Repentance is one of the most important doctrines in the Bible. It was the message of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. He said in Matthew 3:2Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was also the very first message that Jesus preached when He said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The word at hand means, “It is now within your reach.” Eternal life and the benefits of the Kingdom are now within your reach!

The word repentance means: To change your mind, to be sorry for your sins or to make a different decision. In 2 Corinthians 7.10 we read “For godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation.”  Repentance is a deep sorrow for our sins that will cause us to change our behavior and the way we think.

Repentance has three steps: Firstly, it means to acknowledge and confess our sin before God and others. 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Secondly, it means to take steps of obedience to turn away from the sin. Proverbs 28:13. “He that covers his sin will not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes will have mercy.” It is not good enough to only confess. We must confess and forsake!  In Luke 3:8, John the Baptist said, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Repentance produces fruit. Therefore, if there is no change in our lives, it means that we have not repented. There must be fruit!

And thirdly it is important to turn to God.1 Thessalonians 1:9:and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” It is not good enough only to turn away from sin, we need to turn to God. This will make our repentance complete. We need to surrender that area in our lives to the Lord.

There are two types of repentance:

First of all: Repentance for salvation: Peter said in Acts 3:19. “Repent therefore and be converted so that your sins can be blotted out.”  In Acts 17:30-31 Paul told the people of Athens, “… the times of this ignorance God overlooked; but now commands all men everywhere to repent…” It is obvious that a sinner cannot confess every sin that he has committed, but he can ask God to forgive him for living a life of sin. Without repentance, we cannot have eternal life. Jesus warned us in Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”

Repentance for salvation is a once off experience. After we have repented, turned away from our sin and received Jesus as Lord and Savior, God then forgives us all our sin. We read about this in Colossians 2:13, “….having forgiven us all our trespasses.”  In Romans 5:1 we also read that we have been justified by faith. The word ‘justified’, means ‘to be made righteous’. It is as if we have never sinned and if we suddenly died, we will go to heaven. Therefore, we do not have to continually repent and receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

Secondly: Repentance after salvation: The question we now need to answer. “If I have repented and received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, do I still need to repent of my sins?” Why do we still need to repent of our sins, after we have given our lives to Jesus and He has forgiven us all our sins? It is because repentance after salvation does not affect our eternal destiny with God but our relationship with Him and our spiritual experience on earth. Repentance removes the legal right that the devil can use against us to rob us of God’s blessing.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The word to cleanse means ‘to continually cleanse.” As Christians we need to continually confess our sins so that God can continually forgive and cleanses us. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:11. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! He is writing this to Christians!

Repentance also releases God’s grace to have victory in the area in which we repent. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read, “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” The word salvation means; eternal life, healing, deliverance and freedom.” Often spiritual breakthrough and revival follows repentance. In Isaiah 57:15 it says that God revives the heart of the contrite (repentant) ones. Continual regular repentance after salvation will enable us to grow spiritually and deepen our relationship with Jesus.

The example of the Tabernacle: Whenever the children of Israel sinned in the Old Testament, they brought continual sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins to the brazen altar at the entrance of the Tabernacle. This is a type of our continual daily repentance, where we confess our sins and ask God to cleanse us. However, once a year the priest took the blood of a lamb into the Holiest of all to make atonement for the people. This was not a sacrifice for daily sins, but a sacrifice that affected their position before God in eternity. In the same way Jesus our High Priest, went into the Holiest of All in heaven and obtained eternal forgiveness for us. We read about this in Hebrews 10:14. “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”

Important principles of repentance:

1. Difference between conviction and condemnation. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, it is like a “sharp word or feeling” telling us that we have sinned. When we repent, the conviction leaves. We have an example of this in Acts 2:37; “They were cut to the heart and said, men and brethren, what must we do to be saved.”  The conviction of sin led them to repentance. 

On the other hand, the devil condemns us. This usually happens after we have repented and we continue to feel bad about our sin. The Bible makes it clear in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ…” Therefore, after we have repented and confessed our sin, we must believe that God has completely forgiven and cleansed us from that sin and renounce all feeling of condemnation.

2. There is a difference between the root and the fruit of a sin: In Luke 3:9, John the Baptist said, “Now the axe must be laid to the root.” The fruit of the sin is the outward manifestation, but the root of the sin is the cause. There are a number of roots to sin such as, pride, selfishness, fear, greed, unbelief, etc. When we repent of the root, the fruit will die. For example, if we want a tree to die, we must kill it at the root. We can find the root by asking the question, “Why did I do it? or What was my motive?” If we repent of our motives, our actions will automatically change.

3. Restitution or restoration is necessary:  We have theexample of Zaccheas in Luke 19:9. He made a decision to restore money that he had stolen and Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to your house.” The prodigal son said in Luke 15:18,I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” Restitution is to put right that what we have done wrong. We may need to return things what we have stolen, pay our debts, tell the truth to those before whom we have lied and put right where we have done wrong to people. We need to take action to make our repentance complete.

Years ago, when I worked in Africa, I scratched the car of a missionary from Canada who stayed with us. I did not tell him about it and after he left to go back to Canada, the Holy Spirit told me to make restitution and give him $200 for the damage. About seven years later he visited me in South Africa. The Holy Spirit reminded me of what I had done. I confessed what I had done and gave him the $200. He was so blessed by what I did that he gave me more than what I had given him. It was like Zaccheas, “blessing came to my household.”

4. We must take full responsibility for our sin. We must be careful not to blame other people when we sin. We must not be like Adam who blamed Eve and like Eve who blamed the serpent. We cannot blame the pastor or marriage partner for the things that we have done wrong. For example, if there is conflict between two people and they both repent, in the eyes of God, they are both 100 percent wrong. In Psalms 32:5 David said, “I acknowledged my sin before You.” He was saying to God, “I have sinned, it is my fault.” When the Prodigal son returned to his father, he said “I have sinned against you.”

5. Repentance is not a license to sin. Romans 6:1-2: Shall we sin that grace may abound, certainly not…”  We cannot use repentance as an excuse to sin. For example, “I can commit adultery today because tomorrow I can repent.” We need to live under the fear of the Lord, because He is a holy and awesome God!  Deliberate, continual sin is very dangerous and can lead to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and the loss of our eternal salvation. If we think that we can use repentance as an excuse to sin, we may lose the desire to repent and before long, our hearts will be far away from God.

6. There are the consequences of sin. Repentance will result in forgiveness but not necessarily set us free from the consequences of sin. For example, God may forgive a murderer, but he will still have to go to jail.  We read about Esau in Hebrews 12:16-17. God forgave him, but he could no longer inherit the blessing, even when he repented. We have the example of King David. Although God forgave him for his sin with Bathsheba, his sin affected his family relationships after that. Sin may not affect our eternal destiny but it can affect our calling and ministry.

7.  Public confession can break the power of sin: In James 5:16 we read, “Confess your faults to one another that you may be healed.” Public confession of sin is an act of humility and the Bible says, God gives grace to the humble. I once went forward in a meeting to confess publicly to a group of people a weak area of my life. After that, I noticed a freedom from that bondage. However, we must be careful to whom we confess our sins, especially when we do so before the opposite sex. We often get healed from sin in a certain area of our lives, when we confess that sin before people.

8. It is important that our repentance is complete and deep. It is good, not only to repent of our sins before God, but also to repent of all its consequences. For example when we sin, we have not only disobeyed the word of God but we have also, grieved the Holy Spirit, we have given a foothold to the devil, we have offended others, we did not fear the Lord, and our hearts have become cold. When we consider all the consequences of our sin, it often releases great grace to have victory over that sin.

Finally:  2 Corinthians 7:11. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” These are some of the benefits of repentance. There is new zeal, new freedom, a new release of grace to overcome the sin and a new hunger and desire for the things of God.

Repentance is the doorway into the kingdom of God. It will enable us to grow spiritually and experience more and more of God’s grace and power. Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Amen