Thursday, April 28, 2011

True Repentance

Repent: to feel such sorrow for sin as to be disposed to turn away from it.

In Acts 26:20, Luke is recording Paul's conversion to following Christ and his subsequent call to others "that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance". John the Baptist uses similar words in Matthew 3:8, "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance". (also found in Luke 3:8)

What does "performing deeds in keeping with repentance" mean?

True repentance means that our lives will no longer be dominated by sin. As Christians, we will still sin, but it will not control and direct our lives. As unbelievers, we have no way to repent unless we are chosen and called by God and convicted by the Holy Spirit. As moral beings, we may be sorry for some things we've done and have regrets, but that is not repentance.

The evidence of true repentance will be godly sorrow. A false repentance may very well understand the destruction that sin can cause, but if their happiness depends on continuation of this sin, they will persist in embracing it.

True repentance understands how God views sin, how detestable sin is and how deserving of eternal death. When we view our sin in relation to God, it should cause us to weep and to hate the effects of it. For the believer, it is truly an amazing thing to know God can and does forgive sin. True repentance causes us to dwell, not on the fact that we are saved, but that we are not condemned. Humility is a key component in the truly repentant.

What does genuine repentance look like?

First, there will be a conscious choice to turn away from sin. You will know that "the old has passed away; behold the new has come". The desire to continue in sin will be gone. Not out of fear of punishment, but because you genuinely hate sin.

Second, Godly repentance will produce a change in behavior. It will lead to confession and the desire to make things right. Conviction about wrong behavior is only part of the equation. Seeking restoration and attempting to undo the wrongs that have been done are evidences of true repentance.

Third, true repentance will be evidenced in a changed person. The new person can never go back and be the old person again. Perseverance towards heaven will be assured.

What does false repentance look like?

First, they may sorrow over sin, but only because of the havoc it has caused, only because their happiness has been interrupted. They may be afraid of being found out and being disgraced. They may be sorry for that they have done because of the effects on other people. Feelings of remorse and being sorry are not repentance because those feelings are based on selfish motives.

Second, ungodly repentance leaves the will to sin and the condition of the heart unchanged. They will try to hide their past with lies and excuses, covering up with apologies and trying to smooth things over. There will be a constant attempt to cover up sin. There will not be an open-hearted, unreserved, unashamed, genuine, undisguised honesty. Worldly sorrow will be present, but not a godly sorrow.

Third, there will be an incomplete change in conduct. What has changed will only be temporary.

Back to the question, what are deeds in keeping with repentance?

I believe it is biblical conduct that shows a reformed heart, the evidence of sincerity. Just like we can tell what kind of tree it is by the fruit it produces, so true repentance is evident by Godly conduct. WE cannot say we are sorry for our sins, but do nothing to change our lives. Our life will now confirm the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This visible fruit of the Spirit will be seen in a life that is lived righteous and holy, a life that becomes more and more like Jesus Christ.

Genuine repentance produces change! Genuine repentance produces humility, begs forgiveness, makes up no excuses and rights wrongs. Confession, repentance and bearing fruit are the natural out-pourings of true faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We cannot be transformed into His image until we get real about wanting God to change us and make us like Jesus.