What is Repentance?

The preacher said, “If you have unconfessed sin in your heart, you are out of fellowship with God and you need to come and repent, turn from your sin, and turn back to Jesus, who loves you and will forgive you of your sins!”

Hundreds of times, I have heard these words, or words similar, hundreds of times and most often cringed because I had, so many times previously, confessed my sins to God, only to go from the invitation as “hopeless and helpless” as I entered it.  It didn’t make sense to me!  How is it that God could come into “my heart” and, the very next time I sinned, would be disconnected or separated from me (out of fellowship with me), especially when I knew verses that said He would NEVER LEAVE ME NOR FORSAKE ME?  I was a religious mess!  Actually, I was quite the spiritual schizophrenic!  I was truly the double minded (two-spirited) man James writes about in the first chapter of his epistle.

I am grateful that I now understand the difference between “repentance” and the “flesh work” of practicing an inordinate “obsession with confession.”

Repentance is not confessing sins but turning from unbelief to belief – reversing the decision Adam made in the garden!

What is repentance?  

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)

Repentance, according to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, is “compunction (for guilt, including reformation); by implication reversal (of [another’s] decision) :- repentance.”

Notice the portion of the definition that states, “by implication reversal (of another’s decision).”  Alas, is not genuine repentance, on the part of the sinner, the reversal of Adam’s original decision to “disbelieve” God in the garden?  Of course, it is!  Sinners (including hundreds of church members) who have become tired of “trying and doing” and have come to their repentant end and chosen to finally give up – trusting Christ and His finished work – because they realized their works were not enough.

The context (setting) for “repentance” is not the ongoing ritual of “asking for forgiveness of committed sins” but the one-time event to be entered into on the part of those whom God does not want to see “perish” or “be destroyed or lost due to unbelief.”

Repentance requires a death.

When a lost person comes to the place of repentance, they are ready to die in order to live.

This could be described as “the moment ‘helpless and hopeless’ people come to the end of themselves.”  It is when a person comes to the absolute end of their self-effort (in frustration, exhaustion, anxiety, pain, and, most often, brokenness) that they experience a willingness to “become dead” to their own way.  And until that moment, true repentance is NOT possible!  And without a death, there can be no resurrection – no new creation in Christ.

Necessarily, when “hopelessness and helplessness” come to the end of their own way, they are admitting any or all of the following statements:  I can’t do this on my own!  I can’t live the Christian life!  I can’t live this way any longer!  I can’t achieve what I want on my own!

These individuals have given up on trying to “live right.”  They are finished with “living FOR Jesus.”  They are done with “DOING, DOING, DOING.”  They realize they are incapable of doing it alone!  And when they reach this point they are ripe for the harvest.

And, until there is repentance, being fed up with self to the point of regret and remorse, there can be no turning from self-centeredness. Until there is a willingness to admit guilt and sinfulness, there can be no move from the sin-natured, death-life to the divine-natured, righteous-Life. It is ONLY when a “dead” seed is taken from a small seed packet, distributed on the ground, covered with soil, watered, and warmed by the sun, that a new plant (life) is produced. When a person is ready to agree with God that they are incapable of anything having to do with their right relationship with God and believe that He has already done everything necessary for their righteousness, they can receive His free gift of eternal life and trust Him to live out His life in and through them. This is repentance that leads to salvation.

Repentance brings one from unbelief to belief, trusting in what God has accomplished in the finished work of Christ on the cross. When they trust Christ, they receive the Spirit of Life (which takes the place of the spirit of death), the Holy Spirit (which now takes the place of the unholy spirit), and the divine nature (which replaces the sin nature).

Repentance does not mean turning from sin to God.

Does repentance mean turning from sin?  No!  No one can turn from sin on their own.  The righteous Spirit nature is the only source of victory over sin and He accomplished that feat over two thousand years past.  When Christ comes into the believer, sin – sin consciousness – should become less and less of an issue.

Yes, I know religion does not teach this truth, but either Jesus is right, or religion is right.  And I will take my chances on the Jesus Christ!  Most would say here, “That is impossible!”  Trust me, it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

Sinless?  No way!

But, to actually not be “dogged” by past sins?  Or, to truly sin less?  Most definitely!  But only FROM the perspective of living from having the mind of Christ.

Repentance brings death to the “human doing.”

“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off (Gentiles), as many as the Lord our God will call.”  Acts 2:38-39

It is not coincidental that Peter says to his beloved Jews, “Repent, and be baptized.”  Baptism is the sign of willingness to be made dead with (in) Christ.  It is the only way we, living in our physical bodies, can come into agreement with God about our own crucifixion death since we are not required to die for our own sins.

This is why Paul states, “I am crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20).  Repentance without baptism is an impossibility when you consider what repentance really is – death to the former way of life.  As stated previously, and not stated enough and understood in Christian circles, “Death is the first step to repentance!”

This is precisely why repentance is a one-time decision!  There is no need to keep dying once you have been made dead.  When you cease living as the self-sufficient human doing, you don’t need to die.  It is only reasonable that one would seek to identify with that death in baptism, the immersion of their physical body, since baptism is the next and sequential step in the repentance process.

Most often, “hopelessness and helplessness” do not know or understand all that is taking place but there is a loving influence (the righteous Spirit nature of God) that is directing the process.

Repentance realizes Christ has already accomplished everything necessary for life and godliness.

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them (great and precious promises) you may share in the divine nature (the righteous Spirit nature of God), escaping the corruption (the sin nature spirit) that is in the world because of evil (the evil one’s) desires.  2 Peter 1:3-4 (HCSB)

Notice the result of dying to self and trusting in the Christ!  Hopelessness and helplessness receive the very divine nature of God; the righteous Spirit nature.  God moves into the very flesh body container of the new believer.  Christ, the only image of God, returns to His originally designed place – within the human (as in Adam when He created him in the garden).

And, thanks be to God, there is no other “spirit nature” dwelling within the new saint.  God will not, and cannot, coexist with the sin nature spirit (the evil one).

The divine nature becomes our nature!  Christ, the Author of Life, becomes our Life!  He has actually moved into our flesh body container, as originally created, to live and move and have His life-long conversation (lifestyle) within us.

Repentance is the only Way to Christ, and you only have to come to Him once!

It is not the way to secure forgiveness of the sins that Christ paid for two thousand years past.

So, live in the freedom for which Christ has set us free!


Grace and peace,

Michael Scroggs

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