Practical Teaching on Repentance
for the Believer
What is repentance? The 1689 Baptist Confession defines repentance as:
An evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self- abhorrency, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto well-pleasing in all things.
Since believers are imperfect and are being sanctified, they must daily and continually repent of sins committed against God and man (Ps. 51:1-13; Matt. 6:12; 2 Cor. 7:8-11; 1 Jn. 1:9; Rev. 3:19). Believers are to repent, but they cannot produce conviction. Christians must pray for conviction of sin and grace to repent. These are works of the Spirit and cannot be manufactured by man (Jn. 16:8).
Repentance is both negative and positive. It consists in turning away from sin and toward God. The sinner, having been filled with sorrow for sin, humbles himself, renounces that sin, hates it, and runs to Christ for forgiveness and restoration.
Several things accompany repentance. The Bible reveals that godly sorrow is present (2 Cor. 7:8-10). Also, conviction of sin accompanies repentance (Jn. 16:7-11). Brokenness and humility are present within the penitent believer (Ps. 51:16-17). Lastly, sin will be confessed to God (1 Jn. 1:8-10).
What are some biblical truths about repentance? First, repentance is a gift of God (Acts 5:29-31, 11:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:23-26). It is a work of the Spirit who indwells believers and is actively conforming them into the image of Christ. Where the Spirit dwells, sin cannot. Second, true repentance is ongoing; it is an attitude (Heb. 3:14; Acts 8:22). Once a believer is saved, he does not stop repenting. Oh no, repentance is a major part of the Christian life. Believers sin daily, so they ought to repent daily. Christians are not perfected in this life; we will always be dragging around this flesh. So, there will always be something to repent of. Do you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? Nope. Repent. Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Nope. Repent. Have impure thoughts crept in, pride manifest itself, anger rush forth, apathy consume you? Repent.
Third, true repentance must be from what we are and not just what we do (Ps. 51:1-5). We sin but that is not the main issue here. Why do we sin? We sin because we are robed in sinful and corrupt flesh, live in a fallen world, and are surrounded by evil and sin at ever turn. Not to mention, we as believers are still fallen, still depraved. So when we repent, we are not to merely focus on our actions, behaviors, thoughts, words, etc., but we must examine our hearts, motives, and affections. We sin because we are sinners. It is who we are. Granted, we are in Christ, but remember, we are not perfect, glorified, or without sin.
Fourth, repentance glorifies God (Ps. 51:7-15). When a believer, by the influence of the Spirit, confesses, turns from sin, runs to God, begs for forgiveness, desires to have fellowship with the blessed Trinity, how could God not be honored? How could God not be glorified? This is God's work, as we have seen, and we know that God does all things for his glory! God hates sin. When his children hate sin, God is pleased.
Fifth, repentance involves the entire person. True repentance is a change of the mind, will, and affections (Rom. 8:5-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 2:3-6). Every aspect of the believer is affected. The mind is changed. It no longer desires to think sinful thoughts. The will is affected. The believer no longer desires to act sinfully. The affections are changed. Christians no longer desire sin. No, the believer desires to think godly thoughts, to do good works for the glory of God and the good of man, and desires communion with God above all things. Now, it must be remembered that sanctification is incomplete in this life. Our repentance, our minds, wills, and affections will still feel the affects of indwelling sin. But praise God, he will finish what he started. There will be marked improvement. There will be growth in holiness.
Sixth, repentance is required for all sin (1 Jn. 3:4; Jms. 4:17). This includes sins of commission and omission. This means the things that we do that are sinful and the things that we are supposed to do but don't, they too are sinful. Every sin that we take part in is an atrocity to a holy God and must be repented of. Every sin is cosmic treason and must be hated and turned from. All sin is to be repented of, not just what we deem are the “big ones”.
What does daily repentance look like? How does a believer repent daily? Think on the magnitude, wickedness, and offensiveness of your sin. Consider the humiliation and suffering of Christ for our sin. Think on the wrath that was poured out on Christ in the place of sinners. Reflect on the holiness of God and his hatred of sin. Meditate on the goodness, mercy, love, patience, and grace of God in forgiving sinners, communing with them, and inviting them in to his presence. Read Scripture and pray for the Spirit to convict you of sin. Pray for grace to repent. Cry out to God for a new heart that hates sin and loves serving and glorifying him. Confess your sin to God, beg for mercy and forgiveness, pray for strength to resist temptation and to not commit particular sins, resolve to not sin against God, and thank God for his amazing grace.
Repentance is a work of the Spirit in a believer, but it is the believer that repents. The believer must be active. Christians must be committed to repent. They must say, “I will turn from sins”, “I will submit to the Lord Jesus Christ”, “I will obey the demands of my King”, “I will follow Christ alone”, “I will strive to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength”.