Weekly Devotional 10-26-20 What is Godly Repentance?
Throughout Scripture men are asked (are required) to repent of their sins and turn to God, but what is repentance? Is it an emotion that originates in the heart of man, a mental determination that moves him toward God, or is it something else? Emotionalism alone cannot lead to true repentance because, as the wind, emotions are ever changing. They run hot, then cold. Emotions are often spurred to a fever pitch by great speeches, by tragedy or acts of love and may cause one to regret a particular action, but regret is not necessarily repentance. The same could be said of mental determination. One may regret a particular action but when the memory of that action fades so does his mental determination, and he often finds himself involved in the same action(s) again. Godly repentance reaches further into the soul of man than a repentance that is of the emotions or mental assent to a wrong (sin) against God It is mitigated on both the emotion of the heart, mental determination, but more so it is the work of God the Holy Spirit.
Unregenerate (the spiritually dead) man is not capable of repentance; he must first be made spiritually alive. Jesus said that a person must be born from above before he can see (understand) heaven or enter into it explaining that this is the work of God the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). The reason for this, Jesus said, is that man is spiritually blind and loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil” (John 3:19). And, the Apostle Paul explained, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). That repentance is sourced in God is further testified by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel,
Jeremiah 24:7 “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart”….Ezekiel 36:26-27“26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
These passages refer to the people of Israel but are non-the-less applicable to all men. It is God who is the giver of a new heart. The apostle Paul affirms this in his letter to the Galatians, who were not Israelites but Gentiles; “1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-5)
As God moves upon the heart, the heart is softened, becomes responsive to His testimony, and the solicitation of the Holy Spirit. Man finds within himself a desire to turn from that which is offensive to God to pleasing Him. Godly repentance results in a change of heart, a change of desire, and a change of direction. It is a turning from that which is of self to that which is of God.
All sin is offensive to God and it will be offensive to each one who is Godly repentant. Repentance of any other kind will result in the return to, and practice of, that which he emotionally or mentally turned from. It will not be lasting. Godly repentance will result in a life changing permanence. The apostle John writes of this in his first letter to the churches he ministered to. We read from 1st John, chapter 3.
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
6 Whoever abides in Him does not (practice) sin. Whoever (practices) sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God (is not truly repentant), nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, (are Godly repentant) and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
You will please note that I inserted the words practice and practices in verse 6. Is not truly repentant (vs.10) and Godly repentant (vs.19). I did this not to change the meaning of the text, but to clarify it. John earlier wrote that we all sin (1:5-10) so his message of chapter 3 has to do with continued sinning, one’s lifestyle.
The answer then to the question of our title “What is Godly Repentance?”, is; Godly Repentance is the life changing act of God wrought in the soul of a Godly repentant person. John infers that Godly repentant persons will willfully acknowledge their sin and confess it. This should make happy each one who has this experience, but it also should be a warning to all those who superficially repent of their sin. The warning is, perhaps you are not truly a child of God. Something to consider for sure.
Transforming Power; The Work of God on Behalf of Man
Lian Muan Kim
Koinonia Baptist Seminary – Yangon, Myanmar