The important role of repentance

When we last spoke, justification was our topic. Simply stated, it means God the Father looks at a believer through God the Son, seeing me “just-as-if-i’d” never sinned. Justification is the pinnacle of cross work. While justification is the work of Jesus Christ, repentance is our singular activity in this salvation event. No amount of work on any human’s part, no high quality moral living, or no magical mix of religion adhered to will result in justification.

Repentance is often largely misunderstood and incorrectly executed, therefore, a brief examination is needed. Dr. Bill Mounce identifies the Greek word for repentance as “Metanioa” which means: “change of mind, practical reformation.” Repentance is anything but an emotional response to guilt or regret or sorrow, as that will yield only superficial and temporary redirection in thought process or life direction.

True repentance is a deep-seeded confession of sin which causes one to actively avoid sin; this is by endeavoring in a “new creation” pursuit of holiness that parallels a growing hatred of sin. Charles Spurgeon said, “The more holy a man becomes, the more conscious he is of un-holiness.” Forgiveness is the benefit and blessing of such a transformative moment.

We must not be confused on the point that repentance is the cause of regeneration, rather it is the response to it. When we are rebirthed, we see our sin and repent because we have been shown our depravity as we stand in the presence of a holy God. Isaiah fell down and cried, “Woe is me!” (Isaiah 6:5) after he came into the presence of the Lord. This understanding is important, because the Gospel is Christ plus nothing. The addition of our repentance does not complete Christ’s work on the cross. Nor does repentance mitigate or conflict with Sola Fide, Faith Alone, as “It is not “faith plus repentance” that saves, but rather a repentant faith,” according to Dr. John MacArthur.

The result of a repentant faith in Christ’s work on the cross is confession and abandonment of sin. The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and convicts us of our sins throughout our Christian lives. Thus, repentance is also part of the sanctification process as we work out our salvation. “When a man is not deeply convicted of sin, it is a pretty sure sign that he has not truly repented,” exclaimed D.L. Moody. Martin Luther’s first of the 95 Theses stated, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Confession is a required element of repentance. Casual, generalized casting of wrongs at the feet of our Father for forgiveness in the name of his Son is wrongfully attributing the purpose and personal investment of confession. The holy scriptures instruct us in Romans 10:9-10 and 1 John 1:9 that heart felt, life yielding confession is required, then promises resulting forgiveness. Anything less falls on deaf ears. In confession, we acknowledge our sin. After we acknowledge our sin we must surrender it to Jesus for forgiveness through the work of expiation that yields propitiation and redemption.

Ongoing repentance is a challenging task as a Christian, but necessary. We may not want to do it, yet we need to do it and must do it. The pleasure and self-serving qualities of sin make aborting sinful choices only possible by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We are compelled to repent because of Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf. The knowledge it will bring a harvest of blessing is our hope in having a repentant faith. Our initial repentance is a U-turn in the life of a sinner to believer which sends one on a journey of growing in Christ-likeness. This journey is emptying of oneself to be refilled by Christ and his mindset. An unknown author wrote, “I want to be so full of Christ that when a mosquito bites me, it flies away singing “There is Power in the Blood!”