Repentance and Resistance

Repentance and Resistance

Repentance and Resistance

Repentance is a hard thing to talk about. We might have a certain confidence in our ability to articulate what the Bible says about repentance, but when we take an honest look at our repentance, in the light of what we know the Bible teaches, we can become very discouraged.  Truth be told, we don’t know what a life of repentance is supposed to look like. When was the last time you talked about it in your home Bible study group? Around your dinner table? With your friends?

Are we modeling repentance in our churches? Jack Miller, the author of Repentance and the 20th Century Man, said that the leaders of the church (pastors, elders, deacons, etc.) should be the lead repenters. In other words, the congregants should know what repentance looks like by observing the lives of their leaders.

How true is that in your church? Martin Luther said, “When Jesus Christ said, ‘Except you repent you will all likewise perish,’ he was not talking about a one-time event but rather a life time of repentance.”

I resist repentance because of my deep sense of shame over my sexual sin. I find it hard to believe God could love a pervert like me.

I think about this subject a lot because the men who come to Harvest USA struggle with the reality of going to church and feeling like they’re the only ones who need to repent.

For them, not only is repentance not modeled well for them, repentance is a hard thing to do. They resist it and believe me, I know what that resistance is like in my own life.

I resist repentance because of my deep sense of shame over my sexual sin. I find it hard to believe God could love a pervert like me.  Feeling like a pervert is a shame-based self-identity that sticks to us like tar.

I resist because I feel like I’ve sinned my way past God’s desire to pursue me. I’ve gone too far, I’ve sinned too much. He’s not going to want me anymore.

I resist because I haven’t made myself good enough again for him. I first need to pray more or read the Bible more or tell more people about Jesus. I got work to do.

I resist because I simply can’t believe he would accept me right here and now.

To be honest, I resist God simply because He is God! He is too big for me to take in. Too much holiness for me. Too sovereign for me. He knows too much about me. When the Psalmist says “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psa. 139:6), I think to myself, I’m not even going to go there!  I resist some more.

These are all lies that shame tells me about myself.

The only way I can do what I need to do—which is to resist those lies!—is to speak truth to myself. Truth about what repentance really is.

And it starts with this truth. You need to first repent of your inability to receive God’s love and grace for you. Let me explain how this first step leads us to freedom and joy.

I believe that faith and repentance are opposite sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.  You obviously need faith and repentance to be saved, and I don’t believe God is asking for two different things. As you begin to believe — you are starting to repent. That’s why if we take an honest look at our faith we can get discouraged.  Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6).

So this is again what I’m saying to anyone struggling with sexual behavior you can’t seem to stop—you need to first repent of your inability to receive God’s love and grace for you. 

I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I realize that I must have very little faith. And while that’s true, here’s a bigger truth I have to speak to myself:  It’s not my faith that saves me, it’s the object of my faith that saves me.

It’s the same thing with repentance.  It’s not my repentance that saves me; it’s who I’m turning to. It’s not how sincere I am, but how sincere God is. That is the reason we are saved by faith and not by love. If our salvation depends on our love for God we immediately turn love into a work that we have to do.

Then our conversations with God sound like, Why don’t you believe I love you, God?  Or, What else do you want me to do? Let’s stop looking at what we bring to the table and look at what Christ brings to the table. Hey! That’s something to repent of! God doesn’t need to believe us.  We need to believe Him.

So this is again what I’m saying to anyone struggling with sexual behavior you can’t seem to stop—you need to first repent of your inability to receive God’s love and grace for you.

But here’s the second thing to know about repentance. God will take you places where you can’t avoid Him. The verse before Psa. 139:6 says, “You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”  And Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

God has cornered me with nowhere else to go but to Him. Perhaps you are feeling this right now. But the good news is, when I look at my behavior as the very thing Jesus died for, I’ve got no other alternative but to submit to Him. Nobody else points directly at my sin and calls it what it really is. His blood is the only honest solution for my dilemma.

I submit to Him when I’m honest with Him about my sin. When I learned that my sexual struggle was not just a habit I couldn’t stop doing, but it was idolatry and turning to something else besides God for my source of comfort and strength, then I could confess accurately. I could thank God for opening up my eyes to see things as they really are.

Then another truth hits me: I have really sinned, but God really loves sinners!

To me, that is what a life of repentance looks like. Appreciating more and more God’s character that we can’t help turning to Him. His perseverance with us is disarming. We can’t avoid Him. So we find ourselves acknowledging the movement in our hearts away from Him and His will, but that doesn’t have to stop us from turning back toward Him.  Because we know of His eternal commitment to us for His glory.

Understanding the reasons for our resistance enables us to truly repent.


You can watch Bob  talk  more about this on his accompanying video: Why Do I have Such a Hard Time Repenting?  These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
Bob Heywood
About The Author
Bob Heywood has been on staff with HARVEST USA since July 2004. For years Bob struggled with using pornography, something he was not aware was having an effect on him, his wife, or his church. He has a wonderful testimony of sanctification and reconciliation by the hand of the Lord. Bob has worked with youth, served as a volunteer leader with HARVEST USA for a number of years, and is an elder at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. At HARVEST USA he now works with the Discovery Biblical support group for men struggling with sexual sin. He also does one-on-one discipleship as well as presents seminars and leads in training individuals to be small group facilitators.

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