I think it is pretty safe to say that repentance is a major theme in Christianity. While we are saved by faith, we demonstrate that faith by repenting of our sins. Something I realized recently is that there are a lot of different notions about what repentance means.
Is repentance just saying sorry?
How do we know if we have actually repented?
How do we know that God has forgiven us?
I hope to answer these questions in this post and hopefully give a more clear view of what it means to have a truly repentant heart.
The Bible makes it clear many times in scripture that we are saved by our faith and trust in God rather than in simply doing good or not doing bad. This comes from the belief that man is not worthy of salvation, but that God is gracious, merciful, and forgiving. God is willing and able to forgive you of your sins, but there is some ground work that needs to be done first.
Before anything can be done a person has to believe. Repentance and Belief are two cornerstones in Christianity when it comes to our understanding of Salvation. The Greek word that we translate into “Believe” is “Pisteuo” and it means “to place one’s trust in.” When we believe in God we are trusting him, and when we believe in Christ we are putting our trust in him and the power he has to save us.
By placing our trust in God we can say that we have trusted him to save us. We can take rest and find peace in the knowledge that God can and will save us, but what about Repentance? If it is our faith/belief in God and what he did through Christ that saves us, where then does Repentance come in?
The Bible makes it clear that if we hope to find salvation then we need repentance:
“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
– Luke 13:3
So what does it mean to repent and how can we know for certain that we have repented?
When we look at scriptures Belief (Pisteuo) is often paired up with the idea of Repentance (Metanoeo). “Metanoeo” is the Greek word that we often translate to mean “repent” and it’s meaning conveys a “change of mind.” This is not a purely intellectual change, but also a change in the direction of one’s life.
When we Repent (Metanoeo) we are in a sense turning from our allegiance to self, sin, and unbelief. We are abandoning our old ways and making a conscious effort to change our direction. This is where our Belief (Pisteuo) comes in. Our new direction and focus in life shifts from the self, sin, and unbelief, and is instead is replaced by a focus on service, righteousness, and trusting in Christ.
When faith or belief is mentioned, repentance is implied (if not directly stated.) The opposite can also be said that repentance implies that belief and faith are already present.
Repentance then, is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It is a conscious effort turn from the old ways that drew you away from God and turn your life in a direction that seeks the Lord.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
– 2 Chronicles 7:14
Just like the parable of the Prodigal’s son in Luke 15:11-32 our heavenly father does not want us to try to earn his love, and he does not expect us to be able to pay for our sins. Instead he patiently waits for us to turn our hearts back to him, and once we do he is quick to run to us, forgive us, and bring us back home.
Repentance is not some elaborate sanctification ritual, but it is also goes a lot deeper than simply saying “I’m sorry.” Repentance is a heart change and a desire to come home. Just like the Prodigal’s son, we can often times wander far away from the father, but he never stops waiting for us and he is willing to run out and welcome us home when we call out to him with genuinely repentant hearts.