Ever since the Fall of Man, there has been a need for man to repent of his sins. His carnal desires and choices have placed him on a course away from God. In that course, he at times feels bad for the trouble he has brought upon himself. Sometimes other people suffer for his sins. Is being sorry the same as repentance? What is repentance?
Pharaoh is an example of men who are engulfed with the pride of life. He had power and wealth and lived a God-defying life. He worked against God and His people. He was his own god. He needed a confrontation with God so he would come to the end of his haughty self esteem. As God began to work with him, he resisted the request of Moses to allow the Israelites to go and worship God. He regarded neither God nor the desires of man. But God did not give up. The plagues were God’s way of arresting Pharaoh’s attention. At various times as he faced some of the judgments of God, the Bible says Pharaoh repented (Ex 9:27). The repentance seemed to be little more than being sorry for the difficulties he needed to face. There was no change of heart or life.
King David was a good man in many ways. He had a heart that sought to follow God. But he was not perfect. David sinned before God and man. He failed to be the spiritual man of God when he lusted for another man’s wife. He failed to be the leader who humbly served God’s people when he killed a man to get his way. Satan was causing the enemies of God to blaspheme God and His people. The Bible records that like Pharaoh, David also repented. But he humbled himself in honest contrition before a holy God. Psalm 51 reveals a man who was sorry enough for what he did that he did not want to continue in his sins. Neither did he resist God’s discipline for his sins.
The Scriptures tell us that both Pharaoh and David repented. They both felt a sorrow for their situation. But there are two basic types of sorrow. In 2 Corinthians 7: 9-11, Paul identified Godly sorrow and a sorrow of the world. This passage also identifies the differing results of these two vastly dissimilar kinds of sorrow.
Worldly sorrow as illustrated by Pharaoh is a sorrow for being in a tight spot. It is more pity for the difficulty sin has produced than sorrow for doing the sin. Worldly sorrow includes being sorry for being caught. It makes a sinner search for a way to sin without getting caught. The desire to stop sinning is not there, only a desire to lessen the consequences.
Godly sorrow changes the person’s view of sin and sinning. It changes a man from the inside out. The transformed mind results in a transformed life. The testimony of others harmonizes with the change God also witnesses. A clearing is made by God and man.
John the Baptist’s main theme seemed to be repentance. “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt 3:8). His message was for men of every walk of life. Those who accepted his message needed to make responses that proved their repentance. They could not continue in their sinful life style. The evidence of repentance could be seen by the change their acquaintance could bear witness of.
Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32). On the surface, this verse seems to suggest that some men may not need to repent. But, has any man lived a perfect life without the need of repentance? The answer is obvious. Christ was the first and last person to walk on this earth without the need to repent of any sin or faults. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom 3:10). The only people who do not hear the call to repentance are those who think they do not need to repent. They will die in their sins.
Sometimes people think if they repent of a wrong, there should be no farther consequences. This is not true. Repentance does not do away with the law of sowing and reaping. Too often, a person may express sorrow because of the results of sin rather than for the sin itself. Godly sorrow includes a sorrow for the sin and an acceptance of the consequences of the sin.
Esau is an example of one who could not accept the consequences for his sin. What he sold was no longer for sale. What he lost was not to be regained. His sin had consequences. Tears could not restore the loss. Sin can have us lose some treasures that can never be regained.
While much is lost because of sin, God has given many promises to man if he chooses to repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance “(2Pe 3:9). Man’s relationship with God can be restored. relationships between men can be restored. The contaminated life can be cleansed. The life in bondage can rejoice with a freedom in Christ. The guilt of sins can be removed. The troubled heart is now a heart at rest.
If man does not repent, he will live in his sins and pay a dear price for it. “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Eze 18:30). “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lu 13:5). Relationships will continue to be strained. The contaminated life will add to its contamination. The cords of sin will strengthen sin’s bondage to a man’s life. The weight of guilt will press down on the body and soul. The troubles of life increase because of a sin-laden, troubled heart.
When a person repents, the burden of sin rolls away and a soul is refreshed. Acts 3:19 may have two applications. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Every sinner is refreshed when he takes care of the sin question. The times of refreshing begin with a new life in Christ. The soul rest is refreshing. Open honest relationships with God and man are refreshing. Studying God’s Word is refreshing. a new day has dawned.
God’s chosen people will also be refreshed when they repent of their sins and accept Christ as their
Messiah. Zechariah 12-14 foretells of a time when Israel will repent of their sins and accept the One whom they crucified, as their Messiah of Hope and deliverance. A new day will have dawned when this becomes their experience.
Repentance is not only an experience at conversion. Christians need to repent every time they have turned aside from doing or being what God desires of them.
Sometimes churches need to repent. Christ told five of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 to repent. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev 3:19). When sin has been tolerated in the church, the church needs to be called to repentance. If God’s presence and blessing is to be on a congregation, we must humbly repent of the sins and inconsistencies that are found among us.
Church leaders are not exempt from needing to repent. Diotrephes should have repented of his pride and actions against his brethren. This church troubler could have been a blessing to the church had he repented.
Church members also need to be willing to repent of their involvement in sin. A confession and repentance on the part of Ananias and Sapphira may have restored their spiritual life and lengthened their physical life.
Fathers and mothers in the home need to repent at times. It is easy to admit none of us are perfect, but can we admit and repent of our paths of carnality and selfishness. Maybe our children would be more receptive of the Christian life if they could witness repentance on the part of unfaithful parents.
Maybe we should also consider some lessons from the wasteful son who repented (Lk 15:18). He did not take the lifestyle of his former life into his father’s house. He did not expect a lot of breaks from his father. He was rather willing to have a position less than he experienced before his departure. If he would have returned with some stipulations for his father, we would question his quality of repentance.
Whenever a person is on a path away from God and His people, he needs to repent. Ezekiel was told to “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Eze 33:11)
Thank God for the opportunity to turn from the path of sin that takes us into eternal damnation. Thank God for the faithfulness of His Spirit who convicts us in the paths of sin. apart from repentance, all of us would have our feet pointing toward the flames of Hell. May we encourage others to repent while the day of God’s longsuffering and grace are extended to the sons of man.