God’s Plan of Salvation
True Repentance

This month we have been studying God’s plan of salvation. It is certainly a fundamental theme which has been our focus this year. In discussing the plan of salvation we have addressed the grace of God (His part which is the primary source of our salvation), our faith (belief that acts), and last week we talked about obeying the gospel, noting that it was more than a onetime act, but rather a way of life. Yet sometimes, how one becomes a Christian is described as “obeying the gospel”. That is why we also discussed the steps of salvation (hearing, believing, repentance, confession and baptism).
In our lesson this morning we want to focus on one of these steps. We want to discuss repentance. Repentance is a subject that is misunderstood and under emphasized. There are many who start out right but, as Jesus said, because they have no root they fall away at the first sign of trouble (the stony ground, cf. Matt. 13:21). Others (in the same Parable of the Sower) come to Jesus with divided loyalties and a failure to fully renounce the world (the thorny ground, cf. Matt. 13:22). Because of this, the word of God is chocked out and they never really produce fruit. IF BEFORE one becomes a Christian, he fully realizes what TRUE repentance is, these attitudes can be recognized and addressed, and perhaps his fall can be avoided.
In our lesson today we want to discuss what true repentance is and what it involves.

I. What is Repentance?
a. Repent – (µeta????, metanoeo) – to change one’s way of life as a result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness (L&N, 41.52).
“To change one’s mind” “2. To feel remorse, be converted” (BDAG);
“to perceive afterwards” (Vine’s) – this definition gives the actual wording. The idea is one who reconsiders his conduct.
The actual idea is “to change one’s mind”. When we think of repentance we think of one who changes the direction of their life permanently. He quits doing what he was doing before, OR he starts doing what he did not do – all this in an effort to become a better person and to quit sinning (living in sin). But it’s not just the new manner of life, instead it is the resolve of mind that leads to real and lasting change.
b. What it is NOT
i. Being convicted of sin – to realize one is guilty of sin is clearly the first step toward dealing with it. But knowing you are a sinner is not enough. There are many who are “convicted” but they simply will not change.
In the Bible you have the example of Felix, who after Paul taught him about self-control, righteousness and judgment we read that Felix trembled, but he put off obedience. He told Paul to come back at “a more convenient time” which we never read of (Acts 24:15)
ii. Remorse – sometimes one genuinely regrets having done something, but if their regret fails to act, it usually makes matters worse rather than better. Not only is the problem not dealt with, but often one lives in misery because they know things are not right.
When Judas realized that his betrayal was going to lead to the death of Jesus he had remorse and even returned the money. But the way he responded was to go out and hang himself instead of making things right (Matt. 27:3-5)
iii. Saying, “I’m sorry” - sometimes people say, “I’m sorry” and think that is all they need. Many today think that by apologizing they are supposed to escape consequences. In the Bible I think of the example of king Saul who said, “I have sinned” but only after he was rejected for his disobedience. (1 Sam. 15:24) That is NOT true repentance.
iv. Confessing your sins – we are commanded to confess our sins (James 5:16) and it is certainly a part of forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But one can confess sins and not repent. We live in a time when many boast about their sinful conduct. Others admit their sins and failures, but they have no intention of changing. In fact, sometimes they seek to explain it away.
v. Conditional confession – this is one who admits to sinful conduct, but they always have an excuse. Over the years I have observed and now have concluded that if one confesses his sins and then uses the word “but”, followed by the blame of others, there is a good chance it is not true repentance.
King Saul used the same words as David in 1 Samuel 12:13, “I have sinned”. David was forgiven and Saul wasn’t – what was the difference? King Saul blamed others and made excuses. David didn’t and was ready to face whatever punishment God had in store.
vi. Sorrow – you can be sorry for many reasons – because you got caught, because of consequences, etc.
vii. Godly sorrow – godly sorrow is proper sorrow.
It is an acknowledgment that you have sinned against God. It is a realization that He is the one you need to make amends with (which might also include making amends with others)
A good example of this is David. (Psa. 51:4), “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.”
But even this type of sorrow is NOT repentance. 2 Cor. 7:10 says it produces repentance.
viii. Ceasing from conduct – that is the RESULT of repentance. But within itself it is not repentance. I think of a criminal who “retires” or someone that doesn’t want to face punishment for something again. They are not godly and there is no remorse, but they quit a specific sin for other reasons. ANOTHER example of this is one who acts one way when brethren are around and a different way when they are not. Peter “played the hypocrite” in Galatians 2:11-13.
TRUE repentance is the mindset. We often emphasize that we can’t stop doing wrong simply because of fear. A mature Christian will serve God out of love instead of fear. He will cease sinful activity because his heart is pure, not just terror of facing God. While fear and terror are good motivators, If that is our only motivation, we are destined for misery.
ix. NOTE: Every one of these attributes are related to repentance, but they are either the cause or the result. The repentance is the change of one’s mind.
c. The need for repentance - WE deal with struggles all the time. We live in a society where far too many are addicted to substances and bad behaviors. We live in a society where for many self-control and self-discipline are seen as unimportant. Integrity is lacking. TRUE repentance will change all of these qualities, because one finally MAKES UP HIS MIND to change. UNTIL that deliberate and total determination is present, repentance will be something that one needs to continue to develop, IF it is present at all.

II. Who needs repentance?
a. There are many generic calls for repentance.
Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Mark 2:17, Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9, God is, “not will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” Notice how the writer emphasizes repentance as a part of “the elementary principles of Christ.”
b. A part of becoming a Christian –
Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30-31, etc.
Again, I emphasize that one needs to understand repentance BEFORE obeying the gospel!
c. As a Christian
Acts 8:22 – Simon, the magician, was told to repent.
Repentance is also needed as we CONTINUE to obey the gospel. We are again reminded of Matthew 28:20 where we are of the mindset that we “observe all things commanded.”
Hebrews 6:6 , “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4–6) IN the text the writer warns of those who leave God and how it becomes impossible to turn them again to repentance. It is IMPORTANT that we understand and practice repentance!
d. Sometimes as a church – in Revelation 2 & 3, 5 of the 7 churches had problems and were called upon to repent – to become what God would have them to be.
Corinth needed to repent of their ungodly attitudes. This is dealt with in both 1 & 2 Corinthians.

III. How is repentance demonstrated?
a. Luke 15 – the Prodigal son, “came to himself” – he makes things right.
b. David is another great example as we have mentioned.
c. 2 Cor. 7:10-11 – the fruit of repentance. Paul commends these brethren for taking care of their sins. The sin is that recorded in 1 Corinthians 5. 2 Corinthians 1-2 addresses who they had repented. In this text, Paul commends them for their taking care of it. In so doing, he describes what is involved in TRUE repentance.
i. What diligence – this means to put forth great effort. It means to leave no stone unturned in trying to make things right
ii. What clearing of yourselves – it means doing everything you can to make yourself right with God and those you have sinned against. Understand that if you have sinned you have to make it right with God! We know what He demands!
iii. What indignation – how much do we hate sin? If you have been guilty of sin are you disgusted in yourself because of it? (Applies to all sin as well)
iv. What fear – a realization of what you face if you DON’T get it taken care of. Are you willing to spend eternity in hell because you refuse to repent?
v. What vehement desire – this is the craving to be right and do all you can to make it right.
vi. What zeal – the intense burning effort you put into making things right.
vii. What vindication – like the clearing of yourselves it is doing everything to make it right, and to PROVE that you are a changed person.
viii. “In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
ix. NOTICE vs. 12. Paul explains WHY he wrote these things. It wasn’t just about how to repent but because he wanted them to know how much he cared and how important their relationship to one another was, and ESPECIALLY their relationship to God.

There is so much more that can be said about repentance. This lesson introduces what it is about. We need to understand repentance as Christians. It is imperative that we not only understand it but also that we do it when needed. May we all see the importance of this conduct.

By Tommy Thornhill Jr.

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