I once had a dear friend who asked me this question many times..Have I committed the unpardonable sin? How can I know if my repentance is genuine?
This is a question that has haunted many sensitive people in every Christian century, and maybe it has haunted you, like my friend. I want to be clear in saying that if you’re bothered in your spirit that you may have committed a sin God will not forgive, the very fact that you have anxiety over that is evidence you’ve not committed the sin. If He is still working in your heart, it’s not possible to have committed the unpardonable sin.
My reassurance is based on repentance. It is equally basic to, and almost synonymous with, the command, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
Repentance is a biblical word. The Old Testament thunders, “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30, NKJV). The New Testament also vigorously exhorts men and women to repent. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” said Jesus (Luke 13:3, NKJV). “Repent … and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” said the Apostle Peter (Acts 3:19, NKJV). The Apostle Paul said, “Now [God] commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30, NKJV).
The Bible commands it, our wickedness demands it, justice requires it, Christ preached it and God expects it. The divine, unalterable edict is still valid: “God commands all men everywhere to repent.”
The Bible says, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7, NKJV).
True repentance is contrition. The Bible says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NKJV). Contrition, or “godly sorrow,” as it is called in 2 Corinthians 7:10, is not a shallow sentiment nor empty emotion. It is a sincere regret over past sins and an earnest desire to walk in a new path of righteousness.
Repentance carries with it the idea of changing–changing your mind, changing your attitude, changing your ways. The Bible says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV). If we are truly repentant, our will is brought into action and we will make a reversal of direction.
Repentance when you have hurt someone?
There are times in everyone’s life that it’s helpful to know if an offender is truly repentant. To know the true state of another’s heart. Is there godly sorrow and true repentance or worldly sorrow and temporary change?
When there is true, lasting repentance, restoration can occur as in Galatians 6:1. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
Here are a few signs of genuine repentance:
We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it or call it an “issue”, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
We don’t resent accountability, pastoral rebuke, or church discipline.
We are humble and teachable.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” ~1 Corinthians 7:10
Is there someone you have hurt by your attitude, actions, or words that you have never apologized to? Have you been trying to justify your pride and stubbornness, even though, deep down, you know that God wants you to humble yourself and get things right?
Search your heart (Ps. 139:23-24). Is there a person with whom you need to make amends? Don’t delay. A close, satisfying walk with God depends upon you and me getting things right with people we have wronged. Trust God. Push through the fear and pride. Open your mouth in apology… and watch God do a great work in and through you.