Repentance is absolutely necessary, and is indispensable to salvation. Whenever this subject it taught or preached, it brings forth fruit. Faith in Christ is the goal of teaching and preaching, but teaching and preaching must stress repentance.
Webster defines repentance as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret or contrition.” This is partially correct. The noun in Greek is “metanoia” meaning “change of mind.” The corresponding verb means “change one’s mind.” Repentance, in the biblical sense, means “to turn, change one’s life, change one’s direction.” The basic meaning being “to turn in respect to sin.”
Repentance and faith are the two necessities for conversion. Repentance is turning from self, faith is turning to God. Repentance looks within, faith looks above. Repentance sees our turmoil, faith sees our Savior.
Repentance should affect our understanding (knowledge of sin), our feelings (pain and grief), and our will (a change of mind and a turning around). It is a realization of self, the despair of guilt, and a renouncing of self.
The Apostle Paul says the same thing in one brief Scripture, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Peter also replies, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The penitent sinner who humbly looks for God’s mercy will find it.
It’s hard to talk about repentance without mentioning King David’s account in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan, the prophet, came to King David and spoke a parable relating to David’s sin. David listened to the parable and responded with anger and said, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
We know David repented as he responded with seven beautiful Psalms which deal with his penitence. The fifty-first Psalm relates David’s blackest moment of self-knowledge, yet it explores not only the depths of guilt, but some of the farthest reaches of salvation.
David’s opening plea, “Have mercy,” is the language of one who has no claim to the favor he begs. For all his unworthiness, David knows that he still belongs.
God’s willingness to forgive does not heal the relationship between us and him until we respond. Without that response, God’s grace achieves nothing. Repentance is not only a change of heart, but a change of direction. Repentance means turning away from one course of action and embarking on a different one; turning your life around. David did not blame anyone but himself. Notice his personal acknowledgements. Have mercy on me. Blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity. I know my transgressions. My sin is always before me. Cleanse me from my sin.
Then finally, David asks for a new direction. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” I do not believe there is anything that God would be more attentive to than a sinner’s prayer, not just mouthing words, but believing in one’s heart that God will forgive as he repents.
Pastor Jake SternemannFebruary 1, 2022