Christianity 201

October 23, 2018

Have You Really Repented?

by Russell Young

Have you repented? Do you repent when convicted of sin? Christ taught, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Lk 13: 3, 5) Repentance results from feeling sorrow, regret, or contrition for the injury done to God and should be accompanied by the believer’s intent not to repeat the wrong.

Voicing sorrow without feeling its presence is not repentance. Unfortunately, many are invited to “accept” Christ without ever appreciating the holiness of God or the fact that they have done anything to offend him. Their response to the evangelist is often based on the promise given that upon compliance to his or her call those responding will be assured of an eternal hope. Consequently, the hope is accepted without any contrition or recognition of personal unrighteousness.

God always requires repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the provision of an eternal hope. Acknowledgement is needed since without it the confessor remains in his or her own pride and wilfulness and lacks awareness to change ungodly practices. It is a mistake to think that God will overlook unrighteousness and those who teach such will one day be accountable to their holy Creator and God.

Paul wrote, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (2 Cor 7:10─11) Has your sorrow brought alarm or concern? Are you eager to clear yourself? Are you earnest about righteous living? Godly sorrow and repentance produce the heart attitude that engenders the repentance that leads to salvation. Have you ever repented for the pain that you have brought to the heart of God (Gen 6: 6)? Do you repent when evil has once more grabbed your attention or has invaded your heart?

The holiness and sovereignty of God must never be forgotten. Failure to repent of acts that are hurtful to him displays blatant disregard for his being and majesty. The haughty and prideful attitude that rejects repentance will not be passed over. Many times the Israelites were commanded to repent of their evil ways and often times they were enslaved because of their failure to walk humbly before their God. The LORD’s chastisement through withholding blessings was frequently experienced because his chosen people had failed to acknowledge his authority through disobedience to his laws, decrees and regulations. When truth dawned, it was often followed by repentance as revealed through the wearing of sackcloth and covering with ashes, followed by prostration before their sovereign God.

Repentance was never intended to be a one-time event. The Lord admonished his Jewish listeners to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt 3:8; Lk 3:8 Italics added) and Paul described his ministry in the same manner. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 Italics added) His portrayal of what he was about seems quite different from that which is often attributed to him.

Failure to repent of on-going sin is arrogance and disregard for God’s holiness. The Lord condemned the church in Sardis as having “a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” He told them to “Remember what they have received and heard; obey it, and repent.” (Rev 3:1, 3) He condemned the church of Laodicea for its lukewarmness and commanded them to be earnest and repent. (Rev 3:19) He also commanded his disciples to wash one another’s feet—to cleanse them of the day’s sins—so that they may have a part with him. (Jn 13:8) John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” (1 Jn 5:16) And, John wrote “If we confess our sins, he is just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

Repentance leads to restoration and when the need to repent is realized by many it may even lead to spiritual revival. God is sovereign and will punish those who disregard his holiness. Speaking through Isaiah the LORD said, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2) Unfortunately, current presentations of God’s grace and mercy have brought God to the familial human level and have engendered the absence of sorrow, regret, or contrition for acts that are offensive to our holy and sovereign God.

Teaching about the need for repentance seems to be disappearing with the result that the hope of many will prove false. Repentance encourages the discontinuation of offensive practices and the conformation of believers to the likeness of Christ, which would make them an offering acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16) The Lord’s teaching should be taken to heart: “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41) In the end, all people will be subject to the judgment of the sovereign and holy God for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

Repentance should be the response of a convicted heart, a heart that appreciates the nature of God and his place as sovereign of his creation, including humankind. It acknowledges hurt done to the One who is establishing his eternal kingdom and it recognizes the need for personal righteousness as accomplished through obedience (Heb 5:9) to their loving Savior and Lord. It comes from a humble and contrite spirit.


Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

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