A Guide for Personal Repentance

By Chuck Hetzler, PhD, Day and Night Senior Associate Leader

Pastor John Mulinde felt God calling him to greater consecration. The Ugandan churchman had already been used by God to lead a nationwide spiritual awakening in his country. But God’s voice was unmistakable; He wanted more for Pastor Mulinde.

John wrestled in prayer trying to find out what he needed to do to answer this higher call. As he prayed, John felt the Spirit say to him, “Are you being your best for me?” Immediately four areas came to Mulinde’s mind; areas in which he knew he was quenching the Spirit. John felt ashamed that he had let these sins go on to this point. He was ready to repent and get them rooted out of his life.

But then the Lord said, “Write down all those areas that you know you are holding back from me.” John felt that such an exercise was unnecessary. He knew well the four areas of concern and he wouldn’t forget them. They already seemed emblazoned on his mind. But John still felt the divine impression to write them down. As he wrote, the list grew and grew. Once it was complete, there were 16 items on the sheet. John was shocked. He didn’t realize all of the areas of his life that were out of step with the Spirit (John Mulinde, The Wake-Up Call, 85-86)

Charles Finney, a leader of America’s Second Great Awakening, also believed in the effectiveness of listing our sins before God. Finney was convinced that when we make a full accounting of our shortcomings before God, a deeper work of repentance and restoration can come. Here is what he wrote based on Hosea 10:12,

“Break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.”

If you mean to break up the fallow ground of your hearts, you must begin by looking at your hearts—examine and note the state of your minds, and see where you are. Many never seem to think about this. They pay no attention to their own hearts, and never know whether they are doing well in religion or not—whether they are gaining ground or going back—whether they are fruitful, or lying waste like the fallow ground. Now you must draw off your attention from other things, and look into this. Make a business of it. Do not be in a hurry. Examine thoroughly the state of your hearts, and see where you are—whether you are walking with God every day, or walking with the devil—whether you are serving God or serving the devil most—whether you are under the dominion of the prince of darkness, or the Lord Jesus Christ.

To do all this, you must set yourself at work to consider your sins. You must examine yourselves…Self-examination consists in looking at your lives, in considering your actions, in calling up the past, and learning its true character. Look back over your past history. Take up your individual sins one by one, and look at them. I do not mean that you should just cast a glance at your past life, and see that it has been full of sins, and then go to God and make a sort of general confession, and ask for pardon. That is not the way. You must take them up one by one. It will be a good thing to take a pen and paper, as you go over them, and write them down as they occur to you. Go over them as carefully as a merchant goes over his books; and as often as a sin comes before your memory, add it to the list. General confessions of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one; and as far as you can come at them, they ought to be reviewed and repented of one by one (Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Revival, Lecture 3, “How to Promote a Revival”).

I know many believers who have benefitted tremendously from going through this kind of repentance exercise, including me. Won’t you take time aside very soon to see how it may help you? Don’t rush through it. Begin when you have plenty of time to spend alone with God. May the Lord lead you to greater faith, purity, and power as we set ourselves apart completely for His use.