. my personal sin alone, only to realise we are many. It has taken quite a long time to realise what GOD was doing in dealing with my sin for HE didn’t confront it directly but used another situation to get to me. THANK YOU GOD for saving me. Reading Books like Hosea has proven to me that GOD really loves us and wants us all to be saved from our sins, at individual and national level.

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    • Ronald,

      You are not alone in the battle with sin. Lean in to those who can pray for you and walk with you. We fight this battle together and in God’s strength alone!

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      • What a wonderful recap and reminder of how God pursues His loved ones. Repentance is key in our walk of sanctification encouraging believers to grow spiritually and in the likeness of our Savior.
        Thank you for sending these beautiful truths!!

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  12. Thank you this helped me as I needed to know God loves me even though I sin I don’t want to but my mind is always going when I pray

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  13. Today i learnt repentance is an of worship. Amen!

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    • Jessica – so encouraging!

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  14. This really spoke to me and I am so thankful for the timely arrival.

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  15. I have been longing to get back to BSF studying as I had been a student for many years. Seen our three grow child come through and then I had to stop due to work and things just not working out for my schedule to allow me to continue in person.
    I found the online and my heart leered for joy.
    Today I needed a read to help beep me focus and remind me of Gods love. This blog was right were I was. It came right as His perfect time. Thank you for this and I look forward to getting back into his word and studying, working my my relationship with Jesus. Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and shine thought my life.
    Thank you for this word

    Reply
  16. Great blog. I relate to my heart finding a home in my Bible study through BSF. BSF has changed how I look at everything. What a blessing.

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  17. This really hit home for me in every area that Debbie mentioned. At the present I can identify with how God is exposing my life long sins a little at a time.
    Thank you, Debbie, for your testimony and your explanation of how God continues to work in our lives drawing us to Himself.

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  18. Enjoyed the thoughtful words in this post…thank you for sharing your heart…it spoke to my heart in many ways…1.perfectionism 2. Performance based evaluation…. But God Mercy!!! Love that…soaking in Gods Goodness!!!

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  19. Debbie Young gave a detailed & excellent explanation of what true repentance is. How God uses repentance to uncover the root of our sin not just the fruit caught my attention as I read further. Each of her teaching points captured how God wants to restore & transform a person to wholeness as we lean into His redeeming grace & respond to the Holy Spirit’s convicting us of sin in order to pave the pathway for spiritual growth! Thank goodness He doesn’t reveal all our sins at once!! God Bless your keen insight into this deep & important pathway for experiencing God’s Redeeming Grace!!

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  20. What a great reflection on repentance. I have misunderstood the meaning of repentance much of my life and it is such a fundamental truth. Pastor Tim Keller has a great sermon titled Disciplines of Repentance. So appreciate the role that repentance plays in our growth in God. Thank you!

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  21. Greetings! Thank you for the beautiful content of this blog, very influential.

    I appreciate your transparency; “My battle with sin continues.”

    “God offers His path to freedom in a single word — “repent.” That will stay with me forever, the simplicity of the message.

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  22. Great teaching Debbie. I too identify with you. With Joel 2:13 challenge, mine is to daily surrender to God that through the Holy Spirit I will be enabled to become what my father ordained. My comfort is that God does not give up on me. I’m work in progress

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  23. Thank you for this convicting and enlightening article. I too struggle wth perfectionism and performance-based evaluation.

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  24. I thank God for the entire BSF Headquarters team, Debbie this enriches my soul, so profound. I have read this more than once and still want to go again.
    I am particularly encouraged by “God wound us to heal us”
    The battle with sin continues, I long for the day Pride and Performance no longer dominate my motives and sin’s discouraging remnants are abolished.
    Until then, I continue to trust my tender savior to extract and expose my sin as He deems right. I pray that in His relentless love, He will convict me to enough to repent.

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    • Anne,
      God so faithfully leads us. He loves us enough to take us forward, not allowing us to be content with our sin. I am grateful. Thank you for your kind words.

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  25. I could truly relate to every word you said, Debbie. Especially “the battle seems endless” . Thank you for reminding me the Lord is “digging up my sinful roots” out of his love for me in order to bring forth healing and renewal so He will be glorified.

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  26. I believe Jesus died for us, taking our sin’s punishment onto himself…paying our price. By doing so, it bridged a huge gap between us and Our Heavenly Father allowing us to approach Him in prayer and to ask for forgiveness from Him.
    As I have gotten older, I have found myself continually reliving my past sins to God, myself and to others. I go to our Heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness daily for all my sins…including the past sins…it’s like I still feel I need to ask forgiveness for those past sins. I have recently come to this thought…If I don’t accept God’s forgiveness for my past sin, then, I am nailing Christ on that cross over and over again…because I haven’t accepted God’s forgiveness…
    It is exhausting to keep running over and over in my mind the past…I want to focus on today and the future living with Jesus as my guide and the Holy Spirit to teach me His ways…Focusing forward would be so refreshing and uplifting.

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    • Oh that just hit me in the heart wow I do this too! Lord thank You for perfecting everything that concerns us including teaching us to forgive ourselves You say I remember your sins no more. It is the accuser who condemns us. Robert that expressed so well my current frustration thank you for sharing. Where sin increased grace increased all the more Romans 5:20

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  27. I just had outpatient surgery yesterday. My surgeon extracted something that was diseased. How this word parallels this experience! He was so skillfull, the scar is covered up now, but promises to be healed. Like Jesus, he took away that which didn’t belong. Repentance leads to this necessary but beautiful surgery. More than ever, I see His grace as he removes sin so I can be all His.

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  28. Thank you for your sincere vulnerability in sharing. It causes me to examine my motivations and ask God to reveal my sin as well, gently and lovingly so true repentance and growth will be the outcome.

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  29. Thank you for your message that gives me hope and encouragement

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  30. Through the Holy Spirit, God uses repentance to uncover the root of our sin, not just the fruit of our sin. To “rend our hearts” means allowing the Lord to expose the underlying motives that drive our behavior.
    I appreciate the explanation to “rend our hearts” Thank You.

    Reply
  31. Thank you for your timely message and much needed encouragement.

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  32. Thank you for sharing your battle.
    It is a universal frailty, I think.

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    • Carol – it truly is a battle. It helps to realize that the Holy Spirit wages that battle for us and in us.

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  33. This is so helpful. Realizing that my desire to please God and my performance/works mindset is challenging for many. Acknowledging it as sin. Understanding that the Holy Spirit is working in me so I might “rend my heart.” Thank you!

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    • Gayle,

      This battle emerges and re-emerges. We must constantly remember who we are in Christ and what He has declared “done” and true. By His grace alone!

      Reply

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