In Matthew chapter three, John the Baptist understood what it means to repent. I often hear the term repentance, but I’ve always wondered, “Do we understand how and what it means to repent?”
Repentance means to think differently, reconsider morally, and feel compunction. Repentance also means to change one’s mind for the better, to amend abhorrence of our past sins.
When John the Baptist came preaching, his message was Repent! Repentance changes our whole being; when we repent, we immediately turn from the sin we were doing to go down the path of righteousness. It also means we stop rebelling against God and his word. Instead, we turn and follow God’s way of living.
Only obedient people can walk in the pathway of righteousness, living a repentant life. Repentance is a process; when we are first born again, there are some activities that we will stop doing immediately: drinking, smoking, cursing, partying, etc. However, some sinful actions are deeply rooted in our lives. When we repent of these deeply rooted sins, God forgives us immediately, but the process of repentance takes time.
Confession is the first key to repentance; we read this further in 1st John 1:9. When we confess to God, we agree that we are guilty of sin. We freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins to God. He is faithful and true to his nature and promises to forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness.
Our unrighteousness is our wrongdoing. Anything not conforming with God’s will and purpose is considered a sin. Confession and repentance are key to our change, but if we say that we have no sin, we contradict God’s word.
Psalm 51:2-5 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: And my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. ‘
Psalm 51 is one of the best examples of repentance. When we read the words of King David, we understand the need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Psalm 51 helps us to understand repentance and familiarize ourselves with half-hearted repentance that lacks sorrow over sin.
This Psalm shows how to repent before God and confess and repent of our ways. Let’s summarize Psalm 51 to understand the keys to repentance.
- God’s mercy is His lovingkindness, and his compassion blots out our transgressions. When David sinned, he knew it was against God.
- Only God can wash us thoroughly from our wickedness and guilt. God desires to cleanse us from our sins.
- When we confess our sins, it is important to be conscious (aware, awake) of our transgressions; through our confession, we acknowledge our sins to God, understanding that our sin is always before us.
- Whenever we sin, it is against God only, which is considered evil in his sight. We must feel this same way about our sins.
- Our sinful nature and wickedness before God give him the right to judge us. Therefore, God is a righteous judge!
As we read the Psalm, King David explains how we are born into sin. Our nature is sinful and fashioned (formed) in iniquity before we are born again. Iniquity is considered gross injustice. However, when we repent, we begin to learn what God truly desires, and in verse 6, we understand that God wants the truth.
- Psalm 51:6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: And in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. ‘
Deeply Rooted Truth:
God desires truth in the innermost (deepest, deep-seated, and most intimate) part of our being. It means this truth (like sin) becomes deeply rooted. Therefore, God’s truth should dwell in our hidden parts, meaning our hearts will know the truth.
Walking in God’s truth and wisdom begins to purify (purge, cleanse) us, making us whiter than snow. Truth is the quality or state of being true; when we have truth in our inward parts, we will have firmness, faithfulness, and reliability. When someone is repentant, they are reliable, speak the truth, and live according to God’s word; they are obedient.
After repentance, our sins become purged, allowing us to have joy and gladness and be satisfied with God and his precepts. Purging means God will hide his face from our sins and blot out our iniquities. Understanding why we need our iniquities blotted out is important, as God wants to give us a new heart.
- Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. ‘
In Jeremiah 17:9-10 we learn that the heart is deceitful above all things, and it is extremely sick.
In the Scripture, God asks: “Who can understand the heart fully and know its secret motives? God searches and examines our minds and tests our hearts to understand our ways.
Creating a clean heart within us means our heart will be pure and fair before God. Our heart is our inner man, mind, will, understanding, soul, and conscience. Our heart is also the seat of our emotions and appetites. Our nature is corrupt in the world, so the cry is to have a clean heart and a renewed/rebuilt steadfast spirit within us.
- Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Some of the sins listed above are heart issues: corrupt communication, bitterness, wrath, etc. Unfortunately, we often don’t know what lies in our hearts until God shows us; this is why truth must remain in our inward parts to remain humble before God.
God will return our joy (cheerfulness, gladness) to us. Our joy will be restored and upheld with a willing spirit. Another benefit of repentance is our ability to teach transgressors God’s ways, which will cause sinners to convert and return to God.
Repentance is the key to conversion: In Genesis 3, our sinful nature came alive, which caused us to live a life turned away from God. As a result, the roles of men and women are inverted.
Inversion is something that is turned inside out or upside down. Someone inverted is in the opposite direction in which God has designed them.
Our original design before the fall: Our Human Spirit should dictate our soul. However, after the fall of man, our human spirit was cut off by God, which caused our soul to come alive and dominate our spirit; as such, an inverted soul receives its inputs from the five senses.
Therefore, a heart that repents before God will go through the process of conversion, destroying everything in its nature that causes it to be inverted or the opposite of God’s original design.
True repentance requires a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart with sorrow for sin; this means we are thoroughly penitent. Penitence means we feel sorry for our sins; however, God doesn’t call us to do good deeds/ good works to cover our sins. He calls us to repent, and good works will proceed through a heart of repentance.
I want to encourage you to seek God with heartfelt repentance. The final result of repentance is humility. Remember, repentance is a process. It is also the key to conversion.