What Is Repentance?
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“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matt. 3:1-2).
THE CALL FOR REPENTANCE
God is calling all people to repentance and a radical change of life. If you haven’t repented and given your life over to Jesus Christ then you need to come to grips with some basic facts:
1. God really does exist and He has a claim on your life. One day you will face God and He will call you into account for everything you have ever said and done. (Matt. 12:37, Rom. 14:11-12, Heb. 9:27, Rev. 20:11-15)
2. Everyone sins. You might be able to curb some big sins like murder & adultery. But you have lied, you have lusted, you have gossiped, you have coveted. These are all sins to a Holy God. (Rom. 3:23, James 2:10)
3. No matter how good you are or how hard you try, you cannot earn or work your way into Heaven. You cannot stand on your own goodness and righteousness. (Rom. 3:27-28, Eph. 2:8-9)
4. You must know who Jesus Christ is: He is the Son of God and the only way to Heaven and Eternal life. He paid the penalty of your sins in His own body on the cross. He was buried and then raised to life on the third day. (John 3:16, 14:6, Rom. 4:24-25, 10:9-10, 1 John 2:1-2)
[Do you struggle with repentance, have no desire to repent, find it hard to repent, or just can’t seem to get there? Call out to God and ask Him to expose the darkest places of your heart, that you may see sin for what it truly is. And keep asking, praying, and reading God’s Word. God will grant you the repentance and faith you need as you look to Him for it.]
The word “Repentance” has two definitions. The Hebrew word is “teshuvah” and means “to turn around” and “to change direction.” It is a great picture: You have been walking down the road in one direction (sin & rebellion) and you make a 180 degree turn and start walking in the opposite direction (God & Obedience). The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia” which means a “change of mind” that leads to a “change of heart” that leads to a “change of behavior.” A repentant person changes their mind about sin. Sin is no longer something to be desired, pursued or held onto, but something to flee from. A repentant person will see the ugliness of sin. They will see sin for what it really is: evil, destructive, and offensive to God. A repentant person will be repulsed and sickened by sin. Sin is no longer something to be enjoyed, but something to be forsaken. It is no longer a source of pleasure, but a pathway to destruction, death, and Hell. Repentance is also described as a radical reorientation of life—it’s a changed mindset, a change of priorities, a change of values, a change of perspectives, a change of direction, and a change of life.
REASONS FOR REPENTANCE
Repentance is commanded by God; God calls all people everywhere to repent.
Repentance is mandatory due to our fallen sinful nature inherited from Adam & Eve.
Repentance is crucial if we’re to escape God’s wrath and punishment.
Repentance is a gift that may not come again; God does not promise us a tomorrow.
Repentance opens the door to healing, deliverance, and salvation.
Repentance turns us in the direction where God can start to work in our lives and what’s best for us.
Repentance pleases God and shows that we are taking sin seriously.
Repentance allows us to seek God’s grace & mercy in the face of our daily stumbles into sin.
Repentance allows God to relieve the burden of sin, guilt, and shame.
Repentance brings security to the soul and releases God’s love & forgiveness into our hearts.
Repentance keeps us from becoming comfortable and hardened by sin.
Repentance protects us from damaging and destructive behaviors.
Repentance puts us back on the right path and keeps us on the right path.
Repentance frees us from sin’s hold and keeps Satan from gaining a foothold in our lives.
Repentance shows we are growing and maturing in wanting to be more like Christ.
WHAT REPENTANCE IS AND IS NOT
Repentance is not feeling sorry over the costs and consequences of sin. That’s worldly sorrow, not godly sorrow. A criminal can be sorry they got caught, but not sorry enough to change.
Repentance is not about feeling like a bad person. Anyone can admit they are a terrible person at times, and yet not admit they are a sinner.
Repentance is not about keeping God happy so He will bless us and answer our prayers. We repent not for the benefits, but because its good for the soul and keeps us productive.
Repentance is not an emotional tearful moment in feeling sorry for your sins, but a decision of the “Will” to change course and follow Christ.
Repentance is not ever sinning again, but are you going to war with the sin? Are you battling sin on every front? Are you working on looking more like Jesus today than yesterday?
Repentance is not cleaning up our lives before coming to Jesus—an impossible feat to be sure.
Repentance is not a bad word, but a positive one of joy, peace, freedom, and new life.
Repentance is not punishing ourselves in order to convince God how miserable and sorry we are.
Repentance is not doing something good to make up for the sin.
Repentance is not just feeling sorry over sin but about offending and wounding God.
Repentance is not about the fear of punishment or securing a ticket out of Hell.
Repentance is not walking down an isle, praying a prayer, or signing a decision card, but the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing and convicting a person’s heart in repenting and receiving Jesus.
Repentance is not about behavioral modifications or turning by degrees.
Repentance is not beating yourself up over the past. Know you’re not perfect and move on.
Repentance is not a one-time thing: “Been there, Done that”. It’s a place you live daily in turning from sin and growing more and more like Jesus. (The day you stop repenting, is the day you stop growing!)
HOW TO REPENT
Repent by confessing and admitting you’re a sinner who can’t save themselves.
Repent by inviting Jesus into your life as Lord & Savior.
Repent by having a change of mind about God, sin, and holiness.
Repent by seeing sin for what it really is: offensive and displeasing to a holy God.
Repent by agreeing with God about your sin, knowing that nothing is hidden from His sight.
Repent by having conviction of sin, not just bad behavior.
Repent by having godly sorrow for sin, not just remorse and regret.
Repent by recognizing no matter how good you are or how hard you try you’ve broken God’s Commandments.
Repent by turning away from your own efforts and goodness, to resting in the finished work of Christ.
Repent by claiming and receiving God’s forgiveness as promised in His Word.
SIGNS OF REPENTANCE
A repentant person will turn away from their sinful way of living.
A repentant person will have a change of heart and behavior.
A repentant person will witness their faith to family and friends by being baptized.
A repentant person will start to attend a Bible-believing church.
A repentant person will be far less likely to judge the sins of others having seen their own need for God’s forgiveness.
A repentant person will come to hate sin, knowing the high price it cost our Lord and Savior.
A repentant person will no longer defend, excuse, or justify their sin.
A repentant person will be quick to own-up and come clean to God about their sin.
A repentant person will be open, honest, and transparent about their sin.
A repentant person will feel the pain and harm they caused others.
A repentant person will apologize and ask forgiveness from those they hurt.
A repentant person will make restitution and amends where possible.
A repentant person will follow and obey God’s Word.
A repentant person will make every effort to forsake and stop sin.
A repentant person will know their limitations and set up boundaries.
A repentant person will remain answerable and accountable to other Christians.
A repentant person will move forward in the forgiveness of God without shame, guilt, or fear. (Don’t let your behavior steal your identity.)
A repentant person shows they’re still seeking God and that the Holy Spirit is still at work in them.
HINDRANCES IN REPENTANCE
We fear the idea of submission & confession. (We naturally rebel against authority.)
We feel we’re a good person–not perfect, but not bad either.
We don’t see ourselves as sinners or feel there’s anything wrong with us.
We allow pride to take over; we hate being exposed or appearing weak and needy.
We feel our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. (“The good things I’ve done and all the people I have helped will save me,” we believe.)
We minimize and excuse the sin as no big deal. (We don’t see certain things as sin.)
We feel repentance is embarrassing and humiliating. Who wants to admit they’re a bad person and a sinner? It is not an easy thing to do.
We fear the consequences, tickets, fines, jail. (Know the positive benefits in no longer being weighed down by guilt and regret far outweigh the negative consequences.)
We take pleasure and delight in sin. (It’s hard to repent from that which we enjoy.)
We fear repenting will take all the fun and joy out of life. Will we lose our personality or have to give up our favorite foods, TV shows, music, hobbies?
We like the idea of Salvation and going to Heaven, but we’re not into all the obedience, holiness, and sacrifices that go with it.
We fear failure, since the changes will be too hard to make, or fear success, since a lot more will be expected of us.
We fear losing our identity. Who would we be if we left the only thing we know?
We fear a shattered self-image, that we don’t have it all together after all.
We fear exposure, rejection, mockery, and exclusion.
We wrongly presume upon God’s kindness, that a loving God does not send people to Hell. (Though God is loving, His holy nature cannot leave sin unpunished.)
We feel we’re too great a sinner to be forgiven by God. Or we fall into despair and give up, having repented only to sin again and again. (Know God’s grace is greater than your last sin!)
We feel we have all the time in the world to get right with God. (We can have our fun now and repent later.)
We feel going to church, obeying the Commandments, and doing good works is enough.