God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.” – Acts 17:30.
Do you understand what it means to repent? What does repentance mean? Briefly defined, repentance is turning away from sin and self and looking to God for forgiveness and salvation. One example in the Bible is the story of Zacchaeus in Luke chapter 19.
If you grew up in church, you know Zacchaeus was a short person who because he was a tax collector was seen as a thief and a traitor to his friends, his family, and his people. But then he meets Jesus. Jesus wants to go to his house. Zacchaeus climbs down from the tree “and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.” (Luke 19:6) In verse 8 Zacchaeus stands before Jesus and says, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” That’s what repentance looks like.
There is a difference between regret and repentance. A deep rift in a marriage isn’t solved by buying flowers. As kind a gesture as that is, what needs to happen is change. Regret buys flowers. Repentance confesses and seeks to change. Regret says “I’m sorry.” Repentance risks being hurt by saying, “Please forgive me.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 (TPT) says, “God designed us to feel remorse over sin in order to produce repentance that leads to victory. This leaves us with no regrets….”
Repentance carries with it the idea of changing; changing your mind, changing your attitude, changing your ways. It’s not a fickle change of mind, but rather a transformation of outlook, an entirely new way of seeing things. It is a change of direction. We turn around. We go in the opposite direction, like Zacchaeus.
Repentance is not a one-time thing. We cannot be free of repentance until we are free of sin. As a result, it is a daily discipline. Repentance seeks to be restored to a right relationship with God. I have grieved a holy God with my sin and I need to be restored to Him. We often regret our sin, but we fail to truly repent. Seeing the difference between the two can help us better understand the grace of the Gospel and receive the salvation offered by Jesus Christ.
- How do you know if repentance is real? What does genuine repentance look like?
- What can you do this week to take up a posture of faith and genuine repentance?