Lights. Camera. Action! I stood in the back of audience, trying to hold in a smile as I watched our play develop before my eyes. For months, I had worked alongside a friend to bring to life the dramatic story of the “Prodigal Son” for a Christmas play at my church. Our goal was to draw out God’s plan of redemption in the Christmas story from the father and son’s reconciliation. Silently and excitedly, I watched on. Almost effortlessly, the characters glided across the stage, articulating their lines with perfect emotion and eloquence. Very soon, I began to look beyond the theatrical aspect of the story and listened to their words. It had come to the scene of the father and the prodigal son’s reunion, a scene which my friend and I had named the “Repentance Scene.” With tears of joy, the father embraced his trembling son. Distraught and broken, the prodigal son exclaimed, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I don’t deserve this.” I blinked my eyes. I had helped compile these words and design this scene, and yet only in that moment I felt I truly understood what those words meant. These few months, I have devoured so many words and videos about repentance but it has never felt this… real.
Today, in part one of our 4 R’s to True Repentance Series, we will be looking at the first step to true repentance: Realization.
I remember when I was six years old, my family went on a holiday near a river. Ecstatic, I waded about in the water and lay down on the rocks with my sister. In a concerned tone, my mother called out to me to apply some mosquito repellent spray. Being a stubborn six year old who did not care much about anything but playing in that moment, I chose to ignore her and go on playing on nearby rocks. Until today, I cannot recall a time I got more mosquito bites than I did on that day. I counted a total of thirty mosquito bites… ouch. Why did that go so horribly wrong? I experienced the irritating pain of thirty mosquito bites because I did not accept my mom’s offer of mosquito repellent, which was because I did not realize that I needed it.
So it all came down to realization. I did not realize I needed help, so I did not ask for it. Simple as that. In the same way, the first essential step to true repentance is realizing one’s sin. Realization is recognizing that you have an innately sinful nature and how bad your sin really is. King David felt this when he expressed in Psalm 51:3-4, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” What he means by “my sin is ever before me” is that he cannot get his sin out of his mind. It is that serious, that important, that significant, so that it is constantly scarring him and blocking his view. Most importantly, he realizes that his sin is not just against other people but against God Himself, just like the prodigal son exclaimed, “I have sinned against heaven.” Realizing that sin is first and foremost a direct act of disobedience against God is a mark of true repentance.
Is your sin that evident to you? Are you sensitive to the sin in your life? Does doing wrong things have an effect on you? Or is it something you brush away and ignore, like how I ignored the fact that I needed the mosquito repellent spray? Does it bother you when you displease God with sin?
In Acts 26:17-18, it tells believers, “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” When we realize our sin, it is like turning from darkness to light. Light exposes things hidden in the darkness. What struck me in the parable of the prodigal son was how the son recognized the horribleness of his sin. In Luke 15:17, it states, “he came to himself,” meaning that he realized. He admitted in his heart that he was a sinner and was then humbled. That led to his true repentance and reconciliation with his father.
Sometimes, we are desensitized by the world’s definition of right and wrong, which can lead to moral blindness. This can prevent us from realizing our sin and can make us insensitive to the ungodly desires in our hearts. Sometimes we need to examine ourselves and ask: Is my realization of sin blocked by self-love? Many times, I may excuse myself by convincing myself into thinking I did something “wrong” with “good” motives and that I actually meant well. I try to justify the “sinfulness” of a thought or action with the fact that I was trying to do the right thing. But that doesn’t make it right. And almost all the time, I do not have the purest of intentions. We are all sick. We are so sick and helpless that we are dying. We are dying in sin. But in order to be saved, we need to realize that we are dying. Because only when we realize that the very root of our hearts are evil, we will realize we need a Savior. I need to realize that I need to listen to my mother when she hands me a bottle of mosquito repellent spray. This is the beauty of God’s saving grace. And that is what will lead us to true repentance.
Next month, we will tackle the second R to Repentance: Remorse.
I would love to hear your reply to the following question below!
What are some other things that block people from realizing their sin?