What Is Genuine Repentance?
What Is Genuine Repentance?
By Charles F. Stanley
“Lord, I’m really sorry I got caught.”
“God, I really regret that sin. I sure hope I can do better next time.”
Does either of these statements indicate genuine repentance? I don’t think so. Both are prompted out of guilt or embarrassment, not a heartfelt sense of remorse over the fact that the Father has been grieved. Usually, these people have no intention of changing. They just want God off of their backs.
Genuine repentance involves several things. First of all, confession. Not just, “Lord, I’m sorry for my mistake,” but “Lord, I have sinned against you.” Confession acknowledges guilt. Second, repentance involves recognizing that the sin was against God. Although David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed, he realized that his sin was primarily against the Lord (Ps. 51:4).
All of us need to recognize that our sin is primarily against God. Other people may be hurt as well. However, when we hold our sin up to the love of the Father expressed through the Cross, we see that is where sin is darkest.
Repentance also includes taking full responsibility for our sin. David didn’t blame Bathsheba or make any excuses for himself. He said, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3).
Whenever we catch ourselves blaming someone else for our sin, our repentance is incomplete. We should take full responsibility for our offense, no matter what happened or who was involved. Regardless of the temptation, we are ultimately the ones who chose to sin.
Last, repentance is not complete without honesty. I believe God is looking for us to be honest about our weaknesses, our failures, and our frustrations. Honesty promotes fellowship. As long as we are open and honest with the Lord, He can continue to work with us, even after we have sinned.
We get into trouble when we start to cover things up: “Now, Lord, I know I made a mistake. But after all, everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.” Responding this way avoids the real issue and is therefore dishonest. As long as we approach God in that fashion, there is not much He can do with us.
Repentance for the Unbeliever
Repentance for those outside of Christ means a change of mind. The unbeliever is to change his mind about what he believes concerning Jesus. He moves from unbelief to belief that Christ paid the penalty for his sin. An unsaved person admits that she cannot save herself. She trusts Jesus, instead of her goodness, for eternal life. She changes her mind about God and His payment for our sin.
It is important to understand that repentance for the unbeliever is not referring to cleaning up his life. If he can earn forgiveness of sin and a home in heaven by changing his life through self-effort, there is no need for the Cross.
Repentance and belief are so intertwined that they are almost synonymous. You can not have one without the other. They are two sides of the same coin. Jesus used repentance as synonymous with belief when He said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
After you receive Jesus, you will continue to repent as you grow in Christian faith and character. This repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in behavior.
What happens when we delay our repentance? The Bible teaches that God disciplines those who are disobedient. When we perpetuate our sin with no intention of stopping, we won’t escape the disciplining hand of the Father. However, it is my conviction that if you and I deal with our sin genuinely, openly and immediately, God can lessen the severity of our discipline. We are wise to repent quickly.
Created 12 months ago