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Repentance – The Gospel Demands It, But What Is It?

The Christian gospel demands from us repentance. Because of his sacrificial death for human sin and his victorious resurrection, Jesus is Lord of creation and judge of all. So from our point of view the only appropriate human response is to repent. So what is repentance?

Unfortunately some people see repentance as simply sorrow: So they ‘repent’ and feel sorrow for something they have done. Their sorrow can even be a deep emotional experience or it might be something light and fluffy. Feeling sorrow or regretful over your behaviour might be a good thing but it is not the same as repentance.

Others see repentance as penitence or penance. This involves admitting that we have done wrong and then making up for it by some act of punishment, atonement or penance. But the bible teaches that there is nothing we could ever do to pay for our wrong doing. This is why Jesus is the one who pays the debt of our sin because we could not do it.

The bible’s word for repentance is derived from the idea that our mind has been changed. This genuine change in our mind results in a change in our actions. In some sense this is not emotional or regretful. I can change my mind about the quality of what I am watching on TV and turn it off. I might not be sorrowful or regretful – I simply no longer want to watch whatever it is that was on because it was not what Jesus would want me to be watching.

When we talk about ‘repentance from sin’ we are talking about rejecting our past behaviours, regarding them as wrong morally, spiritually and personally. Thus I no longer do it because I have rejected it as wrong. So when I repent, I turn my back on what I used to think, say and do in my past.

Failure to repent of sin is a serious spiritual matter that needs to be dealt with. This sin can occur because of ignorance (not knowing that God’s word condemns certain actions) or they can be deliberate (knowing it is wrong and doing it anyway).

Pray that God would give us all such repentance that we will always confess our sin, renounce our sinful behaviours and nature, and seek to change the way we live because Jesus is our Lord.