According to the Greek dictionary, the primary word the Bible uses for “repentance” means “a change of mind… of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done”
As it appears, biblical repentance simply means a change of mind, an inner condition that may not even includes the condition of the heart at the time. All it takes is a mental decision. It doesn’t necessary include an immediate change of the heart condition, nor actions.
Make sense, because the condition of the heart always come after the decision of the will, but not at the same time. Feeling may not reflect decision of the mind immediately, but it always manifest later according to the path you choose. More importantly, when one decides to repent, something always happen to his or her spirit, giving him or her the peace of God, assurance, and joy. (Pslam 13:5; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 61:1-7; Act 3:19)
Repentance Is God-Inspired
Repentance is a spiritual process that has to involve God. If God doesn’t prompt us to repent, then there is no need to repent. (John 15:22; John 16:7-8) If repentance is self-generated, then it’s just false guilt.
The Bible says that there are two type of sorrows that come from sins, one is worldly sorrow, which is caused by self-condemnation, excessive guilt, and Satan’s accusation. The other is godly sorrow, which is caused by convictions of the Holy Spirit in our spirits.
Worldly sorrow can never bring one back to God, but it pulls one away from Him. There is no need to punish and condemn ourselves if we have sinned, because God doesn’t need us to help Him to do His work. Calling sinners to repent is His servants’ work. But convicting sinners in the spirit is His work alone. Sinners cannot make themselves more forgivable by self-condem. Condemnation only strengthen sins and addictions.
2 Corinthians 7:9-11
9yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.
10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
11See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
True repentance produces new attitudes. But it leaves no regrets. Regret is painful, and it doesn’t help the sinners at all. See my post: Getting Over Regret.
Repentance Goes With A Broken Heart And Humility
18The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
15 For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Repentance Isn’t Just Mental Consent
28But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
Repentance has to be followed by obedience. In the above parable, the second son made a verbal consent, but he didn’t really take action upon it. Jesus says that if anyone doesn’t do the will of the Father, then he is not entering into the kingdom of God!
The first son refused to do the will of the father, but repented afterward and took action. Jesus compared him to publicans and harlots, who are stereotypical sinners in Jesus time. But even sinners can go to heaven if they repent and obey.
The main point of this parable is that if anyone repents, and do the will of God, then he is going into heaven. If anyone just believes and confesses Jesus as Lord, but refuses to obey, then he is not going into heaven. (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21)
Does the actions save the sinner? No. Forgiveness of God that comes after repentance saves the person.
Then what if someone repents but doesn’t follow up with actions? Then he must repents again and again, until he finally obeys. As long as he is still disobeying, he needs to repent, otherwise he risks going into hell if he dies in sin.
No one can really cheat his way into heaven by continuously repenting but refusing to obey. We need to sleep and rest, so it’s impossible to stay up 24/7 and keep repenting of disobedience to make sure we don’t suddenly die in sin.
How about postponing repentance and obedience all together until just before we die? It’s a dumb idea, because death can come at any moment.
True Repentance Is Always Followed By Spiritual Fruits And Actions
The changes following repentance aren’t part of the repentance process, but are natural consequences of it if it is a real repentance.
True repentance always produces good changes, because it’s spiritual. If something spiritual is taking place, it’s impossible to not having any eventual, outward manifestation in the physical realm:
Luke 3: 2-14
2… the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.3And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
4As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. [The call to repentance precedes salvation]
7Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. [Abraham is the biological ancestor of the Israel race, the chosen people of God. He is also the father of faith — the spiritual father to all Christian (Romans 4:16)]
9And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? [Please notice the word "do"]
11He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. [The answer is specific good deed]
12Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? [Take Actions]
13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. [A straightforward and specific correction]
14And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. [Same]
7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
Some teachers teach that salvation in the Old Testament was based on good work, but that the salvation in the New Testament is “Once saved always saved”. They claim that before Jesus went to the Cross, it was still under the Old Testament rule, so he asked people to repent of their deeds while was still walking on earth.
If that was true, then why did the apostles still call people to repent and demonstrate good fruits after Jesus went to the Cross?
After John the baptist died and Jesus went back to heaven, the disciples continued His ministry on earth, and they were still calling people to repent and demonstrate fruits that mark genuine repentance. It shows that the Gospel was the same before and after the Cross. See below:
[Apostle Paul says:]
20But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
As a result of the preaching of Paul, many people believed in Jesus Christ, confessed their sins, and changed their deeds. People who believed in false gods and practiced occults brought their occult books to the public and burned them. The total value of those books is 50,000 pieces of silver, which is approximately 5 millions USD:
18And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
19Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Next, what if we truly repent, but fail to correct our sins afterward?
God Always Forgive No Matter How Many Time You Sin And Repent
Many Christians worry because they still struggle with some sins in their life. Although they sincerely repent and ask for forgiveness from God, they often fall back to the same sins.
The good new is, as long as the repentance is genuine, God will always rush in to forgive at the first sign of repentance.
1 John 1:9
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
If you sin 50 times in one day, but repent at each time, God will still forgive you. Although you might have repented for the first 49 times and failed again each time, you can still confess and repent for the 50th time. God will still forgive you no matter how many times you have repented of the same sin and yet still fell afterward.
If Jesus teaches us to forgive a brother who offends us 7 times a day as long as he repents, wouldn’t he do the same for us?
Although God will always forgive us if we repent, it’s still better aim for the best and try not to sin again, because…
True Repentance Always Intent To Sin No More
Repentance is not a license to sin. Rather, the purpose of repentance is to turn away from sin and back to God.
14Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
One time Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years, and after that he told him not to sin anymore, otherwise something worse will happen.(John 5:14)
The Bible says if we intentionally sin again after we were set free from sin, then the end will be worst than before. (Matthew 12:43-45; 2 Peter 2:20)
Sin always comes with negative consequences. You can’t break God’s laws without leaving damages somewhere. God’s forgiveness pardons us from His wrath and judgement, but oftentime it doesn’t take away natural consequences of sins.
The reason why sin is sin is because it always hurts and damages someone or something. (See my other post, Why Does God Allows Suffering And Evil)
For example, after King David repented of adultery and murder, God’s discipline and natural consequences for his wrong actions were still in effect. At the end he had lost 4 sons, honor, and health. His daughter and concubines got raped. Many people died because of the civil war between him and his rebellious son, Absalom. All these major tragedies in David’s life were results that traced back to his one night stand with a married woman.
It is the principle of “what you sow is what you get”.
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
The negative consequences of sin alone should be an enough incentive for us to really repent.
How To Stop Sinning?
In the next post, I will discuss the most natural question that may come up in your mind after reading this post: So how do I stop sinning?
How To Overcome Sexual Temptation (Series)
Parable Of The Mustard Seed (Faith is the most powerful weapon against sin)