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What is Repentance?

Even a cursory reading of Scripture reveals that repentance is important.  Therefore it needs to be defined accurately. This is not a place to be slipshod.

The Greek word translated repent literally means to change your mind.  That is also an accurate description of repentance.  In modern terms, it is a change of mindset, a changing of your paradigm.  Biblical repentance is the gigantic shift from trusting in what you do to be right with God to trusting in Jesus’ works to make you right with God.  It is rooted in the recognition of two important facts:

1) That we are utterly unable to do anything to make ourselves right with God;

2) That Jesus did absolutely everything to make us right with God.

A number of things naturally follow repentance.  Once our eyes are open to the ugliness and seriousness of sin, we abhor it.  Even though we abhor it, we see that we are still very weak in the face of it.  Even though we try not to sin, we know we will continue to sin.  Down through the centuries, millions of repentant people have joined Paul in saying, “For the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19)

But not only does repentance open our eyes to our sinfulness, it also opens them to the greatness of God’s forgiveness.  “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  (Psalm 32:1)  Repentant people don’t think they have to quit sinning to remain in God’s good graces. God knows they can’t.  Repentant people remain trusting completely in what Jesus has already done for them.  So much so that they can remain confident of God’s favor even when they do sin. Repentance is not about abandoning sin.  It’s about abandoning any trust in our own works. Repentance, through and through, is turning completely away from trust in one’s goodness to trust in Jesus’ perfection for us.

That gives great joy.  One of the best biblical portraits of a repentant person is given in Luke 19:1-10 in the person of Zacchaeus.  What was his response to encountering his Savior?  He throws a party and becomes a joyful philanthropist.

Repent. Change your mindset. Believe that Jesus has already paid your entire debt to God and that he doesn’t demand anything in return. Believe that God has already worked reconciliation with you through Jesus. Believe that God has already forgiven you because of Jesus. Abandon all thoughts that you have earned God’s favor or that you have to do anything to earn it.  Instead, place all your trust in what Jesus has done for you. That’s not a painful process to endure.  That’s a joyous state to be in.

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