Most of us think we have a good idea of what repentance is. But, I want to take some time today to study repentance and to highlight the beauty of this gift we have received from God!
It is hard to be thankful for a gift when you have no understanding of the gift’s purpose. So, let’s take a good look at what God has given us.
The New Testament word for repentance means:
Changing one’s mind so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently.
It is easy to confuse repentance with another human experience called “attrition”. Looking at the definition reveals the difference.
Attrition – remorse, self-reproach, and sorrow for sin generated by fear of punishment, without any wish or resolve to forsake sinning.
The difference between repentance and the act of attrition is found in the finished product. In both repentance and attrition, you will find some aspect of sorrow. But attrition, at best leads only to some type of outward change. It may lead to someone being more careful so they don’t get caught but it does not lead to a hatred of the behavior itself.
When a person repents, the change is radical. It involves change, both inwardly and outwardly; mind and judgment, will and affections, behavior and life-style, motives and purposes – all are involved.
Attrition is not sufficient for godly transformation because it allows the love for the sin to continue to live within us. Repentance means going in the opposite direction -to practice the virtues, motives, and behaviors most directly opposed to the sin.
One theologian said that repentance is a fruit of faith. I agree because by its purest definition repentance involves a change in how we think and how we respond. In essence, one cannot truly repent without having something to turn to. God provided His Son as a sacrifice for our sins; a way in which we can live differently than we do when dominated by a life of sin. The sacrifice of the Son of God allows an alternative to the dominance of sin and death. In its purest form, faith is part of the gift that God has given to us – opening the door to the gift of salvation.
Faith cannot operate without repentance. To trust in God, we must have a revelation that the road of sin is leading to death and then, we must change our mind regarding how we will live and receive the gift of salvation offered by God through His Son. The bridge between revelation and transformation is repentance!
The idea that there can be saving faith without repentance, and that one can be justified by embracing Christ as Savior while refusing Him as Lord is a destructive delusion. True faith acknowledges who God really is- Priest and King. True trust in Him as Savior will express itself in submission to Him as Lord also.
The culmination of all God’s gifts to mankind are summed up in the reality called “The Kingdom of Heaven”. To receive the Kingdom involves walking a pathway along which we come upon many gifts along the way. These gifts are not haphazardly placed on this pathway, but placed according to a priority necessary for the realization of the final product.
Repentance is the first gift we find as we walk the pathway.
Every true preacher of the gospel always points this gift out first to those seeking to walk the pathway to the Kingdom. In the Old Testament, the prophets pointed the gift out to Israel as they sought to return to the God from whom they had strayed. John the Baptist pointed the gift out as he prepared the way for the Savior. Jesus pointed it out as the first step to the Kingdom. The Twelve pointed it out to the Jews, Paul pointed it out to the Gentiles and the glorified Jesus pointed it out to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.
Impenitence is always the road to ruin. Repentance is always the path to remission of sins and the surety of God’s favor.
If you don’t see repentance as a gift, then think of what the world would be like without it! Even with Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind, without repentance there is no way to embrace it.
Thank God for the gift of repentance! May repentance always be one of my closest friends!