Tag: repentence

All the steps of repentance


I wrote recently about what true repentance is but I did not attempt to cover all the steps of repentance.

In this post, I am going to try and break down all the steps of true repentance and explore what the Bible has to say about each one.


Background reading: Metanoia, Sin, and Repentance

It is not enough to simply say sorry to God and think that the sin is dealt with. The offence (to God) of the sin may be forgotten. However, to be free from sin’s dominion, it’s nature and it’s trespass must be addressed too.

Sin is tri-part – hamartia (flaws and weakness), trespass (transgression), and offence (or guilt). This is addressed in Romans 5:20.

Grace covers our hamartia so that we are not an offence to God for our trespasses against Him. Love from our brothers and sisters in Christ fulfils a similar role (1 Peter 4:8).

None of this abnegates our responsibilities that stem from the trespass and offences that our hamartia has led us into. In other words, we still have to take personal responsibility. We still have a need to make a fundamental change in our thinking and our actions. This is what metanoia (repentance) literally means.

The 12 steps of repentance

You may recognise these steps of repentance as being somewhat based on the 12 steps of addiction recovery. I used the 12 steps as a template because they codify very well the stages of setting right what we have done wrong.

1. Admit

We admit our powerlessness over our weaknesses and failings (hamartia) recognising that without help we remain slaves to sin.

It may be tempting to say “I am no longer a slave to sin”. After all, that is the ultimate purpose of the atonement. However, Romans 6:16-20 tells us that we are slaves to whatever form of actions – sin or righteousness – we choose.

To put it in more human terms, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

In Ecclesiastes 7:20 and other passages, we read that we are all sinful. Therefore, none of us can claim to be without sin. To do so would simply be self-deception (1 John 1:8).

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

2. Recognise our need for God

We place our faith in the understanding that God, being greater than ourselves, could restore us to righteousness.

Righteousness – a term that can be misused – means simply being flawlessly in the right. In other words, a settlement of guilt (offence) and a correction of trespass such that there is no outstanding debt.

3. Turn to God

Having recognised our need for God, we turn our will and our lives over to His care.

In Isaiah 45:22-25 God says turn to Him and be saved for there is no other.

Micah 7:7 says this:

But I will keep watching for the LORD; I will wait for the God who delivers me. My God will hear my lament.

Psalm 130 says this:

From the deep water I cry out to you, O Lord.
O Lord, listen to me!
Pay attention to my plea for mercy!
If you, O Lord, were to keep track of sins,
O Lord, who could stand before you?
But you are willing to forgive,
so that you might be honoured
I rely on the Lord,
I rely on him with my whole being;
I wait for his assuring word.
I yearn for the Lord,
more than watchmen do for the morning,
yes, more than watchmen do for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord,
for the Lord exhibits loyal love,
and is more than willing to deliver.
He will deliver Israel
from all the consequences of their sins.

4. Examine ourselves

We make a full and honest examination of ourselves and our lives.

1 Corinthians 11:28-29, 2 Corinthians 13:5, and Galatians 6:4 all talk of examining oneself and one’s works. In other words, we must take moral stock of our actions so that we can recognise what we have done wrong.

Most 12 step programs phase it like this:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Confess our sins

We admit to God, to ourselves, and to brothers and sisters the exact nature of our wrongs.

I mentioned this passage before but it continues into the next verse. 1 John 1:8-9 says this:

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

This is where most people stop. Halfway through the fifth of twelve steps. If we want freedom from the power of sin, we must continue.

James 5:16 says:

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.

Where is says “sins” here, the word is hamartias – flaws, failings, and guilt.

In Mark 1:5 and Matthew 3:6 we can read of people coming to John to confess their sins and be baptised. This practice continues. In Acts 19:18 we read that people confessed their sins to receive forgiveness.

Only when we are able to admit our flaws and failings to others, can we hope to be set free from them.

6. Be ready to change

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Metanoia requires change. Therefore we have to become willing to change. Saying sorry is not enough – that is just words. Words without actions mean very little if anything at all.

You can say every sinner’s prayer ever written but unless you are willing to change, it is only so much hot air.

Just as faith without works is dead faith, so words without actions are dead words (James 2:14-26). If you only say the right things but do not back them up with willing action, what have you achieved? This is a form of Godliness but without the power. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 describes such people in detail as dangerous. We should have absolutely nothing to do with them.

Without a willingness to change, the Bible says that we remain loaded down with sins, swayed by all kinds of evil desires. Slaves to sin, in every way. Don’t be that person.

7. Ask to be changed

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

We acknowledged in steps one and two that we needed God. By step five we had confessed our failings and guilt to Him and to others. Now that we are ready to be changed we can enjoy the other part of 1 John 1:8-9, “cleansing us from all unrighteousness”.

In John 16:24 we read of Jesus saying that we should ask the father for what we need. In James 4:2, the writer talks of the strife within the community because people want but do not have. James says you have not because you did not ask God. In Luke 11:9, we find Jesus in the middle of teaching about asking God for what we need.

If you want to be changed, ask God for that change.

8. Recognise what must be put right

We make a list of all persons harmed by our failings, being willing to make amends to them all.

Too often we present a version of repentance that includes only settling our account with God as if we do not live in a community with other people. As we saw in step six, unless your words are backed up by actions demonstrating your change, your apology to God is hollow. God will not be fooled by it.

This is the step whereby you prepare to demonstrate to God, to yourself, and to those you have confessed your sins to, that you are serious about changing.

You have not repented until you have made every reasonable attempt to make right what you put wrong.

9. Put those things right

We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus teaches that anger is as bad as murder. He tells us to settle all matters with others before we come to make offerings to God.

So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.

If you have faith in your prayer from step seven, where are your actions? Remember, faith without actions is not faith (James 2:26).

10. Allow change to be ongoing

We continue to take personal inventory. When we are wrong, we promptly admit it.

Change is not something that happens instantly. At least, not very often. Patience is required too (James 1:4-8).

Remember we said back in step four about examining ourselves. 2 Corinthians 13:5, says we must examine all our works. Step ten is step four but ongoing through the rest of our life.

Metanoia (repentance) is not something you do and then forget. It is a firm commitment to being different. A change in attitude and action.

11. Don’t stop changing

Through prayer and meditation, we seek to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Philippians 2:12-13 speaks of working out our salvation over time. This passage reminds us that it is God that works in you at his own pleasure. Hebrews 13:20-21 tells us that it is the peace of God that equips us for every good work.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

By ongoing assessment of our lives, our words, and our actions, we can see if we are truly changing into God’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

God, having started a good work in you will bring it to fulfilment. Philippians 1:6 says:

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Growth is a process. You planted a seed, now tend to it so that you can see a harvest.

12. Help others with the benefit of what you have learned

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps of repentance, we support others to do the same as we practice these principles in all areas of our life.

Repentance is a lifestyle. One we should be happy to share with others.

When Jesus first sent out his disciples to preach (Matthew 10:8), he told them this, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Having learned how to repent and, having put it into practice, be willing to support others going through the same process.

Galatians 6:1-10 talks about doing this.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I would strongly suggest that you be in no hurry to set yourself up as either an expert nor the central support for new Christians. However, sooner or later you will find yourself connecting with someone who has gone through what you have gone through. If they are open to your support, be willing to offer it. This leads us into a whole other topic – discernment – which is best addressed at a later time.

Conclusions on the steps of repentance

Repentance is not and never has been “simply saying sorry to God”. Christ did not come to absolve us of our debts to each other.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

These steps of repentance are not intended as any sort of hard and fast set of rules. I have simply laid them out this way as a guide to putting into practice what the Bible means when it says to repent of your sins.

We have explored the three parts of sin – personal flaws (hamartia), the wrongdoings (trespass), and the debts (offence). We have also looked at how each can be addressed with God’s help.

Let me know if this has been helpful to you.

Christian cybermisogyny and hate speech has to end


There is a trend that the church simply cannot afford to ignore – cybermisogyny and harassment of women “in the name of Christ”. I wish I was joking.

I’ve talked before about what I call “Trolls For Christ” – the worst kind of ill-informed Pharisee determined to spill hate in defence of the church. Just recently I penned an open letter to a church leader engaged in cybermisogyny dressed up as a book review.

This “defending the church” argument in support of cybermisogyny (because it targets women far more than men) is wrong on two grounds – a minor point but the church does not need us to defend it (that’s taken care of, read the Bible) but more importantly – because hate speech should have no part in Christian living. Not ever.

Jesus talked about being meek, turning the other cheek, forgiving sins, and healing people. Somehow we have made it all about defending our rights. Did we forget that he said over and over that when someone tries to trample your rights – help them to do it? If they sue you for your coat, give them also your shirt. If someone compels you to go a mile, go two miles. That is literally where the expression “to go the extra mile” comes from.

How bad is cybermisogyny?

The Guardian reports that women writers are facing unprecedented levels of harassment, rape threats, and abuse.

In 2014 there was an organised campaign of harassment that became known as GamerGate. The harassment campaign targeted several women in the video game industry; notably game developers Zoë Quinn, Brianna Wu, and media critic Anita Sarkeesian.

Account upon account of the online harassment of women continues to pile up.

WMC report that this can include defamation and accusations of blasphemy. Defamation, in this case, can include coordinated attempts where a person, or, sometimes, organized groups deliberately flood Google, social media and review sites with negative and defamatory information.

As for the blasphemy charges…

Women face online threats globally, but they run a unique risk in conservative religious countries, where, in blasphemy is against the law and where honor killings are a serious threat. Accusing someone of blasphemy can become, itself, an act of violence.

A 2013 report from the organisation Working to Halt Abuse Online showed that 72.5% of those who reported being abused on the internet were female. That, right there, is cybermisogyny.

This all culminated in a campaign under the hashtag #MeToo. How did the church respond?

What is the church doing about cybermisogyny?

Is the church speaking up those that have no voice like the scriptures say (Proverbs 31:8)? Do we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15-18)? Do we, as God’s law command, protect the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)?

No. No, we do not.

We don’t do this because the church is too busy joining in with the cybermisogyny. We cannot condemn the sin because we are the sin.

Australian Christian news website, Eternity News, shared an article dedicated to ordinary women revealing sexual harassment by Christians.

#MeToo: Christian women share stories of assault at the hands of Christian men

And we wonder why the church is not seen as relevant any more?

Disagreeing with you is not a sin, church

I hate to have to be the one pointing this out because I thought we were past these basics but disagreeing with someone while being a woman is not a sin; harassing a person you disagree with is a sin, though.

Treating women like something you can own is a sin.

This cybermisogyny, protecting cybermisogyny, and failing to speak out against cybermisogyny from Christians are all sins too.

It is not okay to call women all kinds of names, to suggest their character, their faith, or their life is anything less than it is just because the way they interpret the Bible or chose to live their lives, differs from the way you do.

Jesus said, in John 13:35, that it would be our love for each other that would show we are his disciples. This behaviour shows that we are not His disciples. Maybe few of us ever were.

The church needs to repent, and fast

The moment #MeToo started to break headlines, church groups the world over should have joined with the oppressed and cried out for justice. We did not and that is to our shame.

Our churches must, most urgently, change how we address sexual violence. So far we have done too poor a job of even recognising that it exists. We have failed to be salt and light. I think we all know all that salt which is no longer salty is good for?

I don’t pretend to have a plan for how we can change but Eugene Hung has some strong suggestions.

  1. Ministers and their churches need to address sexual violence on a regular basis.
  2. Ministers and churches must not neglect biblical passages that describe sexual violence.
  3. Churches need to bring more women into upper levels of leadership and decision-making authority.
  4. Church leaders must refuse to be party to conspiracies of silence.

We need to change and we need to change fast.

An open letter to some religious leader called David

Written Letter

This post, in a rapid departure from my usual format, is in response to an open letter by David to Vicky Beeching. I’ll confess I have not read the book in question and am simply responding to the form and content of the blog post in question.

Dear David,

In your open letter, you have the following words to say, and it is by according to these words that I will reply to you.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by the door of my heart, but I hope it is always open to reflect the glory of the God who is love. I also want to keep open the door of my mind and be open to reason, evidence and persuasion.

I hope, therefore that we can reason together. However, for us both, this will be tinged with the same conflict of interest – blogs by their very nature are about public attention and love in its nature is not. Let us continue then, assuming the very best of intentions but with the full knowledge that we are flawed.

Continue reading

No one is saved (yet)

Growing up in an Evangelical Charismatic church I thought I knew what it meant to be saved.

What do we mean by “saved”?

As far as my 12-year-old-self knew, you said the sinner’s prayer and then you were saved and going to heaven. Just wait at the rapture bus stop. While you are waiting, preach to people you would like in heaven with you and make them Christian too.

We quoted Romans 10:9-13 which described what we did in the sinner’s prayer (or so I thought). At the same time, we cited Ephesians 2:8-9 in case anyone started thinking that the prayer was what saved us. And we frequently made mention of John 3:17 and so we knew that it is Jesus that saves.

We glossed over Acts 16:31, where a man believes and his entire household are saved. Likewise, Mark 16:16 was only used at baptisms in case anyone got the idea that baptism was required to be saved even though “the Bible clearly says” as much.

The salvation we left out

There is a great deal that we leave out or gloss over when it comes to teachings on being saved. If we are to have a valid and unshakable doctrine of salvation all of these issues must be addressed.

Continue reading

We have forgotten our God.

When we see refugees in need and do nothing, we have forsaken our faith. When we see Muslims and other minorities persecuted and do not cry out, we have forgotten our God.

Jesus himself taught us that if we fail to serve even the least of these, we fail to serve Him. Therefore, we forfeit all right to worship God as long as we continue to refuse aid to our neighbours. Is it not written that when we turn away our ears from hearing His laws of mercy and justice, even our prayers are an abomination? Likewise, do we not know that only those of clean hands and a pure heart may stand in His Holy Place?

He says to us through His profits, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” yet we have failed to show mercy. The Father is willing to show us mercy for this sin – Jesus himself taught us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy“. Do not forget that judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? Therefore, until we show mercy to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, we have no claim to righteousness and no expectation of mercy.

The Lord our God hears only the prayers of those that do what is right. It is He that says, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

When we turn a blind eye to the suffering around us, when we silently approve of the death at our doorstep, that blood is upon our hands. Our God said through His prophet, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I look the other way; when you offer your many prayers, I do not listen, because your hands are covered with blood.

Is it not written that there is a curse upon those that withhold justice from foreigners? Remember His Holy Law which says:

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing. So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

His blessing upon us is by the same measure with which we bless others. It is written, “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.


Metanoia, an Ancient Greek word (μετάνοια) meaning “changing one’s mind”.

Metanoia is translated as repent most of the time in English language Bibles. However, reform might be closer to the original meaning. “Reform, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). I think only Young’s Literal Translation renders metanoia this way (read it here).

Metanoia is a fundamental change in thinking and living rather than a confession of sins as repentance is often explained.

How I intend to use the word metanoia.

Sometimes I try to avoid words which bring colour or meaning that they should not have. For example, the word repentance is so heavily charged, so thoroughly defined that it might not be fit for use in a particular discussion of doctrine. Where I wish to specifically refer to the radical change of heart and mind implicit in the original Greek, there I may use this word.