What Is Repentance?

If you grew up in church then you’ve heard this word a million times. Repentance.

For years I just thought repentance meant the prayer I had with God when I asked him for forgiveness of my sins. It was simple and easy and when I became a christian I realized that’s actually just a small part of the process of repentance.

Repentance definitely includes us coming to the Father and dropping down on our knees in sorrow over our sin we have committed against him. R.C. Sproul says it best when he says: “Sin is cosmic treason.” Sproul says this to capture the weight of how hefty our sin against God really is because if many of us are honest with ourselves, we do not always act like sin is a big deal, and the times we do, it’s just acting. We play pretend until we actually feel the weight of our sin. So, sin is a huge deal. It’s crimes against our Father. It’s us being the pharisees who got Jesus a death penalty, and it’s us being the Roman Soldiers beating the Savior. We took someone else’s creation, someone else’s property and defaced it. We treat the Creator with disrespect and say: “Finder’s Keepers, Loser’s Weepers.” Again, sin is a big deal. So what is repentance actually if it is not just the mere asking of forgiveness?

Well, it’s exactly what God commanded Israel to do in Jeremiah 4:1-2

“If you return, O Israel,
declares the Lord,
    to me you should return.
If you remove your detestable things from my presence,
    and do not waver,
and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’
    in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
then nations shall bless themselves in him,
    and in him shall they glory.”

Repentance is action. It’s making a 180 degree turn away from our sins against God. This means we have to give up things are causing us to sin. So the things in your life, whether girlfriend or boyfriend, magazine or television, whatever is causing you to sin against God, get it out. Is this hard? Maybe. I cannot imagine breaking up with someone because they are leading or encouraging you to live a life full of sin. But is it worth it? Yes, getting rid of things in your life, detestable things, idols, in order to better follow and love Jesus is worth every second of time you get to worship Jesus rightly with your life. Some sins require huge acts of cleaning house, others require smaller acts to better structure your life in a more pleasing way to God. Both should be happening in the Christians life because no one is perfect and the Christian’s life is always full of both big and small acts of cleaning house. Maybe you are getting rid of the furniture and maybe you’re just dusting off the shelves. You have to know which one is needed.

Is that it though? Is just changing my actions what I need to do?

By no means. you can do all the work to clean house, but if you’re doing it out of the wrong motivations in your heart then you are still sleeping with your sin, you just might be putting the covers over it’s head.

“Break up your fallow ground,
    and sow not among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord;
    remove the foreskin of your hearts,
    O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
    and burn with none to quench it,
    because of the evil of your deeds.”

Jeremiah 4:3-4

Here two metaphors are used. One where God calls the men of Judah and Jerusalem to be like wise farmers and sow on good soil. Planting roots in bad soil is not good, I’m no farmer and honestly every green thing I see coming out of the ground is just a big tree or little tree. There are no other types but what I do know is the soil has to be right. You cannot expect anything of value to grow when your soil is not right. When thorns are gonna tear the life out of the plants the question you need to then ask is: What is the good soil?

Your heart. Your heart needs to be a changed heart. Are you saved? If not you will have trouble repenting because no matter how hard someone tries, the blind still cannot see and the deaf cannot hear. A circumcision of the heart needs to take place. The heart will look differently after this happens. It will have new desires that are godly. You will have a want, even in discouraging times, to live differently. To live a life that pleases God. But like I said before, You cannot work enough for this to happen. A dead heart does not come alive from a dead body. A new heart needs to be brought in. And you cannot do this yourself. Why? Because you’re dead. Likely, you did not even know you were dead. Yet Christ died for you, The Father chose you, and the Spirit gives you life. You need the Spirit. The Spirit of God will change your heart and in turn cause you to want to live a godly life where you repent of your sins by making a 180 degree turn from them. The Spirit will cause you to plant roots in good soil in order for healthy plants to grow so that you can bear fruit.

Forgiveness is found in God. So is repentance. Repentance is the child coming back to the Father. Why? Because the Father called, and the child answered.

By: Austin Neil Gregory