A Blueprint for Building a Life of Repentance
BIG IDEA | “Repentance is a change in desire resulting in a change of direction.”
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The end game of repentance is more than facing our sin and feeling sorry for it. Repentance should produce a change in direction for our lives. Where there is no change, there cannot have been real repentance.
No one accidentally stumbles into a life of genuine repentance, however. Just as in architecture, building something that lasts requires a blueprint; repentance, too, calls for a specific plan.
One of the most profound examples of this is the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Looking at his interaction with Jesus in first century Jericho gives us clear guidance for living a life of repentance.
Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who was despised for being chief tax collector for the oppressive Roman government. He had become rich by overcharging his own people and skimming the excess for himself.
Though Zacchaeus was an outcast, Jesus sought him out by name and invited Himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ home. The crowd that heard this was angry and confused. They believed Jesus’ gracious invitation to Zacchaeus was outrageous because his sin was too great to be forgiven.
They failed to understand that their (and our) belief in the gospel was only as big as their heart for people far from God.
Jesus extended grace to Zacchaeus anyway and the resulting interaction went quickly from surface-level to life-changing. Zacchaeus was so overwhelmed by Jesus’ acceptance and love, he vowed to make more than full restitution to those he had wronged. As a result, Jesus observed that “salvation has come to this house.” (v. 9).
Zacchaeus was not saved because of what he did, but he did what he did because he was saved. Obedience doesn’t PROVIDE salvation, but it does PROVE it.
From Zacchaeus’ story, we find a five-step blueprint for building a life of repentance:
1. Own what you’ve done.
Zacchaeus took responsibility for his sin. He didn’t try to hide anything from Jesus.
If we want to experience a change in desire resulting in a change of direction, we also must identify and own what we’ve done.
2. Offer the appropriate confession.
Zacchaeus not only confessed to Jesus, he made plans to confess to those he’d sinned against.
Few things provide healing in a relationship like confession and repentance.
3. Make it right.
Zacchaeus didn’t just acknowledge his sin and apologize, he made restitution to those he had sinned against.
We can’t be right with God and wrong with people. We must prayerfully seek God’s guidance for restoring what has been damaged by our sin.
4. Learn from the consequences.
From church history, we know that Zacchaeus became a leader in the early church. He didn’t return to his old ways but allowed his consequences to shape a new future.
There are always consequences for our sin but like Zaccheus, our past failures need not dictate our future faithfulness.
5. Receive God’s grace.
If Jesus could save, love, and desire a relationship with Zacchaeus, He can do the same for us.
Jesus came specifically for broken, hurting, imperfect people. He came “to seek and to save the lost.” (v. 10) He knows our names and what we’ve done. He calls us to come out of hiding and into a saving and sanctifying relationship with Him.