What is True Repentance?
What is True Repentance?
Luke 5:4-8 Good News Translation (GNT)
4 When he finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch.” 5“Master,” Simon answered, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. 7 So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full of fish that the boats were about to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!”
Repentance has been distorted in some religious circles. In many places it is identified by how many times someone says he is sorry for what he has done, by how much crying occurs and by how many times the person says he is unworthy; the more crying and unworthiness expressed, the more repentant the person is. And, according to religious tradition, until you repent, don’t expect anything good from God. Repent, and only then, will God bless you.
But that does not line up with the Bible. In Luke 5 (passage above), Jesus blessed Peter and his partners with a boat load of fish (actually more than one boat) before Peter got on his knees and declared “I am a sinful man.” The woman (Luke Chapter 8) who was caught in the act of adultery did not repent before receiving a blessing from Jesus. In Romans 10:9,10 the greatest gift of all – salvation – does not come by a confession of sin. It is received by a confession that Jesus is Lord.
This is NOT to say that repentance is not an important part of the Christian journey. If repentance is defined according to the Bible, it is easy to see what an important part it plays in the life of a believer. According to Strong’s Concordance “repent” means to” turn back” in the Old Testament; in the New Testament it means to “have a change of mind.” While both refer to returning to God when sin has occurred, there is an important difference between repentance in the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the Law required repentance as a requirement for getting right with God. The demand was placed on man to make things right between himself and God.
In the New Testament where the Dispensation of GRACE appears, the demand is no longer on man. Jesus’ supply is more than enough to make things right between God and man. He has borne our sins, past, present, and future on the Cross. While there is no sin problem in the world today, there is a sinner problem; believers continue to sin in this fallen world. This is where New Testament repentance comes in. When a believer sins, he is still righteous – in good standing with God. However, while the sin does not separate God from the believer, the sin does separate the believer from God; through the condemnation the believer feels for having sinned. Repenting removes the condemnation. The “change of mind” that occurs takes the focus off the believer’s sin and redirects it to the GRACE of God. A believer does not repent because that’s what he has to do to get back into God’s GRACE; he repents in response to the GRACE God always gives in every sin situation.
There is nothing wrong with a believer showing emotion when he repents. However, understanding the nature of repentance as it is embodied in God’s GRACE will cause those emotions to reflect something quite different from a sense of sorrow and unworthiness; those emotions will reflect a sense of gratefulness and joy in being surrounded by the worthiness of Jesus. And, that is amazing GRACE by anyone’s standards!
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