What Repentance Is Not
Repentance is not just saying words, expressing emotions, showing emotions about getting caught, or facing consequences. It is also not trying to hide or cover up the sin, or blaming others or circumstances for the sin.
Pharaoh said, “I have sinned” (Ex. 9:27), but when the hail and thunder stopped, “he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart” (Ex. 9:34). When the plague of locusts came, Pharaoh said, “I have sinned against the Lord ... Now forgive, I pray you, my sin.” But Pharaoh hardened his heart again and did not let the children of Israel go (Ex. 10:16-20).
Judas “repented himself” (Matt. 27:3) of betraying the Lord, but this was only regret and remorse about the consequences of his sin, and not for the sin itself.
King Saul said, “I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (I Sam. 15:24, 30). So, he feared the punishment and humiliation of sin and blamed the people rather than repenting from the heart of the sin itself.
Judas “repented himself” and said, “I have sinned,” but only regretted the consequences of betraying Christ (Matt. 27:3-4).
Esau was upset and wept about not receiving his inheritance, but he was not repentant about selling the birthright for food (Heb. 12:17).
Instead of taking responsibility for their sin, Adam and Eve tried to avoid its results by covering up, hiding, and blaming others (Gen. 3:7-13).
What Is Repentance?
Repentance, or metanoia in the Greek, is usually defined as a turning around, or a change in attitude and purpose that involves the intellect, emotions, and will. It is like a person who made a wrong turn in driving. In order to get to his intended destination, he must do several things.
First, he must realize and be convinced that they made a wrong turn and is going in the wrong direction.
Second, he must admit or confess that he made a wrong turn. To confess means to say the same thing that God says about it and, in essence, ask God for forgiveness (I John 1:9).
Third, the person must stop going in the wrong direction.
Fourth, he must turn and face in the right direction.
Finally, he must start going in the right direction to reach his original destination.
Since all sin comes from the heart (Matt. 15:19-20; Mark 7:21-23), and it is an act of faith in the wrong object, then repentance must also come from the heart and be a turning to the only right object of faith, which is the cross, and will result in a change to biblical obedience.
It is not only necessary to confess, but it is also essential to forsake, or leave, refuse, depart from, let alone, abandon, let go, and desert sin (Prov. 28:13). Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees that they should bring forth fruits to prove their repentance (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8).
When the publican Zacchaeus got saved, he showed it by restoring fourfold to anyone he had defrauded, which was the restitution required of a sheep stealer (Ex. 22:1).
The Prodigal Son not only said he would arise, go to his father, and tell him he had actually sinned, but he actually did it (Luke 15:17-21).
When Peter began sinking because he feared the storm and took his eyes off Jesus, he cried out to Him, and Jesus caught and lifted him back up (Matt. 14:28-33).
When God saw the Ninevites turn from their evil ways, He did not destroy their city (Jonah 3:10). The Israelites not only had to say they had sinned, but they also had to look in faith at the brazen serpent to be saved from the fiery serpents (Num. 21:5-9). The Israelites not only confessed they had sinned, surrendered to the will of God, and prayed for deliverance, but they also put away the idols and served God before they were forgiven and reconciled to God (Judg. 10:10-16).
For the resulting victory to be maintained, the individual must continue keeping his faith in the cross so that he will keep on receiving the power of the Spirit to obey God.