The Bible says that if we are to be forgiven of our sin, we must repent of it (Acts 2:38). Jesus says that if we are to be ready for the kingdom of God, we must repent of our sin (Mark 1:15). And if we do not repent of our sin, then we will not enter the kingdom of God, or receive God’s blessings (I Corinthians 6:9-10). But what is repentance? How will we gain God’s blessings over our sin?
What Repentance Is Not
A. Repentance is not simply saying, “I’m sorry.”
While that may be a part of repentance, it is not the whole thing. The one who just says, “I’m sorry” and thinks nothing of returning to their sin is not repentant.
B. Repentance is not simply stopping your sin.
Sometimes one who is truly repentant will return to their sin. At that point they need to repent again, but such a one is accepted by God. Also, there is often more to do in repentance than simply ceasing the sin. A person who murders once may never do it again, but that does not mean they are repentant.
C. Repentance is not simply trying not to sin
Even if a person deeply regrets their sin and does all he or she can to stop it, if that one does not listen to God and does what He says to stop the sin, that person is not repentant.
What Repentance Is
1. Living a life submitted to God
"God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God.” James 4:6-7
The unrepentant is rebellious against God and opposes his people. The unrepentant ignore God and has no interest in his will or glory. The unrepentant know God’s word, but deny its truthfulness. They have no interest in God.
A person who is truly repentant will do all he or she can to honor God with his or her life. A repentant person recognizes God through Jesus as their greatest authority and a life pleasing to Him as the greatest joy. Such a one will seek out knowledge of God’s will and desire with his or her whole heart to please God by doing that will. A repentant person is willing to do whatever it takes to submit to God and to get sin out of his or her life. Such a one vows to be faithful to God and acts out that vow with all their energy.
Also, Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Micah 6:8; I Peter 5:6; Matthew 11:28-29; Mark 12:38-41.
2. Live a life devoted to loving others.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
The unrepentant lives for what he or she can gain for oneself. They don’t take interest in other’s needs. Like a small child, they are rulers of their own realm and others are only actors in the play that revolves around them. The unrepentant is focused on one’s own needs, not on how one’s actions effect others.
The one who is truly repentant serves others with his or her whole heart. The repentant one sees how his or her actions effects others and wishes to do good to others at all times, in all of their actions. They have compassion on other’s needs and will do what they can to show mercy to others. The repentant one will also seek God in order to help others—he or she prays for others and submits to God for the sake of others in need.
Also, Leviticus 19:18;Matthew 7:12; Luke 10:26-37;Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14-23; James 2:8.
3. Hate sin
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate!” Amos 5:14-15
The unrepentant is double-minded. Such a one might want to do what is right, but loves the sin as well. He or she takes such pleasure in the sin that they don’t really want to get rid of it. They assume that their sin is “normal”, while the true life before God is abnormal, unnatural. The unrepentant does not acknowledge that what God says is sin is really sin, but that it really isn’t that bad.
The truly repentant acknowledges that what God declares to be sin is evil and they openly admit it. The repentant sees the sinful practices in his or her life and hate it, is disgusted with it, and does not accept any practice of it, in any way. Such a one regrets the sin he or she does and what it has done to others. Also, Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 97:10 James 1:9
4. Confess your sin.
“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:3,5
The unrepentant one hides his or her sin, trying not to let anyone know he or she does it. They “forget” to ask God for forgiveness and try to forge the sin as soon as possible.
The truly repentant tries to keep their life as open as possible, allowing anyone examine them who wants to. The repentant confesses his or her sins regularly to God and seeks out a brother or sister he or she can trust and confess the sins to that one as well, asking for prayer.
Also, I John 1:9; James 5:16.
5. Reconcile with the one you did wrong.
“Reconcile quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.” Matthew 5:25-26
The unrepentant avoids those whom they have hurt, trying never to speak to them. The unrepentant avoids mentioning his or her sin, hoping that no one will mention it again.
The truly repentant wants to do what is necessary to make peace and possibly build trust again. They will go to those they have wronged and ask forgiveness and offer to correct the damage done. If the one wronged demands it, the repentant one will do all they can to pay back the damage done and make recompense.
Also, Romans 12:18
6. Replace the evil with good
“He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” Ephesians 4:28
The unrepentant one will continue to do what is evil, without attempting to replace it with something else. Such a one will try to stop the sin in their lives, but never do good in place of it.
The repentant recognize that a habit of evil is impossible to stop unless they replace the evil action with a good action. They will attempt to do the opposite of the evil they had done, and not just try to avoid the evil.
Pray to the Lord to give you strength to repent and so gain the Kingdom of God.