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Have you ever tried to apologize to someone only to find out things just got worse?  Years ago, I was at my brother’s house and I needed to apologize for something I had said to him.  I knew in my heart that I was wrong and he deserved an apology.  So I went to his place and I said something that went basically like this, “Hey man, I want to say I’m sorry for what I said to you the other day.  The reason I said it is because you and I are very similar, and when I saw what you were doing and how you tend to get like that, I knew I needed to say something.”  He had this puzzled look on his face, and then I will never forget what he said.  “I know you value being honest, so I’m going to tell you that’s the worst apology I have ever heard in my life.  You basically just pointed out what you think is wrong with me and blamed me for the way you spoke to me.  I can’t accept that apology. That’s terrible.”  My jaw dropped and then my heart sank.  I was immediately convicted because he was 100% correct.  I had completely missed the mark of repentance.

In part 1 of our series on repentance we said that repentance is an ongoing experience in the life of a Christian because there is sin that dwells in us.  And that sin can emerge even when we are trying to apologize!  So sin dwells in us, and then sin comes out of us.  Interestingly enough, one of the Hebrew words we translate as “sin” in the Bible means to miss the mark, like firing an arrow at a target but missing it.  Well, here are 4 ways we tend to miss the mark of true repentance.  Do any of these sound familiar?

1- Blaming
“I only did that because you did this to me.”  “I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t been so…”  “God, I know I shouldn’t have done that, but those people just drive me insane.”  Whether it’s towards God or people, blaming keeps us from truly owning what we have done wrong and gives us an excuse for our sin.  Blaming keeps us from experiencing true change, and true intimacy with God.  Even if someone else has done wrong, Jesus instructed us in Matthew 7:5 to “first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  That means, we should be more broken over our sin than theirs.
2- Defending
This happens when the Spirit or someone else comes to confront us about our sin.  We immediately get defensive.  “I didn’t say that.”  “That’s not what I meant.”  “I’m not really like that, I would never say/do that.”  Defending keeps us from dealing with our weaknesses, keeps us from growing, and keeps people away from being close to us.  Other people tend to see our issues more clearly than we see our own.  But if we are always defensive, eventually the relationship will deteriorate.  Because we know sin dwells in us, and that Jesus has paid for our sin, when the Spirit or someone else confronts me, we don’t have to get defensive, but we can instead receive it as a gift and a chance to learn and grow and become more like Jesus in our character.
3- Minimizing 
“It’s not that big of a deal.”  “I wasn’t that harsh, you should see what I dealt with when I was growing up, that was really bad.”  “Oh, I think you’re just too sensitive.”  These are all ways to kind of acknowledge something, but not really change.  To repent is to turn around and go the other way.  And when we minimize we are refusing to turn around.  We are also putting more pain on the other person by making them feel like they’re the real issue.  Sadly, abusers are great at minimizing.  Christians are to be great at realizing that we are prone to sin, and that little things can grow into big things, and therefore we are to be diligent to snuff out any hint of sin, not minimize it.
4- Dodging 
“lets just move on, not dwell on the past.”  This is the proverbial sweep it under the rug mentality.  We try and just put it behind us and move on.  The problem with this is we keep tripping over that rug because we’ve put so much under there.  Dodging the issue doesn’t help and leads to a trail of broken relationships.  It’s a hollow way of living life that avoids reality.  The gospel frees us to admit our sin, and receive God’s grace every single time, and thereby live in the true reality that though we are bigger sinners than we first knew, God is way more gracious than we ever knew!  

In Revelation 2:4 Jesus told the church they had abandoned the love they had at first and they should get back to doing the works they used to do.  None of us became Christians by dodging, minimizing, defending or blaming others for our sin.  Instead, we repented of it, and thanked Jesus for his grace that forgives us, cleanses us, accepts us, and empowers us to change.  Let’s get back to doing that!  Next time you notice you’re missing the mark of true repentance, may God’s grace empower you to simply stop and truly repent.

For questions or comments, please email Pastor Steve Miller at