The word repentance means “to change direction in one’s life, either physically, morally, or mentally.” A more detailed biblical study reveals differences in various types of “repentance.”
One of the Old Testament words for repentance, “nacham,” refers to one’s being sorry, but often not sorry enough to stop doing what they were convicted of. Sometimes this type of repentance is just an “Oops, I made a mistake, again,” with little remorse and possibly intentions of doing it again in the future. This type of repentance occurred fifteen times in the Old Testament.
This was the type of repentance God detected in the people of Israel when they fled their bondage in Egypt. They left the country, but God knew their hearts, and that when faced with opposition, they would return to their old life. Their desire for a new life was only temporary. Their trauma and bad experiences did not really change their heart to want to change their lifestyle. They just wanted to leave the place where they had been under slavery.
“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:” Exodus 13:17
Even today, many experience the same type of “repentance.” They know they are in a jam, perhaps even because of wrong decisions on their part or because of sins’ wages. They want to change. Perhaps they even have made an attempt to alter their actions, addictions, associations, or attitudes. However, opposition, difficulties, or temptations can easily make them rethink their changing of their lifestyle, and it is often not long until they are in the same “Egypt” that they started from.
In the Old Testament, there is another type of “repentance.” It is the type where one reverses the direction one is going. It is a more permanent action as not only are physical changes accomplished, but mental changes often occur. It is a retreat from a behavior. A real sorrow for one’s actions results in a life change for the person or peoples. A heartfelt apology may reveal a humbled spirit. To the best of their abilities, they intend for that action not to happen again.
“Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;” I Kings 8:47
This same type of repentance is found often in the New Testament. Most of the time the Greek “metanoeo” is used. This type of repentance means to “think differently afterwards; to reconsider morally.”
- Several times the New Testament Jews, who lived before Jesus died, were told to change their moral thinking if they wanted to live in the Millennial Reign (the thousand year reign when Christ returns).
“And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mat. 3:2 Also: Mat. 4:17, Mark 1:15
- Several times all people admonished to turn from their wicked ways or they would perish eternally in Hell. Repenting was implied to be part of salvation.
“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5 Also: Luke 13:3.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” Acts 3:19 Previous verses to Acts 3:19, told the hearers the plan of salvation. They were told in previous verses they were sinners (Acts 3:13-15), and that Jesus was their Saviour who rose from the dead (Acts 3:15-16). Next, they were told that they needed to turn from their sins as they accepted Jesus as their Saviour.
A repentant broken spirit occurs at the same time a person is saved. One acknowledges and is convicted of their wicked, sinful state before a Holy God, realizes they are a hell-bound sinner, and then recognizes that they only thing that can pay for their sins is the blood Christ shed for them on Calvary. It is when they call upon the Saviour (Rom. 10:13), that they are saved.
It is clear in the Scriptures, that repentance cannot earn one’s salvation. Many attempt to make repentance a work that will earn them salvation. “I’ll quit shacking up with my girlfriend, and then I’ll get saved,” “First I have to stop smoking before I can be born-again” or a whole lot of “things” they think they have to do before God will forgive their sins. Repentance can never be a good work one must do to earn salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).
When one is truly repentant, there will be changes in one’s life. Maybe no one but the repenter will see how his life has changed direction and purposes, but there will be alterations.
“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, … 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”
“But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
All are convicted, one time or the other, about wrong behavior. There are always at least two choices about handling what one does about the action: they can repeat it or stop it.
The longer we go on ignoring changing a situation, habit, or sin, the harder it will be to eventually stop it. If the conviction about changing what one is doing is from the Holy Spirit’s prodding about sin, ignoring the need to change directions may result in the Holy Spirit’s being silent in the future in one’s heart. The Holy Spirit will realize one’s heart is hardened by disobedience, and eventually He will no longer remind us. The Holy Spirit does not make us do anything. He always wants us to do right, but He will not be an eternal “pest.”
However, if one heeds the inaudible but convicting wooing of the Holy Spirit to make changes, He will help one make the necessary changes. We may fall, but knowing the sincerity of our hearts, He will give us second, third, and however many chances it takes so that we can get the victory and repent. Repenting is always what God wants in our lives regarding wrong, sinful behavior. If you are going in the wrong direction, God want you to change directions.