Repentance: More than a Feeling


“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:14-17, ESV).

Probably most Christians have this problem: We think we have gained victory in an area of our lives and, before we know it, we fall right back into the old sin. Maybe we have avoided it for a few days, weeks, or months. Sometimes, we overcame it for a few hours, only to falter after the fourth or fifth temptation.
We thought our deliverance was complete. Could God have failed us? Never: God is perfect, and He is more eager to see our lives transformed than we are. Scripture continually reminds us that God’s will is for our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:2; Philippians 1:6). He does not enjoy our sin; He wants us free from its chains; and He is willing to do His part by giving us His Holy Spirit. God did not fail us.
So, let us admit that, when we sin, we are the ones who failed. Often, though, we were so sincere about making a fresh start and beginning anew. Why do we fail?
One biblical term that comes to mind is repentance. The path to freedom from sin begins at confession (admitting that we have sinned) and journeys through repentance.
Many of us have a false notion of repentance. We think we have “repented” because we feel guilty or ashamed about our sins. Perhaps we feel bad because we were caught in the act. We have had a genuine, strong feeling, but feelings are fleeting. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Repentance runs deeper than sorrow. The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia,” which most accurately translates as “a change of mind.” It’s not just being sorry about sin, or regretting the consequences. In involves changing your entire perspective on sin. Many of us stop committing certain sins from a mindset that says: “I’m a Christian and Christians don’t do that; but those were the good old days when I used to get away with it!” While we may try to stop acting like we did in the past, we regret that we can no longer enjoy those antics. It seems like God is just trying to spoil our fun.
Repentance says, “God is right about this: It never was good for me, no matter how much I thought I enjoyed it.” Repentance realizes that God always has your best interests in mind, and that there is a real reward in following His ways.


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