Eleven Words on Repentance

1. Repentance does not save you.  It is not a work of merit. God does not forgive you because you repent. He forgives you because of Christ’s blood. Therefore your repentance does not have to be “perfectly sincere” or “really heartfelt.”

2. Repentance is not feeling bad for your sins. Many men have felt guilty and yet never repented. Often men mistake that feeling of sorrow/guilt for true repentance.

3. Repentance is not fearing the consequences of your sins. Many men do not want the consequences of their sins, but also do not want to repent. Consequences can help us see the need to repent, but in and of themselves, are not enough.

4. Repentance is the act of confessing and turning from our sins because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit through the Word and turning to the mercy of God shown to us in Christ. We must turn from our sin and turn to God. That is why guilt and fearing the consequences are insufficient motivators for repentance. Neither of those automatically drive us to God. If repentance does not end at the blood of Christ, it is not true repentance.

5. We should be repenting of sins in the Bible and using the language the Bible uses. Call it what it is. Lust, gossip, anger, bitterness, malice, slander, laziness, greed, and coveting are all terms in the Scriptures. Do not call your sins mistakes. Do not say lust was just a slip up. Don’t say laziness is just being tired.

6. Repentance should involve confessing specific sins to the Lord. Too often repentance is generic. “Lord, I am a proud man. Please forgive me.” This is not a bad prayer and it is probably a true prayer. But it does go deep enough. “Lord, because I am a proud man I got angry at my son when he beat me at Dominion.” Or “Lord, I am vain, I was jealous when that woman’s dress got complimented and mine did not.” Root your repentance in real events, not in generic descriptions of your sinfulness. It helps see us for who we really are and not who we imagine ourselves to be.

7. Repentance means looking at the why as well as the what. Why did I look at porn? Why did I talk disrespectfully to my husband? Why am I lazy at work? The desires and motivations of hearts matter as much as the action itself. This also means you can repent of things that you never act on. It is possible to be greedy and never steal or to be angry and never hit.  Yet greed and anger are both sins that need to be repented of. It is odd that in a culture where the shape of our desires are so important there is such little emphasis on repenting of sinful desires.

8. Repentance does not remove the consequences of your sins. A man who repents can still be disciplined by the Lord. But this is not punishment for his sin. A man whom God disciplines is not making atonement for his sin through that discipline. Atonement was fully paid at the cross by Jesus. Rather he is being molded by God so that he might reject sin in the future. A repentant man will accept the consequences of his sin.

9. A repentant man knows that forgiveness is not owed. Just because you repent does not mean you deserve God’s grace. God does not owe you anything including forgiveness.

10. A repentant man does not trust in the sincerity of the repentance nor in the desire to do better in the future. When we do this we are making of the foundation of our repentance ourselves. This cannot be. True repentance rests solely on Jesus and his work on the cross. A repentant man knows that even his repentance needs to be covered by Christ’s blood.

11. Repentance will bear fruit. However, this fruit is usually small at the beginning and grows over time. A man who repents of his anger does not automatically get rid of it. But that repentance and desire to turn from sin will bear fruit over time. There are two dangers. One is believing repentance is just about forgiveness and not about change. The other danger is that we believe that if we repent sin automatically goes away. Neither is correct. Repentance is part of our lifelong war against the sin in our hearts.