I. The Problems of repentance. Repentance is often a word that frightens people. Very simply, repentance means to turn away from sin. When Adam sinned, rather than repenting, he and Eve hid behind some bushes in the Garden of Eden. Later Cain, their son, when asked by God, refused to repent of his sin and acknowledge where his brother was. He made excuses. In fear, people are still hiding behind excuses, lies, or any other "bush" they can find instead of repenting. One reason people seem afraid to repent is they feel that if they acknowledge their sin, God will strike them down. They forget that God already knows about the sin. Repentance resolves the issue of sin. That is what God desires.
A. The Fear Of Repentance. Once on an airplane trip, I noticed that every seat was full except for the one next to me. I wondered why the plane didn't take off. Suddenly a young woman ran up the steps, onto the plane, and looked for a seat. Since the only one vacant was next to me, she sat down. I realized that the Lord had set this up. As I began talking to her, I learned that she was a young mother with three children, all under the age of five. She was married to a doctor, but she was "running away" from home for several weeks to go skiing. I say "running away" because she had decided to simply leave her children and husband, even though they did not want her to go. She had insisted that the pressures around the house were so great she had to get away. I talked to her about her life and in the middle of the talk I used the word "repent." As soon as I mentioned that word, she became resistant and drew back from the conversation. She grabbed a magazine and began to read, muttering, "I don't believe in repentance. There are other ways to come to God." I tried to change her mind with a parallel situation. I said, "Let's say you had a little girl who hurt you very much. If she kept on hurting you, wouldn't you want her to see what she was doing and turn her heart around?" At this point the woman definitely quit listening to me. Perplexed, I became quiet. Then I realized once again how very much people fear repentance. They simply don't understand the reconciliation it brings.
B. People Try To Get Others To Accept God Without Repentance. Another problem concerning repentance deals with the time of conversion. Sometimes we try to show someone how to accept Jesus as Savior without bringing him to the point of repentance. A good name for this is "cheap grace." We witness by sharing all the wonderful things that Jesus will do for them. We share how He will forgive them and help them. We continue, telling how He will heal their marriage and all manner of other things. We describe the sense of joy and peace they will have. However, we neglect to ask the person to repent of his sins. This is not how either Jesus or His disciples preached conversion. The Bible teaches us to call the people to repentance. (Ezek. 18:30; Matt. 18:20; Acts 2:38, 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 2:5) It's no wonder so many people are saved for only a short time. They are like the seed that was sown on the rocky ground. (Luke 8:5-15) It sprang up quickly but, when the sun came, the heat began and the troubles started. The seed withered and died. Jesus warned of such people. For a time they believe, but in a time of trouble they fall away. Their root does not go deep enough because of the great hardness that still remains in their heart. Stones of sin remain unbroken in the heart because they have not repented in those areas.
C. Hurt Relationships Develop. If a person doesn't repent, all kinds of troubles come into his life. Partial repentance means there is only a partial escape from trouble. Some hurt relationships with other people are bound to remain. In areas without true repentance, many walls are built up. There will be more tension in our life than we ought to have. Our conscience will keep smiting us, trying to bring us to repentance but, without repentance, we will remain under guilt. We will experience depression, as we try to fight off the guilt and the troubles of life. If we don't deal with our relationships, sooner or later a critical spirit will begin to grow in us. Very often we will then become physically ill, all because of a lack of true repentance. (Ps. 66:18) If the Lord does not hear me, I don't receive His blessings, His help or His healing. Spiritual growth is stunted and demonic attacks occur. God's forgiveness is blocked.
D. God's Forgiveness Is Blocked. Refusing to repent for sin brings this torment because it denies the purpose of the cross, to bring forgiveness and a true cleansing. Most Christians do repent. But often they do not repent as fully and completely as God wants them to. I realized this one day when I was ministering to a woman who was in deep trouble. Her marriage was failing; she was under demonic attack; her children were running wild. As a result, she was deeply depressed and had to be under a doctor's medication. She was a born-again Christian, but she needed much counsel and prayer. As I ministered to her, I suddenly realized from previous counseling with her that this same kind of ministering took place about every three months. I would pray for her, rebuke demons and drive them from her, and help her with repenting. For a while things would be fine, but within three months her life was a mess again and she would be back. Confused about it, I stopped ministering and went into the other room. I asked God, "Lord, what is wrong here? Why is it that she keeps falling in the same way?" The Lord said simply, "She isn't repenting properly," I had thought that she was, but I began to ponder it. Going back to the other room, I led her through a much more serious call to repentance. This time she had a greater sense of relief, which lasted for over six months. Then back she came; the problems were back again. I concluded that her repentance was still not as complete as the Lord had wanted. It was during this time that I began a deeper study of repentance.
II Three Types Of Repentance. Through my Bible studies, I discovered three basic types of repentance.
A. Pharaoh. The first is the kind of repentance that pharaoh, king of Egypt, experienced. When the plagues struck he would quickly call for Moses, crying, "Moses, I have sinned!" Or he would say, "I and my people have sinned." Once he said, "I have sinned against Heaven and against you," Another time he said, "I've sinned against your God and against you." These were the right words to say. So dutifully, Moses would pray and stop the plague. Yet something was wrong. For no sooner had the plague stopped that Pharaoh would once again harden his heart, refusing to let the people leave. So another plague would strike in a short time. The problem with Pharaoh's repentance was that his purpose in repenting was to find a release from pressure and pain. He did not truly repent. Repentance does bring relief from pressure, but it must not be sought for that reason alone. Yet that is the kind of repentance that many Christians have, such as the woman to whom I had ministered for so long. She would repent from the pressures, troubles and trials that she was in, but she was not repenting fully in the way God wanted.
B. Judas. Another type of repentance in the Bible was the repentance of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Judas spoke the right words, too. He said, "I have sinned," not to the one he had sinned against, but to the priests in the temple. He went to them and said, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood." He even went so far as to take the thirty pieces of silver that he had valued so highly and throw them away. In great remorse, he went out, hung himself and died. Yet even these expressions of remorse and grief were not full, rightful repentance. Judas' repentance evolved out of self-pity. Judas was not thinking of how he had hurt Jesus. He was thinking of how he had failed himself. He was upset because he had not lived up to his own expectations of himself. Many people today belittle themselves and punish themselves as Judas did. They know that they are sinners. They even say they are sinners, but the repentance is out of self- pity. Their sorrow is not because they did evil or hurt God. Their sorrow is from knowing they are not as good as they thought. The realization that we are failures and sinners is only part of repentance. Godly repentance goes much further.
C. Prodigal Son. Another type of repentance is seen in the story of the prodigal son. He had asked for his inheritance early in life. He wanted to get away. He was not content to go next door or into a nearby town. He wanted to get as far away from his father and his brother as he could. Reluctantly, his father gave him the money that was coming to him. Then he went to a far country and wasted his substance on riotous living. When his money was gone, a famine arose and the Bible says, no one gave to him. In desperation, he ended up working for a man who sent him into the fields to feed the swine. He was so hungry, Scripture says, that he would have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat, but no man gave to him. This is an important truth. If someone came to his rescue and fed him, he might never have repented as he should have. He might never have gone back to his father if there had been relief from the pain too early. Without this time of near-starvation, the son might not have come to a Godly repentance. Sometimes, in His wisdom, God leaves us in pain or suffering for a time, because our repentance is not yet complete. He doesn't want to short-circuit the cleansing work He is doing in our hearts. Finally, because of the pressure of the famine, the prodigal son repented. He made up his mind. He knew what he would do. He went back to his father. He said "I have sinned, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as a hired servant." He knew he was unworthy, as did Judas, but unlike Judas, he was willing to go to the one he hurt, admit his sins, humble himself, and repent. This is a key for being transformed into God's image (Rom. 12:2). His Father, who loved him so, was apparently watching the road day after day for his son to come home. When he finally saw him a long way off, he ran to him and fell on his neck and kissed his son and they wept together. In this same way, our Heavenly Father is more than willing to forgive and restore us, if we would be willing to turn our hearts toward Him in true repentance. In joy, the Father in the story proclaimed, "Kill the fatted calf, for this my son, who was lost, is found again. He who was dead is alive." Jesus told this story to illustrate our Heavenly Father's reaction when we come back in repentance and honesty. He does not condemn us, he only forgives us. Judas would have been forgiven if he had only gone back with a humble heart to Jesus, whom he had hurt, and asked forgiveness.
III Degrees (Progression) Of Repentance. There are various degrees of repentance that can be represented as a progression. On one end is stubborn unrepentance and on the other a full, complete, Godly repentance.
A. Stubborn unrepentance. Stubborn unrepentance can be described as one who determines not to repent. They feel that they are the way they are, and everyone else should accept them that way. Some husbands and wives are like that with each other. As Christians, we know better. Stubborn unrepentance is not the attitude that God is wanting.
B. Explaining away their sin. Others are not exactly stubborn, but they still don't want to repent. Instead, they try to explain away their sins. They make excuses. They are like Adam was.
1. (Gen. 3:12) After God asked why he had done wrong. He said, "It's the woman you gave me, she gave me the idea." He blamed his sin on the woman. Actually, he was blaming his sin on God for giving him the woman. What he didn't do was take the blame himself. The woman in turned blamed her sin on the serpent. Too often, people try to shift blame on others to avoid repenting themselves.
2. (I Sam. 15) is another example. Soul was told by God to slay all the Amalekites. He was not to leave any of them alive, not even their cattle or sheep. What did he do? He slew all the people, except the king and left the cattle and sheep. When Samuel questioned him about the situation, Saul argued, "I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. But the people took of the plunder and this sheep and the oxen, I give as a sacrifice to the Lord. Then Samuel said, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice." Saul's very clever excuse was still just an excuse, not repentance. As a result, the kingdom was taken away from him.
C. Letting time go by. The next level toward repentance is still incomplete. It's when a person decides to simply let time go by, thinking that time will heal the wounds. He tries to straighten out his life. He tries to act good, and to do good to other people. But doing nice things for other people does not mean that a person has repented of his sins. For instance, if I treat my wife badly today, then try to make up for it by treating her nice for the next three days, it does not make up for treating her badly today. The Lord wants me to treat her right all the time. Being nice does not take the place of repentance, nor does it cancel out the sin. In a similar way, some say, "But I love the person." You can love a person and still not repent toward that person. If you are not repentant, then you are hurting and damaging your relationship with the one you love.
D. Conditional repentance. The next step up is a conditional repentance, in which a person will place a condition on his repentance. He will say, for instance, "Well, if I did it, I'm sorry." The "if' gives him away. Often I must judge cases between Christians. When I hear the word "if" like that, I know their heart is not really repentant. They are not even acknowledging their sin. The fruit of such a heart is not pure. Another form of conditional repentance occurs when one says, "I will repent if they'll repent first." Or "when they are on their death bed, then I'll go to them and repent, but not until." No condition but a broken heart over what you did can be attached to real repentance.
E. Partial repentance. Next comes partial repentance. The first four stages discussed were actually not repentance. This level is the beginning of repentance that God can work with. It occurs when a person honestly repents for certain things in his life that he has done wrong, but not for everything. He doesn't see it all. He only sees a part of the sin, so he is repentant only for the part he sees.
F. Total repentance. Some people, when they are saved, realize they have no excuses. They know that in every area of life they have sinned one way or another. They have no "bushes" to hide behind. After they find out God will forgive them for all those things, they experience a tremendous moment of repentance and a tremendous moment of salvation. Others are saved in a very quiet way, with no fanfare. They found only one or two areas of their life that they saw as so terrible that they repented of them. It was partial repentance, but God still accepted them. Now that He is in their heart, He begins to show them other areas. Little by little, they repent of one thing, then another and then another. Finally, in a slower way, they are completely cleansed. In such cases, they often can't even point to the way salvation began for them. Whether it is fast or slow, it is imperative that we repent totally.
G. Godly repentance. The final level is like total repentance. The person is broken in all areas of his life, with no "bushes" to hide behind, no hidden sin, no excuses. However, there is some further dimensions added to it. It must be a Godly repentance. What exactly is a Godly repentance?
1. First, Godly repentance must be given by God (Acts 5 and Acts 11).
2. Second, for Godly repentance, one must acknowledge the truth when he repents. It's not enough to merely make peace with the one we have hurt. At one time I was dealing with some families from my congregation over and over again. I would get the beam out of my one eye first (Matt. 7:4,5). I would repent to them for those things that I could see. They too said they were sorry for hurting me. We would make up and have some peace, but within six months, the people turned against me again. We would start over, going through the same process. After a number of times, I realized that something else needed to be added to the picture. I studied Scripture (2 Tim. 2:24-26). The Lord requires a person to repent to the point of acknowledging the truth. Only by this do we recover ourselves out of the snare of the devil. The next time, instead of being satisfied with them saying they were sorry that they had hurt me and them making peace, I went further and said, "I have some specific things that you need to look at." I showed the items to each person one at a time. Once they saw them and repented for them item by item, their heart was cleaned up. Full peace was made and they never turned against me again. In fact, these individuals became some of my strongest defenders and supporters. God wants us to not only make peace, but to clean up the issues as well.
3. Third, Godly repentance requires that we bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, as John the Baptist said. In other words we are to turn around and start doing the opposite of what we were doing before. (Eph. 4:28) As we begin to give things away instead of always taking like we used to, something breaks inside our spirit and we become free from the urge to steal. For instance, instead of saying nasty things about someone, if we will start saying good things about them, we will experience a change of heart. The Lord will bless our life. Turning around and doing the thing that is right is the truest meaning of repentance.
4. Fourth, for Godly repentance to be complete, we must go to the one that we have hurt and repent to them. God tells us in Matthew 5:23-24, that before we make peace with Him, we should go and make peace with our brother. If we are not willing to do that, then how should we expect God's peace and forgiveness?
V Fruit Of Godly Repentance. There is beautiful fruit that comes when we have true Godly repentance.
A. Repentance is the key to all of these blessings.
1. (2 Chr. 7:14) If a nation repents and turns to God, then he will "forgive their sin and heal the land."
2. (1 Jn. 1:9) If we confess our sins, He is will forgive our sins and to cleanse us. He will do the cleaning in us.
3. (Acts 3:19) Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, if we repent.
4. (2 Cor. 7:8-1l) Paul made a distinction between Godly repentance and remorse. He says, your sorrow led you to repentance. You became sorrowful as God intended. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
B. Paul the listed what "Godly sorrow" worked in them.
1. The first attribute is "carefulness," meaning that "you will try extra hard to avoid sin."
2. Second he said it worked an eagerness to clear themselves of sin. The Greek meaning is, "to clean house, to make yourself blameless, or to clean the things out of your life that caused the sin".
3. Third, they were to "see what indignation it works," meaning that "you resist sin to the point of being angry against sin." This is what repentance works in you.
4. Fourth, it also works the "fear of going against God."
5. Fifth, they also gain a "vehement desire to please God."
6. Sixth is the word meaning "the drive you have inside you." This is the new zeal you have to serve God. It is a zeal to see the Kingdom go forward.
7. Seventh, Paul said, "see what revenge it works in you," meaning "a yearning to do something right," or "to do something the right way."
C. All of these tremendous things are brought about through a Godly repentance. Why should we ever be afraid of repentance? God already knows our sins. All He is asking from us is to have humble, honest hearts before Him. It releases all these blessings.
VI Other Points Concerning Repentance
A. In discussing "levels" of sin, we know that some of our sins do more damage to us spiritually than others. Some type of sin cause us to stand more against the voice of God and the voice of our conscience than other sins do. But as far as being guilty, all sins make us equally guilty before God. Jesus said, "To look upon a woman to lust after her is to commit adultery in our heart" (Matt. 5:28). To hate a brother, is murder in our hearts (1 Jn. 3:15).
B. Sin is extremely serious. We must repent, and repent quickly. The quicker we repent, the less damage is done in our spirit. We must have a sensitivity in our hearts that grabs us and brings us to our knees in honest humbleness before God and before one another. We must come quickly, before our sin has a time to settle in and become harder and harder. Otherwise it will cause a greater hurt and end up destroying much.
1. First, we need to understand that repentance does not necessarily bring healing, but it can open the door so that God can send healing. Repentance is never just a "good word" that earns favor with God.
2. Second, being good to somebody we have hurt does not necessarily mean that we have repented to them. Repentance is an official act of humbling the heart honestly and openly.
3. Third, if you look too much at the other person's sin against you, you may not find it very easy to repent for your sin against them. It may block your repentance. In the end, you must forgive them as well.
4. Fourth, as stated at the beginning of this lesson, rationalization can be a very dangerous thing. It often blocks repentance, because people rationalize rather than repent. An example is the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi. (Gen. 34:25-31). They slew the men of Shechem because Prince Shechem had lain with their sister. Even though Prince Shechem and the people of the city were repenting, these bitter sons of Jacob rationalized their deceitful behavior by answering Jacob, "Shall we treat our sister like a harlot?" Excuses instead of repentance.
5. Fifth, the human heart is extremely wicked. The spiritual part that we have received from God as new creatures is not sinful, but the rest of our old nature still has a great deal of sin in it. Even if we don't commit gross outward sins, those that are evil sins in the eyes of people. Small sins are still very serious, not just a weakness. (Jer. 17:9) The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. It was not eating the wrong fruit that made Adam's sin so terrible, It was direct disobedience, rebellion against God. They had set themselves against Him and His word.
6. Sixth, there is another danger that often slowly creeps in when people grow stronger in the Lord. As they mature spiritually, their gross sins, the very worst ones, occur less and less. As that happens to a Christian, he sometimes becomes satisfied with himself and so doesn't repent of the more subtle sins. These are the proud sins, the selfish sins that are hard to see. Some begin to become like the Pharisees of Jesus' time. The Pharisees were so blinded they no longer thought they needed to repent.
VII Right now, after hearing this message, you need to do your spiritual homework and repent to any to whom you need to repent. Go right now and repent and ask forgiveness. Do it honestly arid fully. Repent to your God as you should repent. Pray now and set you heart before God to do these very things. In His Name, Amen.