REPENTANCE: That's a word that is used extensively throughout the Bible. And I would venture that a majority of us define it as a confession of sin that results in sorrow and regret, causing us to make a strong turning away from sin towards God. I would not disagree with that.
But perhaps we need to have a deeper discussion about such an important part of our faith. Let's start here: how do you think we, as fallen human beings, are even able to come to that point where we recognize our sin, let alone feel any sorrow, or be able to take the steps to change our direction? Do we really think that we can do any part of that on our own?
The Apostle Paul speaks for all of us when he says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh [my sinful nature]. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out". Before I can even begin to make that turn to carry out righteous behavior, don't I have to discern what is right? Come to some kind of knowledge that what I'm doing is wrong and displeasing to God? Doesn't this process of repentance start in my mind?
Once our minds and thoughts come into alignment with the Father's, our actions become instinctive. We think like Him, recognizing our sin, and we desire forgiveness. And once we are free from the condemnation of sin, it becomes natural to start acting like Him. His will is our heart's desire, and repentance is the key to modeling Jesus in our lives.
But it's also important to realize that repentance is a gift from God. When we accept His invitation to faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the power from God [in the form of the Holy Spirit] to do more than be sorry for our sins; we receive the power to begin thinking like Him, which leads to the ability to make the necessary changes. Here's another way to look at it: We can't do repentance on our own. It's a gift of the power of God that enables us to change the way we think about our sin. Otherwise, we are just going through the motions of saying we're sorry and following religious gestures, thinking we now know all about Him.
But until we are able to look beyond the consequences of our sin, and understand sin from God's perspective; what it cost Him and how it grieves Him, then our repentance may be shallow and trivial. We need to understand that there is a face-to-face intimacy at stake when we truly repent. And we must not neglect to see that repentance in the Old Testament was a call to a nation to turn back to God. In the New Testament, the invitation is personal -- to change our actions and way of thinking to live for and in relationship with the Father. And it's all done by the power of His grace, which allows us to respond in complete and wholehearted obedience.
And it is our job to fully comprehend all that repentance is. We are appointed to seize the grace God offers us to return to Him; to get our hands on this gift; to grasp it and take hold of it. I believe there is a purpose in this gift beyond the forgiveness of our sins. I believe repentance is the power of God [in our lives] that offers us the ability to share in His mental and spiritual attitude. That's what Jesus experienced while on earth, and I think the process called "repentance" is one of the most beautiful pictures of relationship we will ever experience on this earth. We must not fail to appreciate all it offers us.
Luke 15:10 "In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents".