How Do You Know You’re Repentant?


From Jared Wilson for The Gospel Coalition via

How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance:

“A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: W ould the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.” (p. 72)

These are good indicators, and I believe we can add a few more.

Here are 12 signs we have a genuinely repentant heart:

1. We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it, and further, we demonstrate “godly sorrow,” which is to say, a grief chiefly about the sin itself, not just a grief about being caught or having to deal with the consequences of sin.

2. We actually confessed before we were caught or the circumstantial consequences of our sin caught up with us.

3. If found out, we confess immediately or very soon after and “come clean,” rather than having to have the full truth coaxed out of us. Real repentance is typically accompanied by transparency.

4. We have a willingness and eagerness to make amends. We will do whatever it takes to make things right and to demonstrate we have changed.

5. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized, spending as much time as is required listening to them without jumping to defend ourselves.

6. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized as they process their hurt, and we don’t pressure them or “guilt” them into forgiving us.

7. We are willing to confess our sin even in the face of serious consequences (including undergoing church discipline, having to go to jail or having a spouse leave us).

8. We may grieve the consequences of our sin but we do not bristle under them or resent them. We understand that sometimes our sin causes great damage to others that is not healed in the short term (or perhaps ever this side of heaven).

9. If our sin involves addiction or a pattern of behavior, we do not neglect to seek help with a counselor, a solid 12-step program or even a rehabilitation center.

10. We don’t resent gracious accountability, pastoral rebuke or church discipline.

11. We seek our comfort in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, not simply in being free of the consequences of our sin.

12. We are humble and teachable.

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. —2 Corinthians 7:9-11

(I have put my signs in the first person plural not because it is always inappropriate to seek to gauge someone’s repentance, but because we should always be gauging our own first, and because the truly forgiving heart is interested in an offender’s repentance but isn’t inordinately set on holding up measuring sticks but holding out grace.)

Read the entire article here –

The Nature of True Repentance

This excerpt below is from Paul Washer’s Heart Cry publication January – February 1998 Volume 3, Page 8 with lots of thanks to Manuela for forwarding the periodical to me. Who was Thomas Watson?

Thomas Watson (c. 1620 – 1686) was an English, NonconformistPuritan preacher and author. Watson’s depth of doctrine, clarity of expression, warmth of spirituality, love of application, and gift of illustration enhanced his reputation as a preacher and writer. His books are still widely read today.You can read more about Watson and also browse through a list of his books which are still available (published) today, here at Monergism- Their short biography is excerpted from Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson’s book  Meet the Puritans which is also available at

The Nature of True Repentance by Thomas Watson.

Edited and Abridged by Randy Lowe

I shall show what gospel repentance is. Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed. For a further amplification, know that repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients. If any one is left out it loses its virtue.

Ingredient 1: Recognition of Sin

The first part of Christ’s healing work is to apply eye>salve. It is the great thing noted in the prodigal’s repentance: „he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). He saw himself a sinner and nothing but a sinner. Before a man can come to Christ he must first come to himself. He must first recog- nize and consider what his sin is, and know the plague of his heart before he can be duly humbled for it. The first thing God made was light. The first thing God gives the sinner is illumination. The eye is made both for seeing and weeping. Sin must be seen before it can be wept for. Hence I infer that where there is no sight of sin, there can be no repentance. Many who can spy faults in others see none in themselves. They say that they have good hearts. Is it not strange that two should live together, yet not know each other? Such is the case of a sinner. His body and soul live together, yet he is unacquainted with himself. He knows not his own heart. Under a veil, a deformed face is hid. Persons are veiled over with ignorance and self>love; therefore they see not what deformed souls they have.

Ingredient 2: Sorrow for Sin

Ambrose calls sorrow the embit- tering of the soul. The Hebrew word „to be sorrowful” signifies „to have the soul, as it were, crucified”. This must be in true repentance: „They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn” (Zech. 12:10), as if they did feel the nails of the cross sticking in their own sides. A woman may as well expect to have a child without pain as one can have repentance without sorrow. He that can believe without doubting, should be suspicious of his faith; and he that can repent without sorrowing, should be suspicious of his repentance. True sorrow for sin is not superficial: it is a holy agony. It is called in Scripture a breaking of the heart (Psalm 51:17); and a rending of the heart (Joel 2:13).

Ingredient 3: Confession of Sin

Sorrow is such a vehement pas- sion that it will have vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping and at the tongue by confession: „The children of Israel stood and confessed their sins (Neh. 9:2). „I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence” (Hosea 5:15).

Confession is self>accusing: „Lo, I have sinned” (2 Sam. 24:17). This is not common among men. Men never want to accuse themselves, but when we come be- fore God, we must accuse ourselves. In fact, the humble sinner does more than accuse himself; he sits in judgment and passes sentence upon himself. He con- fesses that he has deserved to be bound over to the wrath of God.

Ingredient 4: Shame for Sin

The fourth ingredient in repen- tance is shame: „that they may be ashamed of their iniquities” (Ezek. 43:10). Blushing is the color of virtue. When the heart has been made black with sin, grace makes the face red with blushing: „I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face” (Ezra 9:6). The repenting prodigal was so ashamed of his excess that he thought himself not worthy to be called a son any more (Luke 15:21). Repentance caused a holy bashfulness.

Ingredient 5: Hatred of Sin

The fifth ingredient in repen- tance is hatred of sin. There is a hatred or loathing of abominations: „Ye shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities” (Ezek. 36:31). A true penitent is a sin>loather. If a man loathes that which makes his stom- ach sick, much more will he loathe that which makes his conscience sick. It is more to loathe sin than to leave it. One may leave sin for fear, but the nauseating and loathing of sin is a detestation of it. Christ is never loved till sin is loathed. Heaven is never longed for till sin is loathed. Sound repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin.

Ingredient 6: Turning from Sin

The sixth ingredient in repentance is a turning from sin. True repen- tance, like nitric acid, eats asunder the iron chain of sin. „Repent, and turn your- selves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezek. 14:6). This turning from sin is called a forsaking of sin (Isa. 55:7). It is called „a putting of sin far away” (Job 11:14). Dying to sin is the life of repentance. The very day a Christian turns from sin he must begin a perpetual fast. The eye must fast from impure glances. The ear must fast from hearing slanders. The tongue must fast from oaths. The hands must fast from bribes. The feet must fast from the path of the harlot. And the soul must fast from the love of wickedness. This turning from sin implies a notable change.

There is a change wrought in the heart. In repentance Christ turns a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. There is a change wrought in the life. Turning from sin is so visible that others may dis- cern it. It is called a change from dark- ness to light (Eph. 5:8). A ship is going eastward; there comes a wind which turns it westward. Likewise, a man was going hell>ward before the contrary wind of the Spirit blew, turned his course, and caused him to sail heaven>ward. Repentance makes such a visible change in a person, it appears as if another soul has taken up lodging in the same body.

The full text of „The Nature of True Repen- tance” can be found in The Doctrine of Repen- tance (pages 18>58) by Thomas Watson. It is published by Banner of Truth in the „Puritan Paperbacks” series. Watson lived from 1620>1686 and first published this work in 1668. Watson was a spiritual giant of his day and is perhaps the most popular of all the En- glish Puritans. During the years of his ministry in London he earned a reputation as a man who was mighty in prayer. He masterfully ap- plied the Scriptures to the human heart. His directness is much needed in the modern pulpit.

Randy Lowe is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Williams Lake in Williams Lake, British Columbia.

If you would like to further read some writings by and about Thomas Watson, here are some links:

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