Don’t Be Fooled

As we close this chapter, noting the tendency of human nature to take the easy way, we will look briefly at what repentance is not.

1.) Repentance is not a confession of sin.

Catholic confession booths and Protestant altars have been the, cathartic contact points of sinners for centuries. The problem all too often is that sin is confessed because the guilt of sin is making life uncomfortable and not because it is an offense to God. Many people attend church on Sunday morning not because they want to honor God’s name, but because the lingering guilt of sin might spoil their afternoon.

Sin is often confessed complete with a fervent display of emotions, not because the sinner wants to turn from the sin which he detests, but to obtain relief from the emotional burden which accompanies it. Although God wants to hear our sincere confessions, their root cause is what He desires to eliminate. In other words, the Bible requires that we not only confess our sin but that we turn from it as well.

2.) Repentance is not remorse or contrition over sin.

Although remorse, sorrow and contrition are involved in a repentant attitude, they do not in themselves comprise biblical repentance. Many have wept at church altars only to arise unchanged and eventually engage in the same sins over which they wept. Unfortunately, tears have such a powerful effect on most of us that our tendency is to conclude genuine repentance must have taken place. It has often been said that heaven is full of repentant sinners, while hell is full of remorseful ones.

Whenever we realize the truth about our sin and yet decide to remain unchanged, rejecting the ramifications of true repentance, great frustration results. We feel remorse and sorrow; we hate ourselves. Remaining unchanged and trapped between what we know is right and what we still wrongly love, we slowly experience the death of our personalities. This is the very opposite of the godly sorrow which “produces a repentance without regret” ultimately freeing us from our bondage.

Repentance, then, is an intelligent choice to renounce our selfish motives in life as we are humbled by an encounter with the cross and gently wooed and convicted by the Holy Spirit. Our entire personality is involved in a change of opinion, a change of feeling and, finally, a determined renunciation and forsaking of all known sin. This is the first and only proper step for all who have been involved in a persistent rebellion against God and His kingdom.