Repentance is the act of
acknowledging one's sins and resolving to fully obey God. To repent
means to change one's overall attitude from wanting to go his own way to
wanting to go God's way. It begins when God opens one's mind to see
himself in comparison with God and His law. True repentance is the first
step toward reconciliation with God, and thereby toward ultimate
Repentance signals the start of a changed and godly
life. It involves a fully conscious recognition of one's sinful, lawless
way of life, a way of life that is antagonistic toward God and His law,
accompanied by a firm conviction to make a total change and to begin to
live in full accord with God's way of life as described in the Bible.
True repentance can occur only when God Himself opens
one's eyes to see his past sinfulness by granting repentance
(Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). But repentance is much more than a
recognition of personal sins. Repentance, rather is the process through
which God leads us so that we can become progressively more like Him,
thereby proceeding toward salvation as sons and daughters in His divine
family which is God's ultimate desire for all humanity. As such,
repentance should include the positive, joyful realization of the fact
that it is God who grants repentance, that this repentance is
"unto life" (Acts 11:18), and that all who are so called shall "come to
know the truth" (2 Tim. 2:25).
True repentance is a complex and deeply personal
phenomenon that can only be understood, in the final analysis, by
experiencing it. The first component is the realization that there is a
vast difference, a great gulf, between God and oneself (e.g. Job 42).
The next aspect is an all-consuming desire to close that gap, to become
more like God in character, thought and behavior, though the capacity to
accomplish this is far beyond human power alone and requires the active
involvement of God's Holy Spirit.
One who is coming to repentance must first understand
that sin is the transgression of God's law (I John. 3:4), the penalty for
which is death (Rom. 6:23). Added to this theoretical definition of sin
must be the deep personal realization that one has indeed sinned and
that his whole frame of mind and attitude of approach is oriented
against God's law (Rom. 8:7). But the deceitfulness of sin blinds one to
seeing his sinfulness unless God opens his mind to reality, to recognize
that one indeed is a sinner. Genuine repentance, therefore, must come
from God Himself, and man cannot claim credit for it, though he has a
part in it. His part is to acknowledge the truth about himself which God
has shown him and then to act upon it.
In the process of seeing himself, a person comes to
realize that the human "heart is deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). Since sin is ultimately of the mind, he
also begins to understand that even his own righteousness, which in an
unconverted person is invariably motivated by selfishness, is only a
"dirty rag," as it were, in God's sight (Is. 64:6). When an individual
repents, he must compare his righteousness to God's righteousness and
not to that of other human beings. When man compares himself to God-and
with God's help sees himself as he really is-he is astonished at his own
sinfulness and inadequacy.
Confronted with this reality, the person nearing
repentance comes to appreciate that man is incapable of leading a godly
life without God's direct help and intervention through His Spirit. "O
Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man
that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). While man's intentions
are often the best-he may want to do good-he nevertheless
finds himself caught in a struggle between them and his natural
inclination toward evil. Romans 7 describes this struggle: "For that
which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I
hate, that do I . . . For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,)
dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to
perform that which is good I find not" (vs. 15-18). A person in an
attitude of repentance feels a strong need for help in this spiritual
dilemma and reaches out to God for aid through His Holy Spirit. Thus,
Paul admitted that the only relief from this eternal conflict between
the good of God and the evil of our own nature is "through Jesus Christ"
In his natural state without God's Spirit, man is cut
off from God and indeed at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7; Is. 59:1-2). The
story of Adam and Eve is an example of how this spiritual enmity has
occurred in man (Rom. 5:12). The Genesis account indicates that Adam and
Eve were born morally neutral, with the ability to do good or
evil, right or wrong, but without an actual inclination toward either.
God nonetheless instructed them in His law and explained to them right
from wrong. They had no reason to doubt God or to disobey until Satan,
symbolized (and/or materialized) in Genesis 2 as a serpent, tempted them
by saying God was both holding back knowledge from them and lying about
death as the penalty for disobedience. Adam and Eve chose to obey Satan
rather than God and so ate of the forbidden fruit. The effects of this
sin cut them off from God as is evidenced by His thrusting them from the
garden. It also caused a rationalization of, or a blinding to, the sin,
as shown by Adam's attempt at justifying himself. Likewise, their act of
stepping from the realm of moral neutrality to that of sinfulness
through the initiation of this one sin caused deep and profound mental
changes in Adam and Eve. They were no longer morally neutral but became
evilly oriented in much the same way as was-and is-Satan, since Satan's
attitude of mind had now influenced their own.
All human beings are, like Adam and Eve, born morally
neutral. Yet living in Satan's world, surrounded by an ungodly
environment, all persons soon sin, as did Adam and Eve. (To ask at what
age or to try to discern the demarcation line between moral neutrality
and sin is not practical.) Thus, sin has the same consequences in us as
it did in Adam and Eve. It cuts us off from God, it blinds us to our own
sinfulness and it changes our minds from neutrality to enmity against
God (Rom. 8:7).
Viewed in this context, repentance is the bridge
between a carnal mind, one that is at enmity against God, and a
spiritual mind, one that has God's Spirit and is obedient and pleasing
to the Creator. When one repents, he sees for the first time in his life
the ungodly, debilitating, wicked orientation of his natural mind; he
asks God for forgiveness and is baptized. He then receives the Holy
Spirit which, working in and through his mind, actually changes or
"transforms" it from carnal to spiritual (Rom. 12:2). This
transformation is called "conversion." And repentance is the
bridge-first step-in this process of transformation.
Although repentance involves seeing the sinful side
of oneself, thus generating negative personal feelings, it nevertheless
has extremely positive aspects. Upon true repentance and baptism, one is
forgiven of sin. The psalmist said, "Blessed is the man to whom sin is
not imputed" (Ps. 32:2). The sheer joy of having one's sins forgiven is
the sure knowledge of being right and clean before God. King David bore
testimony to the positive, uplifting nature of repentance when he prayed
"Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which though hast
broken [as a result of my sin] may rejoice" (Ps. 51:8). One who has
repented can rejoice at the impending forgiveness of his sins, joy
The most profound evocation of real repentance in the
Bible must truly be this heartfelt prayer of David in Psalm 51. The
occasion was Nathan the prophet's coming to him about his sin with
Bathsheba. The prayer shows the important basic components of godly
repentance: an attitude of abject wretchedness and contrite humility
before God; a deep recognition of all one's sins, which are "ever before
me"; the conviction that God can and will forgive all one's iniquities
and cleanse him from all his sins; and the sure knowledge that God can
and will create in a truly repentant individual "a clean heart" and put
"a new and right spirit" in him, restoring "the joy of your salvation."
"Have mercy on me, 0 God, according to thy steadfast
love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash
me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know
my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee
only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that
thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment" (Ps.
"Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my
iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right
spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy
Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold
me with a willing spirit" (Ps. 51:9-12).
Godly repentance must, of course, be accompanied by
"godly sorrow." Godly sorrow reflects a profound awareness that one has
sinned against God. It is a sorrow that is felt because sin hurts others
and works against God's master plan of salvation. It is this "godly
sorrow" that produces a repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Cor.
On the other hand, God also speaks of "worldly
sorrow." Worldly sorrow is not sorrow that one has committed sin, but
just a momentary feeling brought on by adverse consequences such as
results after one has been caught and is being punished. It is temporary
self-pity, in no way involving permanent change from sinning to
obedience, and its end is death.
True repentance, conversely, is a deep-seated desire
to change one's whole being. It is a desire to reform and redirect one's
motivational approach to life. It is coming to abhor sin as God does.
This type of repentance can come only from God. As we have seen, it is
God who must give and lead one to repentance (Rom. 2:4; 11 Tim. 2:25).
In a more detailed way, repentance includes many
things. It involves a profound sense of utter helplessness, realizing
that to do what must be done is impossible by one's own willpower. It
requires the conscious awareness that God must take an active part in
redirecting and reshaping one's life, for only God knows the way to life
and only He can solve the problems of mankind. We must come to realize
this fact and accept the process by which we can become acceptable to
God. We have to change from doing things our own way to acknowledging
God, His will and His laws in our lives. This means a desire to change
our very hearts and minds. We have to turn from our way of lust, greed,
selfishness and self-centeredness to God's way of mercy, generosity,
love and outgoing concern for others (Eph. 4:22-24). We can view this as
a spiritual "mind transplant." We have to adopt new ways of thinking,
new feelings and attitudes (2 Cor. 5:17). Repentance, however, is not
designed to create total uniformity of personality, tastes, interests,
life styles, etc. among Christians. Such would be an anathema to God,
who is creating true sons in His family, not the proverbial "rows of
yellow pencils." Repentance, in fact, is the means by which human beings
can grow to have the same overall attitudes and character of God. This
is the overwhelmingly uplifting result of godly sorrow.
Paul lists seven attributes of this godly sorrow.
"For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what
eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what
longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved
yourselves guiltless in the matter" (2 Cor. 7:11). This type of sorrow
generates real repentance which in turn will lead to salvation.
Real repentance is a spiritual gift, and only God can
give it. Human remorsefulness, even accompanied by great emotion, is not
the repentance that the Bible says is a prerequisite for baptism and
salvation. Consequently, an individual desiring to be converted must ask
God for a repentant attitude of mind as well as for forgiveness of sins
through Jesus Christ. This conscious act of asking God is an
essential part of the process.
As is commonly known, true repentance must be
followed by water baptism, which results in the forgiveness of one's
sins by God and the consequent reception of the Holy Spirit through the
laying on of hands of the ministry.
Although one's initial act of repentance occurs prior
to baptism, repentance is not a one-time event-It must be a continuous
lifelong process. The more one learns about God and His way, the more
one becomes aware of how far he must go to be like God. As a converted
individual seeks God's way and reads God's Word to receive personal
correction, so his inner sinful attitudes and motivations are perceived.
This continuous process of growth and change is the very essence of the
Christian life. As God opens His mind to see more clearly (even more
than before baptism) his sinful nature, the Christian repents more and
more deeply. His post-conversion repentance is a continuous
reaffirmation of his commitment to live God's way as well as being
contrite and remorseful for any errors made.
Repentance is not synonymous with perfection. A
repentant person is not guaranteed a sinless life for ever after. Even a
converted person will sin out of weakness from time to time, but he need
only repent of that sin and confess it before God, acknowledging
Christ's atoning sacrifice once again, in order to restore contact with
God and to obtain God's full forgiveness which reestablishes the joy of
Such a repentant person knows that God shall
completely forgive all his sins upon repentance. He knows that God has
willed to actually forget all our iniquities once they have been
repented of and put under Christ's blood. God can no longer even
remember our sins! ". . . as far as the east is from the west, so far
does He remove our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12). This is the
incredible promise of real repentance-real freedom: freedom from
guilt and fear, freedom from anxiety and depression, freedom from sins,
freedom from eternal death. It is the reason why true repentance is the
most encouraging, beneficial gift God can give us. It is with this
confidence that the Christian continues to suppress and overcome his
human nature with God's help. He asks God to replace his ungodly
thoughts with the godly approach of the Holy Spirit; he seeks to
diligently understand God's law more and more through the practical
experience of obedience.
God does warn-and it should not be taken lightly-that
"it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once
been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become
partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the Word
of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy,
since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold Him up
to contempt" (Heb. 6:4-6). This shows that any who willfully reject God
by adamantly refusing to follow His way cannot be coerced into
repentance and cannot be forced to receive eternal life. Yet,
diametrically contradicting the alien concept of a harsh, vengeful God
is the astounding, thrilling, clarion-call truth of the Bible that
all who want to repent can repent-at any time, for any sin, with the
full assurance of God's total and immediate forgiveness through Jesus
Christ our Savior. God does not want any human being to perish "but that
all should reach repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).
In summary, repentance involves a change of one's
whole way of life and frame of mind from disobedience and antagonism
toward God to obedience and love toward God. It is the bridge that takes
one from worldliness to godliness, from wickedness to uprightness, from
the way of "get" (selfishness, self-concern, vanity) to the way of
"give" (selflessness, outgoing concern, service). All this is only
possible through God's Holy Spirit. Already working in the lives of
thousands, God's gift of repentance is a great miracle that shall
eventually work in the lives of billions.
READ THESE SCRIPTURES FROM YOUR OWN BIBLE:
Acts 11:18 - Repentance is unto eternal
2 Timothy 2:25 - God gives us
repentance unto truth.
1 John 3:4 - Sin is the transgression
of the Law.
Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is
death, but through God is eternal life.
Romans 8:7 - The carnal mind is
against God and not subject to His Law.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is
abundantly deceitful above all things.
Isaiah 64:6 - Our righteousness is as
Jeremiah 10:23 - Man cannot direct
his own steps.
Romans 7 - The struggle between man
and his natural inclination toward evil.
Romans 8:7 - A restatement of
Romans 5:12 - By man, sin entered the
world and by sin, death.
Psalm 32:2 - Blessed is the person
whose sins are forgiven.
Psalm 51 - Prayer of Repentance.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 - Godly sorrow
Romans 2:4 - God leads us to
2 Corinthians 5:17 - In repentance we
develop a new mind and become a "new creature"
Ephesians 4:22-24 - God renews our
2 Corinthians 7:11- The 7 attributes
Psalm 103:12 - With repentance, God
forgives us our sins.
Hebrews 6:4-6 - If one falls away
from the Salvation Process, there is no further repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 - God wants all of
mankind to come to repentance.
1) Repentance is...
a] acknowledging one's sins
b] resolving to obey God
c] changing from wanting to do things your way to God's way
d] having your mind opened to see yourself in comparison to God and His
e] the first step toward reconciliation with God.
f] essential for salvation
g] all of the above
2) In the act of repentance, who takes the first action?
a] the sinner
3) Repentance is...
a] an emotion
b] a process
c] a conscious act
4) Repentance is not possible without the Holy Spirit. True or
5) The deceitfulness of sins blinds a person from seeing his own
sinfulness. True or False?
6) Which of the following best demonstrates how repentance works in
God shows the person his sin
man acknowledges his sin
man acts upon his sin, to overcome it
God shows person his sin
Man seeks and is granted forgiveness
No further action required.
man sees his sin
man asks forgiveness
God forgives the sinner
His slate is now clean
7) According to Jeremiah 17:9,
the most deceitful thing is _______ [what?]
8) When a person repents he or she must compare themselves to:
a] their better self
b] Daniel, Job, Noah and the other biblical saints
c] the ministry of the church
9) If a person is willing and sincere about doing good, he or she can
actually, within themselves, overcome sin and do that good. True
10) Man was created with a natural inclination toward sin. True or
a] cuts us off from God
b] blinds us from our own sinfulness
c] changes our minds from neutrality to enmity against God
d] a and b
e] all of the above
12) Conversion is...
a] God calling a person to repentance
b] the Holy Spirit transforming our mind from carnal to spiritual
c] being baptized
d] being in regular attendance at Sabbath services.
13) 2-part question:
Who prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right
spirit within me."
In which Psalm do we read this prayer of repentance?
14) Which equations are true?
a] Godly sorrow = repentance
b] worldly sorrow = salvation
c] worldly sorrow = death
d] Godly sorrow = perfection
15) Who or what leads us to repentance?
a] our sins
b] our conscious
d] the ministry of the church
16) In repentance, we come to realize:
a] our utter helplessness in fighting the sin process
b] that what must be done is impossible by our own willpower
c] that God must redirect and reshape our lives
d] that we must acknowledge God, His will and His Laws in our lives
e] c and d
f] all of the above
17) What verse lists the 7 attributes of Godly sorrow?
a] Romans 12:2
b] 1 John 3:4
c] 2 Corinthians 7:11
d] 2 Timothy 2:25
18) Which chronological sequence is correct?
19) An essential part of the repentance process is...
a] having great human emotion and asking God forgiveness
b] asking God for a repentant attitude of mind and forgiveness
c] showing human remorsefulness and then asking God forgiveness
20) Initial repentance must be followed by baptism and the laying on of
hands to receive the Holy Spirit. True or False?
21) Repentance is a one-time event. True or False?
22) When a person repents of sin, he or she knows perfection. True
23) When you repent before God, He promises to forgive your sins but not
to forget them. True or False?
24) One of the best ways to come to understand God's laws is through the
practical experience of obeying those laws. True or False?
25) If one should fall away from the Salvation Process and reject God,
there is no longer a repentance unto salvation. True or False?
26) Which of the following are true?
a] a gift
b] requires the Holy Spirit
c] a miracle
d] will eventually work in the lives of billions of people.