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Making Repentance a Habit

Jul 19, 2021

This post is by Kelli LaFram.

What have I done, he thought to himself. I have spent it all and now I have nothing. I am living in filth. No one will help me. This is not the life I thought I’d have. But back at my father’s house, his servants have plenty. I will repent. I will turn back and beg for forgiveness. I will beg to be allowed to work for my father, no longer a son but a servant. (Luke 15:13-19, paraphrased)

In the parable of the lost son, the younger son goes to his father and demands his inheritance. Now, normally inheritances are passed down to the next generation after a person's death, not before. Consider what this demand implies: Dad, I love your wealth, not you. Can we just pretend you are already dead and gone? I’d like my inheritance now.

The older son isn't much better. When he learns that his gracious father runs to meet the younger son, forgives him, and celebrates his return, he becomes irate. Big brother wrongly believes that his “good” and “loyal” behavior has earned him all his father’s remaining wealth (Luke 15:20-32).

Before we shake our heads at these boys, however, we need to acknowledge that we too often view our heavenly Father as a cosmic sugar daddy and not as Holy God. Anytime we take God’s grace for granted or attempt to earn His favor, we spit on the Cross and turn our back on His mercy.

But there is hope. God, in his infinite wisdom and grace, has given us the gift of repentance.

What is Repentance

Repentance is far more important than our Christian culture realizes. In order to “prepare the way of the Lord”, John the baptist preached repentance (Matthew 3:2-3). Jesus came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32, 13:3, 15:7). Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus instructed His disciples to preach repentance and remission of sin (Luke 24:47). Repentance is a big deal!

The Greek word for repentance is metanoeo. It means to change one’s mind for the better, to repent, and have a hatred for one’s own sin. The Oxford Languages dictionary (the one that pops us when you Google a word’s definition) says that repentance is “the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse.” 

The blanket statement “I am a sinner” will not do. Admitting you are a sinner and repenting are not the same. One simply acknowledges a fact. The other shows a true desire to stop shunning the Cross.

Making Repentance a Habit

We all sin (Romans 3:23) and, like it or not, we likely all sin daily. No matter how long we’ve been Christians, we are all still sinners. We must learn the habit of repentance.

In The Hidden Life of Prayer, David McIntyre writes, 

“When, in the course of the day's engagements, our conscience witnesses against us that we have sinned, we should at once confess our guilt, claim by faith the cleansing of the blood of Christ and so wash our hands in innocency. And afterwards, as soon as we  have a convenient opportunity, we ought to review with deliberation the wrong that we have done.”

In other words, we cannot ignore our sin -- not even for a moment! We can’t wait to deal with it at a more convenient time. The moment the Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sin we must -- must! -- confess. It might look like this:

I just lost it with my kids again. Lord, that wasn’t patient or kind. Forgive me.

I just gossiped to my co-worker. Lord, that doesn’t honor you. Forgive me.

Lord, I just blasted my horn at that horrible driver. I did not represent you well. Forgive me.

And then later, when our kids are in bed, we’ve left work, we’re out of traffic, we spend time contemplating how these are the reasons Jesus died on the Cross. We let our guilt sink in. We begin to develop a hatred for our sin (not ourselves, but our sin). And each time we do our appreciation for the cross, our love for our Savior Jesus, and our dependence on God’s grace, is all taken to a deeper level.

Why Should We Repent

You may be wondering, if repentance leads to itchy feelings like guilt, remorse, and hatred, why would I do it? Because it doesn’t stop there. Great joy is intermingled as well. The Bible tells us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

We all know that the struggle is real. We each have ugly habitual sins that we believe we will never conquer. So the joy comes from the promise that God will do the cleansing. Not us. Our part is to humbly and honestly confess, to repent.

Both of the sons in Luke 15 saw their father as a man they could get something from. One was brazen enough to demand an early inheritance. The other thought his hard work earned him one. Both sons failed to realize that a life lived with their father, a man who desperately loved them and wanted to be with them (Luke 15:20, 28), was the greatest inheritance.

The most important reason we need to repent is so that we can enjoy life with our Heavenly Father. He is patiently waiting for us to take our eyes of our worldly things and direct our gaze back to Him. He is waiting to share Himself with each of us, because experiencing life in His presence is the best life He has to offer.


Kelli LaFram is actually Kelli LaFramboise, but no one can pronounce that, so with the permission of her family she writes under the shorter pen name. Her neighbors have started referring to her bunch as the LaFram Fam. In addition to writing for Hello Mornings, Kelli has also led bible studies in her home and serves in the children’s ministry at her local church. Kelli is an elementary school teacher and her hobbies include blogging about God’s word, listening to audiobooks with her children, drinking good coffee, and hand painting faith-based signs (but not after too much coffee). You can find her at www.quietlyreminded.com and https://www.instagram.com/kellilafram/.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash



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