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Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Can You Tell When A Person Has Repented?

There are no repent-o-meters which indicate whether or not a person has repented. Repentance is a turning of the heart from following after a sin to working toward righteousness. There is no repentance if the heart is not turned.

I have observed the difference between those who repent and those who are just sorry they got caught. They follow this pattern so well that it seems there is a script which each one has been given. They say their lines with perfect timing.

The non-repentant person will deny he has committed the sin. He will do so until there is no way he can deny it any longer. Friends will come to him and give him their suspicions but he will deny them vehemently. Sometimes he will also feign being hurt that this friend has suspected him of any sinful behavior.

He minimizes the sin when the evidence is no longer deniable. He searches the eyes of the accusers and claims the fewest times possible for the transgression. He will continue to claim the fewer times until evidence exposes him further. This is actually part of the denial process. He is continuing to deny the sin by denying its frequency.

Exposure makes the non-repentant person uncomfortable. He will start blaming others when he can no longer minimize the sin. A person who has committed adultery might start blaming his wife for what he has done. A person who has embezzled will blame the employer for making the embezzlement so easy.

The non-repentant person will claim the consequences of the sin are too great. If convicted in court he will point at all those who have gotten away with more than he did. If confronted by his church, he will point out the sins within the congregation. He will claim that they did not have to suffer as he is being made to do.

Finally, the non-repentant person will find sympathetic souls who will join him in condemning those who have confronted his sin and have extracted consequences. Together they will trash the legal system or the church or their former friends who hold him accountable.

On the other hand, you have the repentant person. He exposes his sin to the light. He admits all that he has done. His heart turns toward God through scripture, prayer and putting himself under the authority of those who will hold him accountable. He accepts the consequences and does not blame others at any time for their actions even if they are, indeed, too harsh.

The repentant person waits until others say that he is restored to righteousness. He does not take former privileges of trust until others say he can. He will exclude himself from the environment that caused the problem. The alcoholic quits going to the bars. The person caught with pornography quits using the computer (if the computer is where he was getting the pornography). He guards his heart from returning to its former sin.

If I have not already been fooled, I will probably be fooled some day by someone claiming repentance. My system of detection is far from perfect. It is based on observations alone. Please don't use this to be judgmental of others. Yet, watch them closely. Don't give your trust until you are convinced they are truly repentant.

I suppose this method might be used if a person wonders if he is repentant. Which pattern did you follow when you were caught in a sin?

A non-repentant person will eventually repeat his sin. That is the real tragedy. Eventually, he will lose all trust from those around him. He will lose his witness. On the other hand, a repentant person receives a witness through repentance.

I strive to be one who repents. How about you?

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