How does one repent of their sins? What are the steps?
“How do I repent of my sins?” or “How to repent to God?” are common questions that many ask. Those Christians who understand they have sinned against God and truly desire to have a right relationship with Him will repent of their sins. They will want to know the meaning of repentance and will want to know how to repent. Do you want to know “How to repent of your sins?” If so, it is important to understand that God does not forgive those are not sincere and are just mechanically going through a series of steps, like following a cake recipe. True repentance involves a sorrowful, serious and honest heart. Therefore, remember this principle as you read the following five steps about “How to repent of your sins” or as some ask, “How to repent your sins.”
But first, if you are not a Christian, please know that in order to have your sins forgiven you must believe in Jesus Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9-10 says,
. . . that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)
Please know that the following four steps will automatically be true at the moment a person believes in Jesus Christ. Also, know that the word righteous means that God declares those who believe in Jesus Christ to be holy or sinless. Yet, Christians will still need to repent and confess their sins. Why? The answer is given in the conclusion.
First Step in Repentance — Admit You Have Sinned
The first step in repentance is to honestly admit that you have sinned. If you do not believe you have sinned, you will never truly repent of your sins and God will not forgive. King David is an important example of this principle in the Old Testament. Therefore, let’s discover how he responded to his secret sins. 2 Samuel 11:1-5 tells us that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. That was his sin of adultery. 2 Samuel 11:6-21 reveals David’s second sin when he arranged for Uriah to be killed by ordering the military to place him on the frontline during a battle. David tried to keep both sins a secret. But God knew and sent the prophet Nathan to confront David (2 Samuel 12:1-12). 2 Samuel 12:13 says that David finally admitted that he had sinned. He said,
I have sinned . . . 2 Samuel 12:13 (NASB)
God knew David had to admit his sin before he would repent. So God chose to use a prophet. Today, God the Holy Spirit uses the Bible and Christian friends who care about us to remind us of our sins.
Second Step in Repentance — Grieve Your Sin and Strive to Stop
The second step in repentance is that you grieve your sin and strive to stop committing the sin. Psalm 32:3-5 is a prayer of David in which he grieves his two sins. In verses 3-4, he reveals what happened to him because he did not immediately repent and confess his sins.
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
Psalm 32:3-4 (NASB)
David describes true repentance. It is brought about the Holy Spirit according to John 16:8 -11. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 teaches that sorrow over sin leads to repentance. Acts 26:20 teaches that repentance involves more than feeling badly about our sins. It also involves fleeing the sin. We desire to stop committing the sin and strive to stop.
. . . that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. Acts 26:20 (NASB)
Another important passage about repentance is Ezekiel 18:30-31. In these Bible verses God reveals that true repentance involves turning away from the sin.
Repent and turn away from all your transgressions . . . Ezekiel 18:30 (NASB)
Third Step in Repentance — Admit You Sinned Against God
The third step in repentance is to admit that you sinned against God. If we return to 2 Samuel 12:13 where are told that David finally admitted he had sinned, we learn that he also admitted he had sinned against God,
I have sinned against the LORD. 2 Samuel 12:13 (NASB)
Then later in David’s prayer of confession, which is recorded in Psalm 51, he admitted that he had sinned against God.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight . . .
Psalm 51:4 (NASB)
Why did David admit this? Because our holy God has explained what sin is and commanded us to not commit these sins.
Fourth Step in Repentance — Confess Your Sins To God
The fourth step in repentance is to confess your sins to God. If we return to David’s confession of sin in Psalm 32:5, we learn that he admitted his sin to God.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide ;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
Psalm 32:5 (NASB)
In this verse we learn that he confessed his sin. In Psalm 51 he admits his sin and asks God to forgive him and to wash him whiter than snow.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.
Psalm 51:5-9 (NASB)
In the New Testament 1 John 1:9 explains that we must confess our sins to God.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NASB)
The Greek word for confess, homologeo, means “to agree.” That is, we are to agree with God about our sins. That is what King David did. He agreed and admitted that he had sinned and needed to be forgiven.
1 John 1:9 should give every Christian great comfort that God does forgive the repentant sinner who confesses his or her sins. The verse does not tell us to beg and plead over and over again and hope that He has forgiven. Many Christians worry that God has not forgiven them because they do not feel forgiven. There are a number of reasons why they may not feel forgiven, but the root problem is that they do not understand the character of God. Notice that we are given a promise that God will forgive because of His character. He forgives the repentant sinner because He is faithful and righteous. This means that if God did not forgive us He would not be faithful and not righteous. Therefore, when we admit our sin and are truly repentant, He forgives. That is an example of the love of God. 1 John 2:1 says that Jesus Christ defends Christians when they sin.
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous . . . 1 John 2:1 (NASB)
So, God the Father promises to forgive Christians when they and repent of their sins and confess their sins. Jesus Christ will defend Christians against false accusations of sin. Anything less than believing and trusting Him is another sin.
Fifth Step in Repentance — Thank God For Forgiving You
The fifth step in repentance is to thank God for forgiving your sins. As the leper who was healed in Luke 17:11-16 fell on his face at the feet of Jesus Christ and thanked Him, we should thank God for forgiving our sins. We have already learned in 1 John 1:9 that God has promised to forgive our sins. Therefore, we should say, “Thank you God for forgiving my sins!”
You have learned four steps about “How to repent of your sins” or as some word it, “How to repent your sins.”
1. Admit You Have Sinned
2. Grieve Your Sin and Strive to Stop
3. Admit You Sinned Against God
4. Confess Your Sins To God
It is important to remember that if you are a Christian, regular confession of your sins is not required to maintain your salvation. At the moment of saving faith, all of a Christian’s past, present and future sins are forgiven. That is, a Christian has been declared to be as righteous as Jesus Christ when we believe in Him and place our trust in Him. Ephesians 2:6 and 1 Peter 1:4 say that Christians already have a reservation in heaven. That means Christians have been promised eternal life and are going to heaven. Yet, Christians still sin day-to-day (1 John 1:8). Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19 tell us that we grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. That is why 1 John 1:9 urges Christians to regularly confess ours. It restores a Christian’s relationship with God. Day-to-day confession is not about maintaining a Christian’s salvation. We encourage you to read, “What is the difference between holy and righteous in the Bible?“
Suggested Links:What is the meaning of the word repentance in the Bible?
What is the difference between holy and righteous in the Bible?
Must a person repent in order to go to heaven?
Why do we need to repent in order to be saved?
Is there a gift of repentance?