What Is Repentance?

The following is a set of comments based on a post of the same title on Mymoss’ Weblog. There is no point in reprinting the material in its entirety when the post is only one click away.

The author of the post is a member of our group who has allowed me to present his material orally, which I did on Saturday, July 24 2010. He puts across the subject of repentance in a way that is simple, elegant, warm and personal. I can relate to the experience of peace descending upon the repentant heart, as well as the searching question that preceded it, “What am I to do now?” Notice the crowd’s question in Acts 2:37, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Like him, I was at the end of my rope when I gave my life to Jesus Christ in prayer one night. In my mind there were no other options – and no turning back. Since then I have met many people who lived lives of quiet desperation as they sought to do what God wanted them to do – on their own strength. I wondered why others who accepted Jesus as their Saviour could feel so guilty for things they could just go to God and be forgiven about. I like how Mymoss’ final song “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” addresses that issue.

Others in our group commented about various aspects of his message.

Some wondered how the minister could judge that he had or had not repented. Can you tell if someone is repentant? Probably not in the short term. However, it seems that if the original pattern of sin does not change, there has probably not been real repentance. John the Baptist does not seem to have a problem discerning whether repentance has occurred in the case of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3:7-8. He tells them to bring forth “fruit worthy of repentance” before coming back to be baptized. Repentance is change. Change of heart, mind, approach, attitude, and lifestyle.

Others wondered, with Mymoss, whether there has to be a serious crisis before one repents. He is probably right that not everyone must “bottom out,” but most probably have to face enough of the bad results of their own sin and helplessness that it becomes a moral or spiritual crisis. We become completely fed up with sinning – with resisting God – and finally stop fighting in at least some area of life. Perhaps we need to wrestle with guilt enough to not want to be guilty any more, and Jesus Christ is the only way out. Something melts the stony heart inside us and replaces it with one of flesh and blood. Jesus points out that it is harder for a rich person to be saved than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Maybe it requires a crisis to bring repentance after all.

Another noticed that, like the relationship prior to marriage, there is prior intent and committment to repentance before baptism. The baptism and laying on of hands are a confirmation of the prior intent as well as the prior working of the Holy Spirit leading up to repentance, yet it does not end with the ceremony, just as the love in marriage does not end at the ceremony.

As Mymoss says, “The main thing is to realize that it is impossible to have the right motives in wanting to live the Christian way of life without the input and power from the Holy Spirit… asking do we simply want to have a close personal relationship with Jesus?”

Repentance is not about passing an exam with the right answers. It is about being cleansed in heart so that it does not embarass us or cause us pain to be in God’s presence. It is about desiring with all our being to be free from the sin that we now know causes all the pain and suffering in our lives and in the lives of the ones we love. For their sakes. For our sakes. For the sake of God’s good creation.

Thank you, “Mymoss” for bringing this to our attention in your own kind and gentle way.


About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
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