Wednesday, February 22, is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of the season of Lent, which will climax on Easter Sunday. Lent is comprised of the forty days (minus Sundays) before Easter. During this time the church fathers suggest believers prepare themselves for Easter in a way similar to Hebrew preparation for Passover. It is suggested that Christians take on a Lenten fast. The church colors change to purple which signifies repentance.
What does it mean to repent? God blessed me on my recent trip to Israel by seating me beside a religious Jewish woman who taught me a lot about my faith by sharing about hers. She explained how she had been instructed about repentance. She said there are three levels of confession before you experience true repentance.
- Confess your sin. She confesses her sins against God to God and her sins against people to people. What if after brainstorming a list of your sins, you identify the sins against people and then call these same people to confess how you sinned? She said that when we sin against another person we are sinning against God because people bear the image of God.
- Feel regret for your sin. I easily do the first two levels of confession—except the confessing of my sins against my brother—I’m weaker on that point in level one of confession. I do feel bad for the effect of my sin on others. I don’t like this feeling. I want to feel God’s forgiveness. I’m eager for that. This is often why I miss true repentance. I don’t go to the third level of confession that leads to true repentance.
- Promise not to do it again. Ok, well, I feel bad about my sin, but not to do it again? Is that really necessary? After all, I’ve got my sins narrowed down to the reasonably accepted by most Christians these days list. And by the way, most of my repeat sins are against my husband, and really, can you expect me not to get mad at him again?
TRUE REPENTANCE: When God gives you the same situation or similar situation and you do not do it again—then you have experienced true repentance.
True repentance, that’s the place I rarely get to, but what repentance is actually about. I do feel sorry for my sins, yet that is not enough. I can feel as sorry as sorry can be, but not really repent.
As I enter into a new Lenten season, I want to bring my deeper understanding of the three levels of confession with me. I want to move to that spiritual breakthrough of true repentance. I want to realize what a spiritual victory it is to actually be empowered by God to not only confess my sin, not only feel sorry for my sin, not only promise not to do it again, but also to actually not do it again and praise and glorify God for that experience!