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.
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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Thank you so much for your blog on conviction. I have known the Lord for many years but still struggle with perfectionism and fear of failure. It is comforting to hear someone else who struggles with the sin of pride disguised as many things.
Pray that I may be convicted of this sin and accept God’s provision for healing through the wounded Christ.
This blog is amazing!! Wow so much wisdom. We talk about repentance being a turning away – “a changing of mind and direction” but there’s an empowering by the Holy Spirit that can lead to lasting repentance. I’ve seen people repent but it seems the “change” doesn’t last even when convicted by the Holy Spirit or in the word. What’s causes the spirit to be quenched so quickly? I think a great follow up is how to stay in a state of humble repentance as the Lord changes peoples heart, minds and ultimately behaviors to be more aligned to Him.
Im doing a YA BSF group and wish so many more of my peers would join BSF. The teaching is so deep + resources like this.
Repentance is an act of worship. Thank you for sharing this insight. In praying I would become so sad with myself for not living up to his standards. It’s a daily struggle.
When we are ready to open our hearts to God, His radiating, refreshing, restoring and empowering riches of His grace will sustain us to move forward into a relationship with the Loving God, our Heavenly Father. He is not wanting to condemn us, but to give us a hope and a future within His Presence. He is worthy of our worship
Thanks for the timely reminder the PPL2-KD has been so refreshing in every lesson.
i can’t tell how deep this message cut into my heart. With tears and pierced heart I am reading this. God’s words are so timely and merciful. It is hurting so much to remove deep-rooted sin but I know God mean to mould a better me.
Thank you for the encouragement that Instead of running from conviction which I have done a couple of times out of fear of God’s wrath that I can run into it knowing that I will always land in Jesus’s outstretched arms. And the truth that I am far from perfect.Dear LORD expose my sins and heal my heart.
This is an awakening expose , I do struggle with sin and even when I repent I don’t experience the breakthrough. Am encouraged to know that repentance is much more. its an invitation by God to return back to him. Thanks for this. God bless you.
Thanks Debbie! Our Father bless me extremely when you express what He taught and show me but could not put in words.
Your words were an encouragement to me when you wrote that “40 years later”. I have struggled with sin that long as well, and I am encouraged to not give up and continue to go to God in repentance.
This was a wonderful article and oh how true that the Holy Spirit convicts and identifies the core issues of our hearts. I struggle with so many of the sins you mentioned. I pray that God would remove my stubborn pride and selfishness. It is a constant battle
Though I’m a perfectionist, the Holy Spirit has taught me not to be proud. Even though I’ve learnt the lesson, I believe satan has his way of taunting me of pride.
We just talked about this in our discussion group. Thank you for sharing.
I can identify with this blog post. Thank you for sharing – there is comfort in knowing we all sin and repentance is a gift given to us.
Thank you for your insight.. This was encouraging.. I especially loved that Hod cuts us to heal us and and when convicted for us to run into His outstretched arms.
Thank you Debbie. Your words ring very true to my heart and I am encouraged to consider the great relevancy to my own life. It is a bit frightening to delve into the deep, centered sin in my life, but the needed reminder of His presence, guiding hand and anticipated peace are reason enough to give this deep consideration. Thank you for your depth of thought and its relevancy to me.
I appreciate your pointedness and brevity- just enough to make you want to go to work on it for all of the right reasons! Please pray as you may for others that I will not shirk my responsibility in this matter.
May He bless you for your openness and forthrightness in putting these thoughts before us.
Can totally relate and praise Jesus for His endless mercy and grace !
thank you for these words. the Lord has spoken to me… and i pray He’ll help me as i rend my heart continuously until that day.
Every time I read the BSF blog I could find God ‘s teaching and Holy Spirit reminding, I was exactly experiencing the same the writer said and so much echoes I have had, praise to the Lord and I could never thank HIM enough for His faithfulness, thanks my Lord for bringing me to BSF and thanks to the BSF for your faithful serving.
So insightful & convicting! Thank you!
Wow, such answered prayer this blog is for me. This is the stage of forgiveness I’m experiencing. I have never read someone else’s blog before. I kept blinking and thinking this was written just for my situation. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for pointing out that an apology and true repentance are very different things.
I loved this! So rarely heard these days- teaching on repentence, on the fact that true growth hurts and costs…that is why the path is narrow, not many want to undergo transformation. Thank you Debbie for your honesty and for addressing the elephant in the room
What a beautiful portrayal of repentance as God’s grace to us! Him wounding us to heal us! God-inflicted wounds that bring health and healing! The blessing of an eternal perspective!
God’s grace, in its many facets, has been brought to my attention over the last few weeks.
Thank you for highlighting it again.
I need to be more conscious of God’s redeeming grace in my mistakes and daily life
Very true in my life and God knows our weakness; that’s why we read in Roman Paul reminded us, where sin increase God’s Grace abounds . But we need to try everyday to ran from it as Joseph did . Only by the help of the Holly spirit.
Thank you for this Debbie. I too so often feel paralyzed by my sin of pride. I was encouraged by this, and also by Robert Murray McCheyne’s quote that says: “Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” And in looking often to Him, He is fully capable of working the change that we are incapable of working. So thankful for His conviction and the growth He intends to accomplish through it!
BSF is not just Bible study alone, it’s how to live our lives in God. It’s a day-to-day walk with God.
In our LM I shared that as I immersed myself into the Word of God the more I see myself in God’s perspective. It’s like exposing who truly I am, in the beam of microscope not to be rejected but reform.The process is like removing the layers of onion until He reach the core and exposed my inside out.
So thankful that God loves us with an everlasting love and that He never gives up on us!
Great to hear how God continues to work with each of us.
So awesome! Thank you Debbie!
What a wonderful encouragement, Debbie. Thank you for writing this. I had never thought before that God exposes our sin in His time and not all at once. I can certainly see this in my life, and I think this makes me love God even more. It’s a blessing to see how He cares for me and grows me in such a personal and customized way.
God deal with us with gentle grace.
I loved this! The truth is what I need to read and hear. Thank you!
BSF has literally changed my life and the way I study the Bible.
I struggle with this. It’s difficult for me to get beyond the easy words of “I’m sorry “ to the actual expression of what I am sorry for and asking for forgiveness for each action.
Thank you so much for putting words in our unspoken battles. Thank You Jesus for relentlessly pursuing our wayward heart.