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What is Repentance All About

Updated on March 25, 2019

A Picture of Repentance

Repentance is not often thought of as a buzz word that produces feelings of warmth and understanding. In fact, many terms in the Bible are often misunderstood because they have a general connotation to society that is quite different than the biblical meaning. While one biblical definition of repentance is "a change of mind," another definition is "a trans-formative change of heart."

Either definition indicates that a true change has taken place, rather than solely an outward profession. This is something that parents and teachers attempt to instill in children at a young age. However, we often look at surface-level changes as an indication that a child has truly learned their lesson. For example, if Billy walks over to Adam and takes his toy, pushes him, and then walks away to play with his newfound toy, adults would typically deal with the situation by having Billy go back over to Adam and say, "I'm sorry." If situations like this continue to happen with Billy and he is not given a reason as to why he "has" to apologize, then he has learned that he can get away with what he wants as long as he can make out the words, "I'm sorry." This is not true repentance.

On the other hand, I have worked with children who have been in a heated argument with another, raised their hand to hit the other person, and stopped in the midst of what they were doing. They thought about what they were going to do, and then changed their mind, deciding that that wasn't the proper way to deal with the situation. An outward sin does not even need to take place if a heart has decided what is proper beforehand. When we determine to line our mind up with the word of God, it's not that God will love us anymore than He already does, but our lives have the capability to run more smoothly. Determine to have a mind that is open to God and His word before situations come, and the situations that come will not seem as strenuous as they would have otherwise.

Two Types of Repentance

As depicted in the two examples above, there are two types of repentance- a biblical repentance and a worldly repentance. There are some people who believe that God is against sin and against worldly ways simply for the sake of being against people or withholding from them. This is a skewed view and does not represent the love that the Father has for us. He has no intention to withhold anything from us and His plans for us are only good (Psalm 84:11 & Jeremiah 29:11). He is only against sin because it turns us inward towards ourselves and leaves us on this downward spiral that we can't get out of. Do we really have the capability to get ourselves out of our own messes? How can we when we were the ones who got ourselves there in the first place? When we turn to God's ways, it frees us up from focusing on ourselves and also allows our hearts a chance to trust in the one who can really change our lives. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Do we Need to Continuously Repent?

A question that often follows the topic of repentance is, "Do I need to do this often, or can I do it once and be done?" This question also seems to be asked in reference to salvation, and is often asked out of fear. When fear becomes our main motivation for pleasing God, the focus shifts from what God has already done for us to what can I do for God, just to get by. It takes us from a place of resting in Him and overflowing from the joy of being in His presence to living saturated in the misery that comes from realizing that our actions alone will never be good enough. When we repent in light of coming into a relationship with Him, our Spirits are sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Bible explains that we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit, but how amazing is it that we even have the opportunity to spend life on earth with even the opportunity to be in sync with the Holy Spirit. If we have the opportunity to grieve Him, that means that we are completely inseparable from Him when we receive Him. With that being said, continuous repentance is a good thing as long as it's done in a godly manner. When we believe that we must go to God and tell Him "sorry" every time we commit a sin because we think that's what He wants to hear, then we haven't fully grasped the term with the perspective that He had in mind. When we're in a constant heart-state of wanting to renew our way of being so that it lines up closer with His ways, then not only are we able to focus on God, but we're able to effortlessly change during the process.


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