Repentance Isn’t What You Think It Is

Last week we talked about sin. Everyone has sinned, and Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to bear the suffering, shame, or punishment associated with our sin. But what do we do once we recognize our sin? The next step is repentance.

Some of you may be familiar with the term repentance. Some of you may never have encountered it before. But for most people, repentance is not what you think it is.

Here are some common beliefs about repentance:

  • It’s something religious people do and talk about.
  • You have to prove you’re really repentant by performing certain acts or rituals.
  • It’s a shameful thing, because if you need to repent, it means you did something bad.

Sometimes these beliefs get translated into lies, like…

  • Only religious people need to repent.
  • Forgiveness of sins can be earned.
  • Only bad people repent. If you were good, you wouldn’t be doing anything you needed to repent of, right?

So there are plenty of lies and half-truths about repentance floating around out there. But what is repentance really?

Repentance is recognizing that you sinned, asking God to forgive you, and meaning it.

If you say a thousand Hail Marys but can’t wait to commit the same sin again, that’s not repentance. If you confess your sin to God and ask Him to forgive you but feel bitter that you even have to do what He says instead of what you want, that’s not repentance.

If you don’t mean it, it’s not repentance.

Sometimes we don’t mean it, but like I’ve said before, you can ask God to show you how that sin is damaging and why He doesn’t like it, and He will. You can ask Him to change your heart and attitudes about that sin and He will do it.

Who should repent?

Anyone who has ever sinned.

That includes you, me, Mother Theresa, Adolf Hitler, and everyone in between. No one is perfect except Jesus; no one is exempt except Him.

It doesn’t matter how good someone may look on the outside. God looks at the heart.

Why people think repentance is offensive

Often, people are extremely offended by the idea of repentance. Here are two superficial reasons why:

  • If someone tells us to repent, we’re likely to feel like that person is judging us. It’s natural to react defensively when we feel like our beliefs, choices, actions, or character are under attack.
  • We are fallen and proud. Like Satan in the garden, we like feeling like we are independent and capable of taking care of ourselves. We balk at the idea that there is Someone Who actually has the right to judge us or tell us what we should or shouldn’t do.

But, like I said, those are only superficial reasons.

Why people really get offended by repentance

Like we’ve already discussed at length, when we have sin in our lives that we haven’t repented of, that opens the doors for demons to oppress us. One of the ways they do this is by filling our heads and views with lies.

The more lies you believe – and even worse, internalize – the more difficult it is for you to accept truth.

But the truth will set you free. Demons don’t want you to be free. They like messing with you and acting like they own you.

As long as you are under the influence of the lies of the enemy, the filter through which you view the world and judge what is good and what is not will be muddied by those lies.

When I was a student, a popular way teachers encouraged us to think critically was by reminding us to ask this question about everything:

Who is benefiting?

Certainly not you.

If you remain in your sin, unable to receive the freedom, healing, and restoration that God wants to give you, are you benefiting?

Since you aren’t benefiting from unrepentance, then who is? Why do we as humans often feel inexplicably compelled to loathe repentance?

For the same reason we feel inexplicably compelled to do a lot of things that cause harm to us or others: demonic influence.

In case you don’t realize the true danger of demonic influence in your life, take a look at Mark 5, in which Jesus delivers a man from demonic oppression.

Verse 5 tells us how the man was living under the demons’ influence:

Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.

And verse 15 illustrates the stark contrast in his quality of life after Jesus cast the demons out of him:

He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane…

I’ve said this so many times you’ve probably memorized it by now, but if you open the door to one demon, more will follow.

If you leave your dark doors open, your house will be filled with enemies who desire to destroy you.

This is not a safe place to be. Living with any sin in your life at all is very dangerous for you.

Many people don’t realize this. They think, “It’s not a sin. It’s just my choice.” But our choices have consequences, and sometimes those consequences can be fatal. Most people, if they really knew the end result of the sin they were engaging in, would run as fast as they could from its deathtrap. The problem is that most people don’t know because their vision is clouded.

Because the more we sin, the more junk there is standing between us and God. And the more junk there is, the more difficult it is for us to hear Him.

And when we can’t hear God we’re defenseless against our enemy.

So let’s go back to our original question.

What is repentance, exactly?

Repentance is a chance to break away from the dangerous destruction that sin inevitably leads us to.

Repentance is a way that God extends us mercy, giving us chance after chance after chance to be delivered from death and the consequences of our sin before our enemy destroys us.

Repentance is the only way to restoration.

Repentance is the only way to restore what has been damaged by the problems in your life. But it does more than that. Repentance can bring restoration and healing not only to you, but also to your family and even your nation.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says:

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

A lot of people are upset about what’s been happening in America. A lot of people are concerned about what the future of the world may hold.

But if you want restoration in your nation, repentance must come first.

Freedom is just a prayer away. What are you waiting for?


Join the Discussion

What are some things you’ve heard about repentance? How have those things influenced your desire to repent or not to repent? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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