True Repentance - Is It Just Remorse, Regret, and Sorrow for Sins?
- Summary: Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostles Peter and Paul — they all preached “Repent!” This sometimes misunderstood Bible truth has a great upside … and there's no downside to doing it!
Hebrews 6:1-2, KJV Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
- • Repentance is one of the “principles of the doctrine of Christ.” It is mentioned, along with faith, baptism, and others, as a “foundation”-doctrine from which we go “forward to maturity” (vs. 1, NIV). It certainly involves a heartfelt sorrow before God for our sins. That sorrow may be described variously as remorse, regret, pangs of conscience, penitence, contrition, and the like. But don't stop there. True repentance most assuredly includes a genuine, sincere sorrow for our sins. But there is more to biblical repentance. Let's see.
- • If we are ever to attain maturity in our Christian lives, one of the essential starting points for that is genuine repentance.
Acts 2:36-38 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
- • The apostle Peter’s great sermon on the Day of Pentecost convicted thousands of his listeners of their sins. They cried, “What shall we do?” The very first word of Peter’s reply was, “Repent…”
- • It is repentance (38), prompted by faith in Jesus Christ’s having died for our sins (36), that begins our Christian walk.
- • No repentance? —> No salvation! (In Luke 13:3 Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”)
- • If our eternal destiny depends on repentance, it is vitally important that we understand what biblical repentance is. So let’s examine the topic.
- • The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary says that repentance involves “…a change of mind with regard to sin, a sorrow for sin which is primarily intellectual in nature … [and] a change of soul, a sorrow that leads to turning away from sin.” [bold and underlining mine]
REPENTANCE IS CHANGE: (1) OF MIND AND ATTITUDE AND (2) OF ACTION/CONDUCT —
2 Corinthians 7:9-11 …your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended…  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
- • Sincere repentance involves “godly sorrow.” That is a sorrow that recognizes that we are guilty of sin and that sin has “separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). This, says the apostle Paul, is a “godly sorrow … as God intended,” a sorrow that brings repentance for our sins. This is as opposed to what he calls “worldly sorrow,” which might be just being sorry that you got caught! So this godly sorrow had worked a changed mind and changed attitudes in the repenting Corinthians.
Acts 26:20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. [vs. 20, Contemporary English Version - “…Stop sinning and turn to God! Then prove what you have done by the way you live.”]
- • To the Pharisees and Sadducees, John the Baptist issued this rebuke: “…You brood of vipers … Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart]” (Matthew 3:7-8, Amplified Bible).
- • Repentance that is genuine is observable and proven by changed actions. You resolve to turn from sin and change your ways. This will be demonstrated by transformed conduct consistent with a changed heart towards God and away from sin.
WHY SHOULD WE REPENT? —
Mark 1:14-15 …Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
- • Jesus commanded it. That alone is sufficient reason. But there is more.
- • Note also here — and elsewhere in Scripture — the linkage of repentance and faith (see also Acts 20:21). Repentance is not just generalized sorrow over guilt. It is a specific, godly sorrow that believes in a holy God from whom we are separated by our sins, which can be forgiven only through faith in the heaven-sent Savior, Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 14:12, KJV There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
- • Without repentance, we would die in our unforgiven state of sin. Man has his sinful “ways”, and he often justifies them as “right.” But only in God and His ways and His Savior-Son can we find salvation from our sin and guilt. Again, Jesus strongly declared, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:3)
Acts 3:19, KJV Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
- • Repentance helps us be “converted.” And the resultant blotting out of our sins opens us up to times of refreshing from the Lord’s presence in our lives. In a word, repentance is an essential ingredient to a changed, Christ-centered life.
IS REPENTANCE WORDS ONLY? — NO!
Matthew 21:28-32 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
- • As the old saying goes, words are cheap. The second son said, “I will, sir.” But he didn’t follow his words with actions. In fact, his actions disproved his words. By contrast, the first son initially continued to disobey his father (“I will not.”) But later, Jesus said, he changed his mind and did obey. Jesus singled out this son as an example of repentance. Not cheap words, but in his case an initial refusal to obey, but later a change in actions that showed his changed heart. This is biblical repentance.
IS REPENTANCE ONLY FOR THE LOST (TO GET SAVED)? NO!
Revelation 3:19 [To the church in Laodicea, vs. 14] Jesus said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
- • Jesus commanded church people to repent! To the believers in four other churches in Revelation, Jesus commanded, “Repent!” (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 2:21-22; 3:3) It is an error to conclude, as some have, that we only repent when we first get saved, then do not need ever to repent again as believers. In Revelation, Jesus listed sins that the believers in five different churches needed to repent of.
Acts 8:13, 18-22 Simon [the former sorcerer] himself believed and was baptized…  When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! …  Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.
- • Simon had heard the gospel, believed, and was baptized and avidly began to follow Philip everywhere and to marvel at the Lord’s great signs and miracles (vs. 13). But then this baptized believer sinned by offering to buy the gift of God with money (20). The apostle Peter told this Christian man that he needed to repent and pray to God for forgiveness (22).
SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS —
Proverbs 28:13, KJV He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
- • Repentance is a good thing; it is not to be feared. What is to be feared is the failure to repent — such a person “shall not prosper.” By contrast, the one who (1) confesses his sins to God and (2) forsakes those sins shall receive God’s mercy!
Luke 15:10 There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (likewise in vs. 7).
- • Repentance causes joy in heaven! Don’t think of repenting of sin as some dark, gloomy action. No, but rather it is something that restores the sinner to a right relationship with God and triggers celebration among the angels of God.
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