I have heard it said by men and women who have gone before us that many of the problems christians face are usually negated or minimized if these aspects of Christian birth (RBBR) are done correctly and with understanding. So it's imperative for us to know them and help bring people into the Kingdom rightly. So remembering Christian Birth involves four steps - Repentance, Believe, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Spirit (RBBR) - lets start with repentance.
What does it meant to repent? What does repent NOT mean? To repent is not the same as regret. To regret is about what you have done to YOURSELF and YOUR life. Cain was filled with regret for killing Abel because of the consequences on HIS OWN life. This is not repentance.
Repentance is not the same as remorse. Remorse is about what you have done to OTHERS. I heard a story of how a father contracted an STD from one of his many sexual partners. Not long after, he gave it to his daughter through a simple farewell kiss before school. As a result, this dad felt great remorse for what his actions had done to the little girl he loved so much. However, this is also not repentance.
Repentance is about you've done to GOD. How do we know? The prodigal son was a model of biblical repentance and upon returning home he tells his dad, 'I have sinned against HEAVEN and I have sinned against you...' Repentance is our response emotionally, mentally, and practically to what we have done to God. True repentance takes time to be done properly. We and our friends must go through it properly.
Repentance involves thoughts, words, and deeds
1. Repentance first addresses the thoughts. To repent is to change you mind about the things in your life. You no longer think your way about them, but instead you think God's way about them. A core foundational change in thought is the realization that God is way better than I thought He was and that I am way worse than I thought I was. It's interesting to notice that the higher our view of God, the lower our view of ourselves and vice versa. Philippians 3:8 Isaiah 64:4
2. Repentance is then seen in words. The New Testament is rife with the command or explicit example to 'confess your sins'. John the Apostle says 'If we confess our sins, He is just and able to forgive.' John the Baptist had people confess their sins before being baptized by him. Now, what is essential to notice first about confession is that it was the confession of sin(s), not sin. Meaning, confession cannot and was never intended to be done in general. We cannot lead people to say, 'God I am selfish, please forgive me.' In what was are they selfish? What exactly have they selfishly done? What sin do they want to be saved from? What sin do they want Jesus to free them from? We must be and help others to be specific! Doing this requires us to take responsibility and ownership for the specific things we have done. The reason this is so important with God, with one another, and even in conflict resolution is that in confession we can't blame the problem on anyone else. Confession is literally the act of confessing responsibility.
3. Lastly, repentance is seen in deeds. It's important to notice in Luke's account of John the Baptist that before John would baptize anybody he required that they do deeds worthy of repentance. What does that mean? John is saying that in true repentance you see things being DONE differently. You begin to no longer do the things you once wanted to do and start doing the things you didn't think were worth doing. We, like the people in this account, might ask 'What should we or our friends then do?' to which John gives answers sufficient for all of us. He says, if you have too many clothes, give some to those who don't; only require from others what must be required and no more; don't use your authority for your own gain; and, this is a big one, be content with your income. We'll just leave that one there.
As we go forward with helping our friends in true repentance we must understand that repentance is very practical. So when helping we must be serious, specific, and sensible. We have to take serious the act of repentance so they will also. We have to help them be specific with what exactly they are repenting of. We can do this through guided conversations (asking questions to help lead them to specific sins) or having a list of sins (lists of ALL sins in NT can be found online) and asking them to go through it and circle which ones are part of their lives. Lastly, be sensible. Help people understand that psychological guilt is not the same as moral guilt. Some people often feel more guilty for something like a lie or thought they had than murder or rape. It's not bad to be grieved over our sin, but they shouldn't be weighed down to an inability to function. Don't let people dig themselves into a hole of guilt and shame for things that do not merit the kind of response.
Jesus, help us to repent of actions and attitudes in our lives that are not like You. Help us to lead our friends into true repentance into your Kingdom both for Your glory and for their spiritual health.