Summary: An Insightful Look at Godly Sorrow, Confession, Contrition, Consecration and Conversion
“Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15 NIV)
Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:19-20 ESV).
Repentance is most often thought of as ceasing to sin, doing penance and turning around and going the opposite way. Many think that repentance is how you measure up to the high standards of God. It’s their way of saying, “I'm deeply sorry, and I promise never to do it again.”
Webster's Dictionary defines the word repent as: 1) to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life; 2a) to feel regret or contrition; 2b) to change one's mind.
The first definition is what many believe that Jesus taught - that only people who repent (stop sinning and change their ways) will enter into the kingdom of God. Actually, many non-Christians do this all the time as they realize it will benefit their lives. However, the word “repent” in the New Testament means to change one's mind or purpose for the better, to think differently about or reconsider what you are doing or what you have done. It does involve turning from sin, but most importantly, it means turning to God. It’s not about working your way into heaven.
The first Commandments states, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. I am the LORD your God”…"You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below..” (Ex 20:2-5 NIV)
God desires to be the center of our life. The Father longs for us to depend on Him to be our refuge, our glory, and our strength, not some ‘idol.’ Anything that keeps us from trusting Him exclusively He considers to be "other gods." He is waiting for us to turn our heart away from these "other gods" and towards Him.
The reason we should repent is that God wants to prove that He is a better refuge and strength than anyone or anything else. He is looking for people who will stop trusting earthly sources for filling their longings and desires. He is looking for people who will lean on and cling to no other but Him. He desires that we turn our affections towards Him and place our trust, our confidence, our security, and total dependence on Him alone and be satisfied with nothing else.
Repentance is a process of turning to God so we can receive His presence in trade for what we normally try to receive by dependence on earthly sources. Repentance makes it easier to turn and draw near to the Lord and deal with the many reasons we tend to hold back from Him. It will take us from loving our earthly ways to loving God. It will also lead us to the place where earthly things become less and less attractive because the benefits of His presence far surpass anything this life has to offer.
Repentance is not about following the “rules,” doing good things and not doing bad things, because “These are all destined to perish with use because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col 2:20-3:1 NIV).
Repentance is not how hard we work at changing our behavior or feeling sorrow or regret because of sin. Repentance by regret over personal sins committed can lead to self-condemnation. Sorrow, “that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Cor 7:10).
Repentance by regret is "...the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement” and is “of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Col. 2:23 NIV). Making ourselves feel bad for what we did wrong is "self-made religion" because the pain we feel seems to justify our wrongdoing. Condemning our self over something we have done will prevent us from putting our faith in the blood of Jesus because there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1 NIV).