Summary: Repentance is not just a single act, but a lifestyle choice. This lifestyle is one of fulfillment and joy.
Repentance is not an ugly word, but it is a positive evaluation that I make so that I can gain God’s plan for my life. Many people have misconceptions of what repentance is. There are three principles of repentance that I want to discuss here. The first two is are a comparison between worldly repentance and true godly repentance and the third is how repentance applies to our lifestyle so that we walk in hope and the joy of knowing God on a personal intimate level.
1. Worldly repentance – Remorse
There are two Greek words for repentance that I will be discussing. Worldly repentance is translated from the Greek word ‘metamelomai’ which literally means to have remorse for one’s actions. Worldly repentance is destructive. Lets take a look at the biblical example of worldly repentance. Matthew 27:
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death.
2 And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!"
5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
The King James Version translates remorseful into the word repentance. The product of worldly repentance is not a changed life, but defeat and destruction. Worldly repentance is not a change of heart, but remorse, regret and the burden of one’s guilt. The world can only see this as the meaning of repentance. That is why I frequently hear critics of the Christian faith say things like, “I don’t like church because all they do is make you feel guilty” or “to be a Christian means you have to [carry your Bible everywhere/do certain works/abstain from anything enjoyable in life/or any list of ideas] and hang your head down in shame”. Every Christian I know that is living their faith has a valid self-image and lives joyfully because of the freedom God has given them.
Where does this perception come from? In our modern culture, it comes from counterfeits of the faith. There are countless religions that base salvation on penance, deeds, and rules. God is not impressed with our religious efforts. In fact, this grieves God. A relationship with Christ produces godliness, holiness and good works. Good works, penance, godliness and an effort to be holy will never produce a relationship with God. The relationship must come first. Only God can produce these good things in our lives, we cannot. We subject ourselves to God’s commands out of a love for God and a desire to grow close to Him. We value our relationship with God more than the pleasures of this life and we have the faith that God can keep His promise that “Those who trust under the shadow of His wings will be abundantly satisfied with the fullness of His house and He will give us to drink from the river of His pleasures”. What am I missing by turning from temptation? I stand to lose much more by turning from His promises.
Another source of this worldly repentance is a rejection of grace and the need we feel to bear the penalty for our own wrongs. Judas was such a man. He saw that his actions had given the religious leaders the opportunity to condemn Jesus to die on the cross. Judas’ motivation all along was his own self-interest. He followed Jesus as long as he thought he was to rule along side Jesus when He set up His kingdom. But when Jesus started talking about the world to come and a heavenly kingdom, Judas’ visions of greed and prosperity began to melt. He sold Jesus into the hands of His enemies for 30 pieces of silver. His exact motivation is not entirely clear. Either he decided to abandon Jesus and get a profit on the way out or he intended to force Jesus’ hand. Perhaps he thought that if Jesus were attacked, he would be forced to stand and fight and establish His kingdom now. Judas never knew that he was fulfilling God’s plan while sinning against the Lord. Whatever the reasoning was, we do know Judas’ motivation was greed. He was a thief from the beginning and in the end, the silver he coveted failed him. It was so worthless that he threw it on the ground. I don’t think that Judas expected Jesus to be condemned to die because when he saw that He was condemned, he tried to fix the problem by pleading with the priests. When he saw the consequences of his actions, he was very remorseful and had worldly repentance.