What is true repentance? Today we are continuing to examine five of the most common misconceptions about repentance, along with what God’s Word teaches as truth. Here are the final three:
- Repentance is not blaming others.
Repentance means taking responsibility for my actions. Jeremiah 4:18 says, “Your way and your actions have brought this on you.”
I have amazingly fast reflexes. When something goes wrong, I automatically, quickly and decisively find a way to blame someone else. It happens so fast it makes my head spin!
True repentance does not seek someone else to blame. It recognizes that the source of my problems is not outside myself. The source of my problems is me. True repentance means taking responsibility for my own actions.
- Repentance is not changing my behavior.
Repentance is turning away from myself and turning to Jesus. Repentance is not changing my behavior; it’s changing my direction. In John 1:26, John the Baptist was referring to Jesus when he said to the Pharisees, “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know him.” They were facing the wrong direction.
I cannot change my behavior. Only the Holy Spirit in me can do that. He will produce in me “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Bearing fruit (good deeds) is not repentance; it is only evidence that repentance has taken place.
Repentance is the opposite of trying to change my behavior. It’s giving up on that battle. Repentance is turning away from my efforts to “be good,” and turning to Jesus as my only hope for life and salvation.
And praise God, Jesus is never far from me. As John the Baptist said, He “stands among you.” He is right here with me all the time, ready for me to turn to Him, to know Him, and to receive His love and power.
True repentance is turning away from myself and turning to Jesus.
- Repentance is not something I do to deserve forgiveness.
Repentance is a gift of God. My forgiveness does not depend on whether or not my repentance is sincere enough, complete enough, responsible enough, or focused enough. Repentance is God’s action in me, changing my heart to receive His forgiveness and new life. James 1:18 says, “By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth.”
I have known people who lived in constant anxiety, fearful that their repentance was not good enough. I have succumbed to this fear myself. Now I cling to God’s Word instead. My salvation, my new birth in Christ, is given to me freely “by His own choice.” It’s not about me; it’s about Jesus, “the Word of Truth.” Praise the Lord for His unmerited grace and favor through our Lord, Jesus Christ!
True repentance is a gift of God.
Repentance is sincere. Repentance acknowledges my guilt and takes responsibility for my own actions. Repentance is turning away from myself and turning to Jesus. Repentance is a gift of God.
My friends, the Christian life is a life of repentance. Respond today to Jesus’ invitation in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Amen.