Repentance is a greatly misunderstood subject, and one that is difficult to adequately do. Yet our salvation depends upon it, whether you are examining what is required to become a Christian or maintaining your service as a child of God. In this article, we will take a few moments to examine the importance of repentance.

What is repentance? The word literally means, " change one’s mind or purpose" (W. E. Vine’s Dictionary). Thayer says it means, "to change one’s mind (heart) for the better, to amend heartily with abhorrence for one’s past sins." Thus it indicates a determination when convicted of sin in one’s life, to stop committing it and to begin walking in accordance with the instructions we find in God’s word.

That one must repent in order to be saved is seen in Acts 2:38 where Peter answered the crowd who had asked him, "What shall we do?", by telling them, "Repent and let everyone one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…". In the next recorded sermon in Acts, Peter said, "Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out…" (3:19). At Athens, Paul said, "...but now (God) commands all men everywhere to repent" (17:30). Jesus also taught it in Luke 13:3 & 5 where He said to a multitude, "...but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." As He was about to ascend, Luke records that Jesus opened the understanding of His apostles and told them, "...that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations." (Luke 24:47).

That repentance is needed is also seen in a number of other passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in which Paul describes sinful behaviors and says, "And such were some of you. But you were washed." Colossians 3:7-8 gives another list and Paul says, " which you yourselves once walked...But now you yourselves are to put off all these…" Romans 6:17-18 says, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed form the heart that form of became slaves of righteousness." The change in life recorded in each of these passages demonstrates clearly that one need to repent in order to be saved.

Having established the need for repentance, what exactly is involved in it? There are many misconceptions about true repentance. Some think it means being sorry. While repentance does involve sorrow, it is an attitude that produces it rather than actual repentance. Notice 2 Corinthians 7:10 which says, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation...but the sorrow of the world produces death". Truly, it is possible to be sorry and not repent. For instance, a thief who is in jail can be truly sorry that he got caught, but that doesn’t mean he will not do it again. Repentance is not mere change either. One can change for the wrong reason. For example, the same thief might be released and put on probation, and he ceases to steal because he does not want to go back to jail. His motive is not based upon true repentance, but fear of getting caught again. Hosea 2:7 records the children of Israel returning to God, not because they sinned, but only because Baal would not listen to them. Repentance is not merely admission of wrong. One can admit to error to leave the impression with others that he truly is sorry. He might even use moving words and sound contrite. But, if his heart does not truly mean it, it is NOT repentance. Finally, repentance is not conversion. The attitude of repentance LEADS to conversion which means a changed life. Consider again Acts 3:19 where Peter said, "Repent and be converted…" With this we understand what repentance is NOT. While all of the above elements will have a part in true repentance, they are not repentance by themselves. Repentance is that change of mind because of one’s sorrow for what he had done or not done. He is so sorry, he resolves to never do it again. Consider Psalm 51 in which David pleads with God for forgiveness concerning his sin against Bathsheeba, Uriah the Hittite, the illegitimate child that his sin had conceived, and the nation of Israel. This sorrow lead to an honest confession of his sins (James 5:16, 1 John 1:8-10). And in his heart, he determines that he will NEVER again commit that sin or live a life of sin serving the world. As a result of this you see TRUE change in his life, or the conversion one needs to be a child of God.

2 Corinthians 7:8-11 does describe what the attitude of true repentance involves. Verse 11 says, "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner; What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter." Note the attitude of one who truly repents. He is diligent in making it right as quickly as possible. He does everything he can to clear himself. Even though he has done wrong, he is going to do everything to let everyone know that he has changed. His change of mind is so clear, he detests the sin he has repented of. He is fearful of the consequences of continuing to live in that sin and uses that fear to keep him doing that which is right. There is a vehement desire, or a deep down determination that only he and God are sure of. He is zealous to ensure that there is change and perhaps to firmly campaign against the sin that he USED to be guilty of. The result is his vindication. In that term, he accepts whatever punishment or consequence that might come his way knowing that it will make him a better person. And when it is all said and done, he know that he has been forgiven and goes on his way rejoicing.

This is what true repentance is. And if you want an eternal home in heaven when this life is over, you must be willing to truly change your life. Have you changed your life by rejecting the world and fully surrendering yourself to His will?





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