Photo By Ben White
What is repentance? Do Christians need to repent? When was the last time you repented?
As believers, we know that Jesus calls people who have yet to believe in Him (Matthew 4:17) and Christians to repent when they have fallen away from Him (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 2:21; 3:3; 3:19).
And yet, repentance seems like a rather unpleasant thing that we have to coerce ourselves to do. It’s like taking bitter medicine when we are sick. We don’t want to take it but force it down our throats anyway, because we know it’s supposed to be good for us.
I used to think of repentance in this way, until I realized what repentance really is. In a nutshell, it involves these three things: Recognition of our sin, renunciation of our sin and returning to God.
The more I came to understand what repentance really is, the more I realized that it is, in fact, a wonderful gift by God to us. Here are some reasons why.
1. Repentance lets God restore, forgive and purify us
I used to feel unworthy of God’s forgiveness when I fell into sin. I’d think, “I’m already a Christian and yet I’m still disappointing and failing God in this way. How can I still expect Him to forgive me?”
Thankfully, God assured me by reminding me of this truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Since then, I’ve made it a point to confess my sins before God no matter how “unworthy” or “unclean” I might feel, knowing that He will forgive me my sins and purify me, so that I will be righteous before Him again.
Just as God reached out to us before we came to know Him, He is still reaching out to us and calling us to return to Him today if we’ve fallen in sin: “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3, Malachi 3:7). God promises to restore us when we repent of our sins (Jeremiah 15:19).
2. Repentance helps us to be humble
I find that when I have trouble repenting, it’s often because I have pride issues in my life. Pride is spiritual blindness that causes us to think our standards are better than God’s standards.
The opposite of pride is humility, and one definition of it, which I really like, says, “Humility means agreeing with the truth.” Perhaps that is why Paul says that repentance leads us to know the truth so that we can come to our senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). When I repent and learn to agree with the truth of God’s standards of righteousness and sin, I am growing in humility.
God values humility; He shows favor to those who are humble, but He opposes and mocks those who are proud (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). So let’s be quick to repent, so that we may grow in humility and receive and enjoy God’s favor.
3. Repentance drives the devil away from us
During the times when I was willfully disobeying God, I found it so much harder to believe God’s truths. Instead, the voices of guilt, doubt, fear and condemnation would ring a lot louder in my heart. Thoughts like, “God doesn’t love you anymore,” “You’ve really blown it this time. God won’t give you a second chance,” and “God has given up on you now” would keep harassing me, giving me no peace.
But when I repented and returned to God, these deceptive whispers of the enemy would start to fade and I’d be more able to perceive and receive the truths of God again.
The Bible tells us, “Submit yourselves . . . to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In this verse, submission to God means washing our hands and purifying our hearts from sin and double-mindedness (James 4:8).
When we sin, we’re actually giving the devil permission to draw near to us, for “[t]he one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). The enemy is close to those who does what he does (John 8:44). And when he is near us, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
When we submit to God by repenting, we’re proclaiming that we belong to God and we can fight against the devil and his evil influences in our lives.
4. Repentance frees us from the torment of sin
I’ve found this to be true in my life. When I insisted on my own sinful ways, the one who suffered the most was me. Although sin may feel good, it ultimately hurts more than it seems to promise.
And when I wasn’t willing to confess my sins to God and others due to pride and shame, I found myself continuing in my sins because the devil had gained a foothold in my life to ensnare me in the darkness. It’s only when I brought these sins into the light by confessing them to people I trusted, that those sins started to lose their power to further deceive and hurt me.
I’m thankful that God gives us confession and repentance as the means by which we can receive His mercy. Because Jesus is our great high priest who is always interceding for us before God (Hebrews 4:14; 7:25), we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The Bible gives us this promise: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). If we do not repent, we will not be able to receive help and relief from the torment of sin.
5. Repentance leads us to fullness of life with Jesus
Sin will lead to spiritual death. God’s Word tells us plainly that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and Jesus said, “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). On the contrary, repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18) and salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Ultimately, when we repent, we are inviting Jesus to have fellowship with us. After urging Christians to “be earnest and repent,” Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me” (Revelation 3:19-20).
The immeasurable joy of having intimate fellowship with God is what Jesus won for us through His death and resurrection, so that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). It certainly beats the deceptive and fleeting “joy” of any kind of sin by any measure!
Eternity doesn’t start when we go to heaven. It starts right now with having fullness of life with God, and repentance allows us to have that.
Would you repent and draw near to God today?