I’m going to write on what I feel is the heart of repentance – agreement with God about our sin, and obedience to God in regards to what He commands where sin is concerned.
The process of repentance involves two things, both vital. The first begins in our hearts, and is the root of the entirety of repentance. This is a recognition, an internal admission that we are guilty of sin – either of a sinful manner of life, a particular sin in general, or both. It is when we engage in a conscious admission of guilt where the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. The second is the act of repentance, where we confess our sins to God and seek forgiveness, and then turn away from that sin and walk away from it.
Now, where does agreement come into this? Simple. It is God who convicts us of sin first and before anything. Let’s look at the gospel of John:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: (John 16:7-8 ESV)
The Helper Jesus refers to is the Holy Spirit. So, we see that God’s Spirit convicts the world – believers and non-believers – of sin. Essentially, God shows up in the midst of our wrongdoing and says “you’re in sin”. So for us to admit that we are indeed in sin is an act of agreement with God. Job says this plainly where in Job 22:21, one of Job’s friends – erroneously thinking that God is punishing Job for sin – urges him to “agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.” (ESV).
Now, we agree with God that we’re in sin. We then begin the act of repentance, confessing our sins and trusting in God’s sure faithfulness to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
But it doesn’t end there. We can’t just agree with God and continue in sin. Our agreement with God must result in a change, a shift in the direction of our lives in that area affected by sin. We must obey God with regard to His commands where sin is concerned, and what He commands is us to repent in that we turn away from sin. Let’s look at some verses (since my argument is worth absolutely nothing if not backed up by Scripture):
- The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30 ESV)
- 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 ESV)
- Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 ESV)
- From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 ESV)
So we see that the process of repentance involves us agreeing with God about our sin, then – in the act of repentance – obeying God where he commands us to walk away from sin. And if you think about it, in this way, repentance is an act of worship toward God. In agreeing with God about our sin, we say “Lord, you are right, I was wrong. Your judgments are pure and flawless and righteous, and mine flawed and broken. I submit to you.” In confessing this in our hearts and our lives and our thought processes, not begrudgingly but worshipfully and lovingly toward God, we praise God for His goodness and wisdom and right judgment. And in turning away from sin, we tell God with our actions and our choices that we treasure Him more than the counterfeit pleasures offered to us, counterfeit pleasures that could never even begin to approach joy, which is what the Lord offers. It’s the reality of a spouse saying to his or her wife or husband, “I choose you. You are better than anything else out there, and you are what I cherish.” Not that I mean to say that we’re doing God a favor, in that He needs us to repent or that He needs our love. He doesn’t. He can get by just fine without us. But as Him drawing us to him in repentance is an act of love toward us on His part, I do feel that it’s an act of love on our part toward God when we repent and choose God over sin.
Let’s live lives of repentance, and in so doing, worship God with all of our might and strength.