The Back Page – Sorrow or Change

The Back Page

Sorrow or Change

The Bible says “repent” where many would expect “believe”:
Ÿ Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish
Ÿ “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said, “Repent”
Ÿ In repentance and rest you shall be saved
Ÿ Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand
Ÿ I have no pleasure in death. Therefore, repent and live
Ÿ The cities in which his miracles were done did not repent
Ÿ Repentance for forgiveness of sins in Messiah’s name
Ÿ God commands all people everywhere to repent
Ÿ The kindness of God leads you to repentance
Ÿ God is patient, wishing all to come to repentance.
Are we missing something?
What is repentance? It is not primarily sorrow. Esau was sorry that he lost his birthright, but did not
repent. Judas regretted that he betrayed the Lord, but did not repent. Sorrow can be part of, or lead to,
repentance, but does not constitute it: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves
no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor 7:10). So telling people to be sorry for their sins is
inadequate, perhaps even unbiblical.
Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of life. I was walking north, but turn and head
south. I had believed and practiced A, but decisively reject A and embrace B. I had dismissed the gospel
as hokey and lived for myself, but now agree that the gospel is true and so seek to know the Lord and
make him known. Repentance is a U-turn: visceral and practical.
How does faith fit in? Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. It is hearing of God’s
impending judgment of sin and gracious intervention in Christ, believing that message, and therefore
turning from disbelief and sin. Repentance, in a sense, is the works part of the “faith without works is
dead” maxim. We dare not neglect that part: “If you have really turned from your sins to God, produce
fruit that will prove it!” (Matt 3:8). Repentance is believing in my heart so deeply that I turn. Refusing to
turn suggests that I have not biblically believed.
Don’t [just] be sorry for your sins. Cut them out. You will find grace. “Neither do I condemn you;
go and sin no more.”

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