What is Real Repentance?

Imagine taking a vacation to the other side of the country. You round up the family, pack the car and head down the highway. However, what if at some point during the journey you realize you are traveling in the wrong direction?

Would you make the necessary corrections to get back on track? Yes! No one would continue on the wrong course once he had learned it was in error. This is common sense.

The same can be said of Christians. When we are walking contrary to the path outlined in God’s Word, we must analyze what happened, look at where we are and then make necessary course corrections in our lives.

The Bible is a book of action. Nearly all of “churchianity” misses this. Billions of professing Christians do not understand that their Creator expects change and growth!

True Christians should never be so naive. We should understand how we change our path—exactly what repentance means. We should realize it involves action, which begins with a marvelous gift from God. We must comprehend that repentance is the first step to overcoming (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 2:38; 3:19).

Confused World

Worldly churches relegate repentance to a feeling—attempting to spiritualize it away. Many Protestant churches believe that repentance is a nice thought, but nothing you need to do. After all, in their thinking, if the Law does not apply, what is there to repent of?

While the Protestants occupy the ditch of inaction, Catholics teach the opposite. They feel repentance is based on human effort and action—the false doctrine of penance. They understand action is required, but fail to see repentance as a gift from God. To Catholicism, repentance is nothing more than the physical motions of a prescribed number of “Hail Marys.”

Both ideas are plainly wrong!

God’s Doctrine

With the Days of Unleavened Bread having just passed, repentance should be in the forefront of your mind. We must not let down our guard. Looking at repentance in more detail will keep our minds focused on what should be an everyday process.

Peering into the Greek language adds depth to any doctrine. This is especially true of repentance, which in the New Testament is translated from two Greek words. The first is metanoeo, which means “to think differently, reconsider, morally to feel compunction, to change one’s mind, repent.” The second Greek word used is metanoia, meaning “reversal of a decision, a change of mind, repentance.”

It is sad that the doctrine of repentance is so misunderstood when the Bible is so clear!

Most do not understand that when one is called to God the Father through Jesus Christ (John 6:44) he is given a gift to understand the truth of the Bible. When our eyes are opened, we begin to see ourselves as God sees us. However, this alone is not enough to allow us to change.

God must give the gift of repentance. This gift makes us appreciate all He has done for us, and then we are energized to work to change (Rom. 2:4; Acts 11:18; II Tim. 2:25). Every day of our Christian lives, we must examine where we fall short of the mark (I John 1:8), and then ask God to give us the power to change.

One must be careful to avoid turning repentance into only an emotional response. Of course, Christians always feel terrible when they sin. We want to walk in a way that pleases our Creator; therefore sin should cause deep, heartfelt remorse (Psa. 51).

But, this is only the first step! You must then amend your conduct. Without this crucial second step, you are not truly repenting—changing. You are, in effect, “repenting” with your lips (Matt. 7:21).

True repentance is proven by fruits (Matt. 3:8)! Look at—examine—your fruits and determine if you have been granted repentance. If you are not seeing enough fruit, beseech God. Not only can He grant you repentance, He can also give you the will to change (Phil. 2:13)!

Do not be discouraged if you do not overcome a problem immediately. Remember, you may have spent decades developing certain sinful “habits.” It takes time to break bad habits. Be patient. Christianity is a lifelong process of deeply examining your conduct, identifying sin in your life, asking God for repentance, and then changing. This will not happen overnight—and it is not something that occurs only once.

A Christian’s life should demonstrate a pattern of yielding fruit over a long period. This pattern is the most effective measure of Christian growth!

Seeing Sin

In order to notice sinful conduct, you must first understand what sin is. This cannot be discovered through human reasoning, judgment or discernment. We are simply incapable (Jer. 10:23)! You must study the Bible to know how God views a variety of conduct, thoughts and emotions. His Word is the ruler to measure sin.

By studying Scripture, you will learn many more details about Christian conduct (II Pet. 3:18). This will automatically translate into spending more of your time considering the Law of God and how it applies in your life. You will find more areas in which you can improve, which will drive you to your knees to ask God to grant repentance and the will to overcome. A cycle develops of putting Christ first in your day-to-day life. Your thinking, actions and conversations will become dominated by this theme (Luke 14:26-33; Rom. 12:1-2).

Memory Verses

The following verses are helpful to memorize regarding the doctrine of repentance: Mark 1:14-15; Acts 2:38; Romans 2:4; Acts 11:18; Romans 6:23; II Corinthians 7:8-11; Matthew 7:21; Jeremiah 10:23; II Peter 3:9, 18; and Psalm 51.

Repentance is fundamental to Christianity. All of us sin and fall short of what God expects (Rom. 3:23). When one does not repent of any particular sin, he makes it impossible for God to forgive him.

Ask God for repentance, strength and power to overcome sin—then expect the power to change! Eventually, you, as did Jesus Christ, will be able to say “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). You will have made it through the narrow gate into the kingdom of God.