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What We Believe About Repentance
Repentance means to change one’s mind. It is a change of mind about God, His ways, or living life in the light of God’s Word. This change of mind usually results in a change of direction, in the way we may be living.
By stating "usually," we mean as it may appear in the eyes of others. Biblical repentance always results in a change of direction, attitude, choices or way of life. However, such changes may not always be readily apparent to others.
There is not a period, or a time limit, or duration, or an expiration date on either the change of mind or the result of that change of mind. Often, years may be spent reflecting or living in a way that seems against God’s Word
For the believer, those who have accepted Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit is always at work, pointing to truth. Upon accepting the truth and realizing the need to change regarding that thing which is sinful, it may take time to correct or it may happen overnight for that change of mind to reflect in an outward transformation.
Over time, the Holy Spirit will bring those changes. This is the biggest reason why believers should be gentle with each other, as one never knows the heart work that is ongoing in another, where someone else may indeed be in his or her sanctification process.
Often, we feel guilt because of someone's incorrect teaching and wonder whether we have repented enough or if we have repented for everything. The reality is, everyone who God calls His own could never begin to know, count or confess all their specific sins. This is why repentance must always be a frame of heart and mind that one chooses to live with, rather than spending time doing what would be impossible--to confess all specific sins.
This is not to say that confession for specific sins should not occur as the Holy Spirit brings them to remembrance. It is only to say that such repentance is only surface level and does not reveal a heart that has been, and is being, transformed by the radical, freeing grace of God.
As one becomes aware of God’s standard, a deeper level of repentance begins. This repentance reveals a heart that is deeply aware of its own lack of deserving of the grace of God and its inability to do so.
The believer should always live in constant remembrance that God has covered those things we do wrong through the sacrifice of Christ, so that now they can live with strength to accept the forgiveness that waits so that the guilt of sin does not render them ineffective as His chosen vessel.
There exists no litmus test in order to determine if one has confessed enough, shown enough sorrow, and made all the correct actions to show proper repentance. The desire to serve God or do things to please Him, and the sorrow felt when change does not occur, can be a very significant personal indicator. The very desire and sorrow felt may be a sign that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work. For without the Holy Spirit’s work of pointing us to His truth, we would have no desire to change or be sorry over sin.
Morality very seldom often leads one to a repentant sorrow as it leaves one quite smug and content in ones way of life and standard of living. Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is when a heart looks at their failings in the light of God's perfection and Christ's sacrifice. This type of repentance always leads to change.
Therefore, while repentance should always be ongoing and produce the fruit as evidenced by repentance, we must caution that assurance of a relationship with God is never based on anything other than the blood of Jesus Christ.
1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 40:12; 103:10; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21; Hebrews 9:12; 10:19;