I know I should feel sorry for my sin, and I want to feel sorry and repent, but I never really have felt true repentance. I’ve always been confused as to how to become a believer, and I was hoping someone could help.
This is not an easy question to answer without knowing the circumstances as to why you have “never really felt true repentance”. I am hesitant to even answer here because of its seriousness. This would be better-discussed face to face with your pastor or an elder, and I encourage you to do so right away.
If I were your shepherd, there would be many questions I would ask you if we were sitting down together over coffee that would help me counsel you. Questions like:
Why do you want to feel sorry for your sins?
Is it because you know that’s what your parents or church expects?
Is it because you know it’s what the Bible teaches?
Is it because you fear punishment?
Is it because you will go to hell if you don’t?
These reasons are not bad, and can, in fact, be used by the Holy Spirit to bring about genuine repentance. But these reasons are the beginning, not the end of repentance. In Psalm 51:17 David helps us when he says, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (v.17). This is true not only for the child of God but for the sinner seeking grace.
But how do I get a broken heart? How can I feel sorrow for my sin? I believe this is accomplished, with the aid of the Spirit in meditating on my sin in light of the law of God.
In order to do this, we need time set aside to meditate and be alone with our sins, to see the wages of them, and to know that, unless I repent, I will die in my sin and spend eternity in hell. Not a pleasant thought, but needed. As Paul so keenly pointed out in Roman 3, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin”, and in Romans 7, “I had not known sin, but by the law”. This will only produce condemnation, guilt, and fear. So be it. It’s the normal way in which a sinner is brought to Christ.
But this is not enough. The knowledge of the law will only bring condemnation to my heart. Perhaps this is what you feel.
The Puritan Thomas Brooks in his book, Heaven on Earth essentially asks the same question you are asking. He tells a story of five men who were debating the best way to become sorry for sin. He writes, “One said, to meditate on death; the second, to meditate on judgment; the third, to meditate on the joys of heaven; the fourth, on the torments of hell: the fifth, on the blood and sufferings of Jesus; and certainly the last is the choicest and strongest motive of all.” Above all, you should think what your sin cost the Savior. Let your mind dwell much on the scene of His sufferings, and in doing so, notice how willing He is to save.
You say you feel you should repent, but you never really have. That is a sin. Its rooted in unbelief. So take it to the Savior. Don’t wait to feel sorry before you go. Go now. Go to Him and tell Him you don’t want to repent and ask Him to make you sorry for it. Tell Him you have a cold, dead, lifeless heart and you are only coming to Him out of fear. Confess all to Him. See, if, in doing these things, the Spirit does not begin to soften your heart. And pray, as the Canons of Dort so beautifully put it, “for regenerating grace”.
I would encourage you to go to your pastor or an elder at once with this. Don’t wait, and don’t take my feeble attempt at internet counseling as your final answer.
I wish you well in this and have added you to my prayer list.
May the Lord open your heart so that you might receive both repentance and salvation. Warmly, Pastor Lewis