What is this thing called Repentance?

What is this thing called Repentance?

Repentance has been called the hardest command.  If people would only repent of their sins, the rest of God’s requirements would come easily.  The problem is that many people do not want to repent.  “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” –Romans 2:5.

Repentance requires a lifetime of work – bearing fruit, changing our attitude, giving up what is wrong, giving in to the will of God, and taking on character traits that make us more like Christ. 

To understand what repentance is, it may be helpful to learn what repentance is not.

  1. Excuses. Adam blamed Eve for his sin (Genesis 3:12); Eve blamed the snake (Genesis 3:13). God held both Adam and Eve accountable for their sins. 
  2. Promises. Pharaoh, suffering from the plagues, sought relief by promising to free the Israelites (Exodus 9:27-35).  He did not mean it. A soldier in a fox hole may promise God anything and everything to be delivered from his danger, but such promises are easily forgotten.
  3. Reformation. During the reign of righteous Josiah, people turned to the Lord “in pretense” – Jeremiah 3:10.  They were willing to change their ways to be politically correct, but this did not impress God, it did not last, and it was not repentance.
  4. Fear. Belshazzar, the immoral king of Babylon, saw the handwriting on the wall and fell into a panic (Daniel 5). Fear alone is not repentance.
  5. Prayer. One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination” –Prov.28:9. 
  6. Regret. Judas regretted his betrayal of Jesus, but still went “to his own place” –Acts 1:25.
  7. Conviction. Though Peter’s audience in Acts 2 is “cut to the heart” (verse 37),  the next verse commands them to repent.   
  8. Sorrow. Paul carefully distinguishes godly sorrow and repentance:  “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” –2 Corinthians 7:9.  If sorrow leads to repentance, then sorrow itself is not repentance. 
  9. Nature. Just because someone is addicted to sin does not mean that he cannot change, and it does not mean that he will escape the judgment of God (2 Peter 2:14). 
  10. Determination. Revelation describes some who refuse to turn from their sins in spite of the pain it brings them. But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (9:20-21). This passage describes impenitence, the opposite of repentance. 

So what is repentance?  Repentance comes from two words: change and mind.  It is a change of mind, a resolve to stop sin and to serve God.  Repentance is produced by godly sorrow; it produces fruit (a change of life). Godly sorrow is based on two divine considerations:

  1. The Judgment of God. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” –Matthew 11:21. The Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah –Matthew 12:41.
  2. The Goodness of God. Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” –Romans 2:4.

The prodigal son, in his misery, changed his mind (“came to himself”) Luke 15:17, humbly resolved to return to his father (15:18), and to change his ways (19).  Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” –1 Thesssalonians 1:9.  

Repentance may be the hardest command, but impenitence is even harder.  “No man ever repented on his deathbed of being a Christian.”

- Rick Duggin  

Click HERE to read about confessing Jesus as Lord.