Being sorry is not the same thing as being truly repentant before God. In the 4th article of a 19-part series, Dr. Dunlap describes the biblical steps we must take if we desire to gain a clear conscience before God and those weve offended. He emphasizes the importance of carefully wording what we will say in advance and urges us to confess our pride and willfulness to God.
Christians who have obeyed Gods command to obtain a clear conscience, can face everyone they have offended with confidence that they have taken the proper measures to resolve their guilt in a biblical manner.
First, we should list all the people that we have had conflict with.
The first step toward gaining a clear conscience is to list all the people with whom we have had conflicts. We should write a brief description of the circumstances that are involved in each situation.
The second step is to acknowledge the fact that some of the people who are part of these conflicts may have sinned against us.
We should deliberately forgive them before God for any of the specific offenses that come to our minds. It is important to remember that these offenses are part of Gods overall purpose for our lives. We must decide on the exact wording that we will use when we ask for forgiveness.
The third step is to clearly determine the wording that we will use in each situation as we request forgiveness from each person.
This is very important because an apology that is not well thought out often serves to make matters worse. For each situation, we should decide ahead of time whether a personal visit or a phone call would be the wiser approach. It is best not to write notes of apology unless it becomes absolutely necessary. We want to avoid documenting an offense if it is possible.
Now we are ready to humble ourselves in genuine repentance before God. This must occur before we are ready to ask forgiveness from the people we have offended.
In James 4:9,10, James offers us an encouraging promise,
Be afflicted and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.
Are we genuinely repentant or are we merely sorry that we got caught?
We need to ask God to reveal to us the depth of our repentance. Being sorry is not the same thing as being repentant. We are not truly repentant if we are merely sorry that we failed, sorry that we were caught in our sins, or sorry that other people have rejected us.
If we are sorry that we lost our money or our possessions, or if we are grieving because our reputation has been damaged, then we are demonstrating nothing more than pride and selfishness. None of these responses constitute biblical repentance.
We should ask God to forgive us if we have demonstrated a proud spirit.
If we desire to experience godly repentance we must first confess our pride. We should ask the Lord to give us an accurate picture of the condition of our hearts. Then, we must confess the fact that we have resisted the grace God gave us to obey His will. The writer of 2 Samuel 12 illustrates the third confession we should make. Here we read that God punished David because,
By his deed, he gave occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme Gods name.
We ought to confess to God that our offensive deeds have caused Gods name to be blasphemed.
Finally, we confess the fact that we have been trying to take charge of our lives and that we have been following our own lusts and desires.
The Lord will be faithful to grant us godly sorrow and grief over the seriousness of our sins.