WHAT CONSTITUTES TRUE “REPENTANCE”?

ACTS 26:17-20:  “…I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’  Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (‭ESV)

OBSERVATION:  What constitutes true repentance?  Is it simply being “sorry” for our sin – or is it something more?  This is an important question.  The answer to this question can determine if there is true transformation – or simply the first step in an ongoing cycle of sin, repentance, forgiveness, rest, and then back to sin.

A lot of the confusion comes from using only isolated verses to define repentance.  When we simply quote I John 1:8-9 our focus can tend to be placed primarily in the act of confession, which is usually viewed as being “sorry” for our sins.  This is a wonderful promise, not to be denied or diminished.  It boldly proclaims – “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  However, the key is to understand the what it means to “confess”, what it means to “repent”.

The next common misunderstanding comes when we view the act of repentance only in terms of turning “from” our sin.  The Greek word literally means to have a change of mind and direction.  We many times physically portray this by doing a 180 degree turn as we explain the call to repent.  Yet, we must also continue the “process of repentance”.  If we do not, we will slowly, but surely, rotate back to our original position.  Repentance is more than turning “from” something – IT IS TURNING “TOWARD” SOMETHING!

Paul in his defense before King Agrippa defined the call to repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ as – “…that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”  It was not simply an acknowledgement of the facts.  It was not simply being sorry for our sins.  It was “turning” and then “engaging” in the deeds keeping with repentance.  It was receiving the Grace of God for salvation, and employing the Grace of God for living.  Paul amplifies this truth in Ephesians:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ ESV)

We have been saved for a purpose!  Repentance is not a one act play – it is followed by good works.  These good works do not earn our salvation or the favor of God.  They are simply the natural result and fruit of true repentance.  Without good works, without performing deeds in keeping with repentance, repentance is simply saying we are “sorry”, only to eventually repeat the same cycle over and over again.

Will Jesus forgive us if we truly confess our sins and humble ourselves before Him?  Yes!  However, Jesus died and rose again to do more than simply “forgive” us, He wants to “transform” us.  He wants to set us free from both the “power” and the “penalty” of sin.  Whenever we repent we stand at the door of provision.  We can simply say that we are “sorry” – or we can engage the Great Grace of God that is freely given to us and become “transformed”!  True repentance, Biblical repentance, transforming repentance, is always followed by performing deeds keeping with repentance!  It is living out the “good works” which Go has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them!

Lord, deliver me from the cycle of brokenness and continual patterns of sin.  May I repent with “godly sorrow” for my sin, turning “from” – and turning “to” You, Your Grace, and Your Good Works!  May I, in the power of Your Holy Spirit, and in the fullness of Your Grace, perform deeds in keeping with repentance – and be “transformed”!  In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is pastor of The Fellowship at Weatherford, a Foursquare Church in Weatherford, Texas. He has developed an easy to follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information please send an email to klzehnder@aol.com
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