Carlton Foster, Aug 04, 2013
Repentance is one of the core doctrines of the Christian religion. The Bible tells us what is repentance and when and how to repent. The person who truly repents is guaranteed to receive benefits – pardon from God and from his or her accusers. Because some people know about these promises, they have manipulated the system and mocked the process of repentance even though they are not truly repenting. Let us investigate repentance and its merits and curses.
What is Repentance?
In the book of Ezekiel (18:31-32), The Bible shows us how to repent: it says “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” If we repent, we will live, but if not we will die.
How to repent?
Start by getting rid of all the offenses you are committing against God’s law. Also in the book of Luke 15:7, Jesus reminded us about repentance when he said, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Heavens do take a keen interest in our earthly actions toward true repentance. Jesus continues and emphasized that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Again the Bible gives another case of repentance in 2 Chronicles 32, verses 25-27: “But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah.” If you sincerely acknowledge your wrongdoings before God and all those who are affected by your actions, then God’s promise of the benefit of repentance will be yours, but if not, you will be cursed. Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem repented and God’s wrath did not come upon them.
The Lord declared to Isaiah in chapter 59 verse 20: “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins. “ Jesus comes only for those who repent of their sins. This shows how important the act of repenting is. True repentance is a blessing. Those who are suffering do not know of God’s promise to restore the person who repents. Jeremiah’s story in chapter 15 starting in verse 18 again shows this “Why are my pains unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let these people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to these people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you’.” Again the concept is the same: true repentance brings benefit, but those who suffer, neglect to accept God’s promise and continue to be cursed.
How Long Before Repenting
How long can a person continue in their sins before they can repent? Is the promise continues forever for the neglected sinner? God is merciful and gracious enough to wait on us, but this waiting is not forever; therefore, repent now and be blessed, because who knows when the spirit of the Lord’s repentance blessings will stop. The story told by Jesus in Revelation 2 verses 20 to 22 shows this: “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.”
Two Kinds of Repentance or Sorrow
There are two kinds of sorrow: Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to true repentance and life, but worldly sorrow leads to false repentance and death. There is a way to truly repent, and this will lead to God’s blessings. True repentance is from the heart of sorrow for the offending victims; a sorrow that is originated in the heart of the offender, and which is not forced on by the circumstances of the punishment of the sinful acts. 2 Corinthians 7, verse 9 to 11 helps us to see this: “… yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”
People who truly repent have Godly sorrow; they have earnestness – sincerity, and seriousness towards the resolution of the damages caused by them; they are eager to take the blame and are ready to see justice done for the offending person. Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, is more concern about their personal possessions or character, what they will lose and their public disgrace; their sinful actions are discovered by someone else, and then they are forced to repent. Worldly sorrow is not a concern for the victims or the effect of the damages, but only of their personal loss.
The story of Peter shows Godly sorrow. In Matthew 26:74-75 “Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Peter’s Godly sorrow — true repentance leads to life. A person who truly repents knows of their sinful state, just as David said in Psalm 51:3 “For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Another example of Godly sorrow is seen in the story of David when he ordered Joab to count his army. In 1 Chronicles 21, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.’ This command was evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel. Then David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you; take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.’ The LORD said to Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and tell David, ‘this is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’ So Gad went to David and said to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.’ David said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? LORD my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.’”
True repentance is willing to personally take the punishment of their actions and not to blame others. David did not know that his action could cause so much damage; however, he did not try to excuse it, he and his family instead were willing to take the blame and the punishments for his action.
Here are some examples of worldly sorrow taken from the Bible: In Exodus 9 verses 26-28, we see Pharaoh repenting to Moses. “The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he said to them. ‘The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.’ Moses replied, ‘When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.’
Pharaoh said he has sinned and they have had too much thunder and hail. He is more concern about his personal loss and not the concern of the Israelites. In verse 31 the story continues: “The flax and barley were destroyed since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelled, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later. Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.”
How quickly Pharaoh’s so-called godly sorrow disappeared! It disappeared because it was a worldly sorrow. His personal lost stopped, so he continues in his sinful action. Another example of worldly sorrow is shown in the book of Joshua, chapter 7 starting at verse 19. “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ Achan replied, ‘It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.’ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD. Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.’
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan, they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.” Achan repented, but he and his family and all his possessions were destroyed! Why? Achan was forced to repent. He was called out by Joshua. He did not willingly show his godly sorrow, but instead, he was discovered by someone else. If Joshua did not discover him, he would continue in his sinful action. This is worldly sorrow and it led Achan and his family to death.
Another example is Judas’ story in Matthew 27. “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”
If Judas did truly repent, he would live, but he died! The action of repentance was forced upon him after he saw that his plans were failing because they were killing Jesus. He was concern about his failing plans to get rid of the Romans and thought that Jesus would do so if he was forced to so by imprisonment, but the plans failed. Judas’ situation is similar to Saul in First Samuel 15 starting at verse 24: “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.’ Here Saul is almost not taking responsibility for his action. He is putting the blame on his soldiers by giving in to their actions because of fear. He was forced to repent by fearfulness. This again is worldly sorrow, so Samuel said to him, ‘I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!’ As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.’ Saul replied, ‘I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.’ Saul’s worldly sorrow is concern about public disgrace and dishonor. This false repentance eventually led him to his death.
In summary, God outlined the process to repent, and if anyone truly repents, God promises to forgive them, and the opposite is also true: if anyone tries to manipulate the gift of repentance by not truly repenting, he or she will be cursed. True repentance is about feeling sorry for the offending victim (even if you were not aware that you caused their pain), and say sorry without blaming others or trying to excuse your actions. False repentance is when little or no feelings – empathy is given to the victim, but instead the offender tries by all means to excused him or herself from being blamed for the victim’s feelings while saying sorry to the victim. So get rid of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, so repent and live!