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As a young Christian, I was confused about the meaning of repentance.
It’s a very Christianized word and concept. I had never heard of repentance before, so I obviously had some questions.
You might have some of the same questions:
What is repentance?
Why is it important?
Is it a practice we should keep daily?
How do I know if I’m practicing true repentance vs. false repentance?
This blog post will answer these questions, dig deeper into the meaning of repentance, and outline 5 signs of true repentance.
Meaning of Repentance
The Greek word for repentance is metanoeó. According to Strong’s Concordance, repentance means to “change one’s mind or purpose”.
This word is a verb, which means it’s an action. To repent means to turn direction. You’re making a 180 — turning away from sin and toward Jesus.
Repentance doesn’t mean being sorry and continuing your life of sin. That’s not true repentance.
Scriptures on True Repentance
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 ESV).
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19 ESV).
“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31–32 ESV).
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 ESV).
Examples of True Repentance in the Bible
David exhibits true repentance in the Bible. David is often described as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV).
He wasn’t perfect though. The Bible recounts a time when David sinned. Essentially, he sleeps with a married woman (Bathsheba) and kills the husband (Uriah) to cover up his transgression.
David sinned, but he repented from his sins. He was genuinely sorry for what he had done and didn’t make a habit of sinning. He turned away from his sin and moved forward with God.
Another example is Peter, one of the 12 disciples. Jesus tells Peter he will deny Him 3 times.
Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34 ESV).
Peter tells Jesus this will never happen even if it means he must die.
Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35 ESV).
Peter ends up denying Jesus (just as Jesus predicted). Once again, Peter is genuinely sorry for what he’s done and doesn’t make a habit of sinning. He turns away from his sin and moves forward with God.
There are examples of false repentance in the Bible too. One example that sticks out in my mind is Judas.
Judas was one of the 12 disciples. He’s now famously known as someone who betrayed Jesus.
Essentially, Judas went to the Roman authorities to see what he could get out of giving Jesus over to them. They agreed to 30 pieces of silver.
“Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man, seize him” (Matthew 26:48 ESV).
Judas felt sorry for his sin but he exhibited a worldly sorrow. He felt more sorry for himself than anyone else. To the point where his sorrow led him to hang himself.
“He departed, and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5 ESV).
This false repentance didn’t lead him to change. It led him to despair and ultimately death.
Importance of Repentance
Repentance is central to the message of the gospel. When you change your mind about something, your actions change too.
Can you say a person is telling the truth when their actions don’t line up with what they saying?
Obviously, you can’t.
It’s the same with Christianity. If you truly believe Jesus is Lord, your life will change naturally. You’ll begin to hate sin and want to do what’s right.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9 ESV).
5 Signs of True Repentance
- You realize you have sinned against a Holy God. God had to die for your sins — that’s how serious the matter is.
- You practice Godly sorrow rather than worldly sorrow. This means you feel sorry about the sin and how it’s hurt others rather than caring about how it’s affected yourself.
- You try to make amends with others/God by setting things right. You seek to honor God and you’re willing to do whatever it takes.
- You truly change your behavior by not making a habit of sinning. You don’t want to sin against God or hurt others again. We’re not perfect, so when you do sin, you practice these 5 steps.
- You desire to be in relationship with God. You want to be closer to God and imitate Christ. You can accomplish this through prayer and scripture.
Deep Repentance Prayer
*You can alter this prayer. You don’t have to pray these words exactly. This just gives you an idea of how to pray a repentance prayer.
I’m deeply sorry for my sin. I’ve sinned against You and I’ve hurt others in the process. I know You died for my sins and You’ve already forgiven me but I want to do what’s right in Your eyes. I want to be in perfect relationship with You — I don’t want my sin getting in the way of that. Please help me make amends with others. Help me become more like You. Help me change.
In Jesus’ name I pray,