Seven Obstacles to Real Repentance that Can Keep Us Stuck in the Muck

  1. Renaming sin. We often rename sin so that we don’t have to acknowledge it. We may call our sin a weakness, a tendency, a personality trait, a necessary adaptation to circumstances, a mistake, an error, a bad habit, etc. Of course, all of these other words for our sin allow us to escape God’s demand for repentance and real change. So we stay stuck.
  2. Excusing sin. It’s only a little sin. I need it. In my circumstances holiness and obedience aren’t practical—business is business and it’s a dog eat dog world. I only swear when it is really needed.
  3. Comparing sins. Yes, this may technically be a sin but so many people do it (over-eat?) that it’s not a major sin. At least, I’m not as bad as _____________ . Or I’m just as good as __________________ and they do ________________ .
  4. Not recognizing that God takes sin personally. In Jeremiah God calls sin and idolatry nothing less than adultery against Him. He takes it personally so we should too. Our repentance should be filled with shame that we have sinned against a perfect and holy God who created us and then saved us through the sacrifice of his own Son. When we sin, we sin against that kind of love.
  5. A refusal to acknowledge our idolatry as sin. We can keep many of God’s moral laws and yet still be guilty of idolatry if we put anything before God. What we idolize may be good: a wife, a job, our health, our finances, our recreation, our children, our church, our ministry, our reputation, or even our incredibly handsome English teacher. A real test for idolatry is to see where our three T’s (time, treasure, talent) are spent. Do we spend as much on offerings as on lattes, sodas, movies, and entertainment?
  6. A refusal to be honest about obedience. If we know God’s will and refuse to do it, that is sin. Since often only we know what God is directing us to do in specific areas of our lives—it is up to us to be honest with God and acknowledge when we have rebelled. Some people who have rebelled against God’s call on their lives are sitting in church every Sunday like good little Christians—but are spiritually stuck in the muck of their sin.
  7. Postponing obedience. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s sin and I will get right on that as soon as find the time. The check is in the mail. Tomorrow is soon enough. Let me sow my wild oats first. I’m only young once (but stupid is forever?).
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About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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