We are continuing our study into how we can know that we have eternal life. We stated in part one of Examine Yourselves that sometimes the way to help discover the reality of what something is, is to first consider what it is not. We have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we saw that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ. And finally, in part five we came to our last “Myth Buster” and found that nowhere in the Bible is someone inquiring as to how one is born again told to just “ask Jesus to come into your heart.” We have begun to see that true salvation involves repentance and faith. We will first explore the concept of repentance.
Unfortunately, repentance is a topic one does not often hear preached in today’s churches. People are sometimes asked to come to Christ because “God has a wonderful plan for their lives,” or they are emotionally manipulated into “making a profession”; but, the aspect of true repentance is left out of most gospel presentations.
Scripture speaks of two types of repentance, one genuine and the other false. A good example of this is: Peter & Judas. We find that the apostle Peter, after denying Christ, “went outside and wept bitterly”. (Matt. 26:25) We also see that after betraying Jesus, Judas “repented himself”, but, went and committed suicide. (Matt. 27:3) In these two examples we see an illustration of true repentance resulting in forgiveness and restoration [Peter]; and, repentance that was merely a realization of a wrong done [Judas]. The thing we need to remember is that genuine repentance brings about forgiveness and reconciliation, not merely feelings of remorse. Many feel bad about things they have done, and honestly know they are wrong; but, this does not mean they have truly repented.
Dr. Alan Myatt contends that true repentance involves the perception of God’s holiness and how terrible sin is. One is revolted by his own impurity and desires to flee sin itself, not just the penalty of sin. Myatt insists that repentance is not merely a guilty feeling and turning away from sin; but, true repentance involves a turning towards God with total dependence of being free from sin.True repentance doesn’t just seek an escape from the consequences of sin; but rather produces a change of heart where ones turns on a continuous basis towards God, trusting that He will remove sin all together, for we desire to be in fellowship with Him. Have we repented? Do we desire God and not just escape from hell? Indeed, a second important aspect of true repentance is a turning towards God.
While I am studying biblical languages in seminary, Greek being my emphasis; I am not a biblical language expert. (I probably know just enough to make me dangerous.) I can however speak somewhat intelligently on the biblical definition of the word translated repentance. What does a word study of the words translated “repentance” reveal?
The Old Testament words for repentance are nicham and shub:
Nicham – (Judges 21:6, 15; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 8:6; 31:19) “Sorrow for sin”
Shub(shuve)– This is word more commonly used for repentance. It means to turn back, to go in the opposite direction. It highlights the fact that repentance means a change of direction, from the wrong way to the right way. It means a turning a way from sin, iniquity, wickedness, and from evil ways. (I Kings 8:35; Job 36:10; Isa. 59:20; Ezekiel 3:19; Nehemiah 9:35) This word also denotes turning towards the Lord. (Psalms 51:13; Isaiah 10:21; Jeremiah 4:1; Hosea 14:1; Amos 4:8; Malachi 3:7)
In the New Testament there are two main words used for repentance; but for our purposes, we shall concentrate on the word Metanoeo/metanoia. This word defines repentance as a change of mind or heart. It involves much more than sorrow for sin though this is included, it is also more than an intellectual phenomenon.
As we look at the concept of repentance we find that it is much more than feeling guilty for things we have done wrong. We are often told that we must come to God in sorrow for our sins, but often the turning towards God aspect of repentance is omitted. We must understand that true repentance is intellectual, emotional and volitional. In short, true repentance is the heartfelt remorse over the comprehension that we have sinned against a holy God and this comprehension produces a changed life as we continue to turn towards God.
Repentance is not a singular event, but rather, a lifestyle. This is what I John emphasizes: repentance, being a true believer, and having a real relationship with God is an ongoing, present tense thing. Let me inform you of something: your repentance and my repentance are not perfect. You see, the enemy will tell you that you are a fake because if you really repented you wouldn’t still struggle. But we find in the Bible, that while, if we are truly born again, we most definitely will not practice sin, it will not be our normal “walk” if you will; but, repentance is a lifestyle and we are being sanctified, being conformed to the image of Christ. As we turn from sin and to God continuously, we experience victory from sin and enjoy a desire to fellowship with God in Christ. We all go through dry spells, there are times in everyone’s life when we don’t feel it; we all have areas of struggle, but according to the Bible a true Christian will live a lifestyle of turning towards God and away from sin. This is what the Apostle John is saying in I John. The Greek verb tenses in 1 John let us now that this relationship with God that we have in Christ is a present tense right now, continually turning from sin and towards God. Brothers and sisters there is a big difference in practicing sin and experiencing struggles with sin in areas of your life. Apart from Christ we were slaves of sin, we gave in willingly, because really we had no choice- and we liked it. Now if you really are in Christ you walk in repentance looking to God, trusting him to bring victory and holiness- that’s what we like now. We do not enjoy our sin any more. Here’s the deal: A real Christian is not one who is perfect in thought, deed, and motive but one who consistently, in an ongoing present tense, right now, turns from his sin desiring communion with God.