Do you know the very first question God asks man in the Bible is: “Where are you?” Whenever you fall away from your relationship with Him, God is always searching for you. Adam and Eve’s friendship with God was broken and when they heard God coming, they hid (Genesis 3v8-9). But God immediately came looking for them, and here we find his first question in the Bible: ‘Where are you?’ God did not give up on them. He came looking for them, wanting them to repent; wanting their relationship to be restored.

Repenting is a gift that God gives us for our sake, not for His. Repenting doesn’t increase God’s desire to be with us. It increases our capacity to be with him.

“The difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of becoming a Christian is not that before, you sinned, and that after, you are sinless. No – the difference is that before becoming a Christian, sin was in character, it did not really worry you or me. Whereas after becoming a Christian, it is utterly out of character, you do not want to do it. It causes you pain and regret when you do. Not so much because you have let yourself down – although there is that. But because you want to be pleasing Christ – and you have failed him.”

Nicky Gumbel

Source: Bible in One Year – Alpha, Day 203, accessed 22/7/2014

In the Bible the word ‘repent’ could just as accurately be translated, ‘re-orientate’. Repentance is more than just saying sorry. So when Jesus says, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17) he doesn’t just mean say sorry and be forgiven. He means lead a new life.’

Stephen Cottrell

Source: Pilgrim: Turning To Christ, 2013, Church House Publishing, p.50

It is often said, ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner’. But that is not quite true because God hates sinners and will judge them for what they have done. The statement should be, ‘God hates the sin but loves the repentant-sinner.’ – Psalm 11v5 (NIV) tells us: “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.”

If you lift up a flagstone or a rock in the garden you will notice all the bugs and creepy crawlies scurrying for cover as you expose them to the light. Similarly, when someone comes close to God they see the light of His holiness and it shows up their own sinfulness and unworthiness… but rather than scurrying to hide, if we confess and repent we can bathe in the light of God’s love and forgivness.

Remorse is not the same as repentance. – To be remorseful is to be sorry, but to repent is more than just being sorry: to repent is to confess and seek God’s forgiveness.

Illustration for repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit: Take a bowl of dirty water (use a tea bag to discolour it) and use a sponge to soak up as much as possible. – We are like the sponge filled with dirty water; we are completely immersed in sin! But when we repent and turn to Christ, it’s like Jesus squeezes the dirty water out of us. (Squeeze the sponge.) Then Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to fill us (plunge the sponge into a bowl of clean water). We need to repent of our dirty water, do away with it by asking Christ to forgive us and wash us clean.

Visual aid: Let the audience know that the experiment will demonstrate how sin affects a person and how repentance can cleanse the person. Explain that the container of water represents a person with no sin. Squeeze a few drops of food colouring into the water, explaining that the food colouring represents sin. Watch as the food colouring spreads through the water. You can add more colouring to see how the colour darkens and the water gets overtaken by the colour. Explain that the bleach represents repentance. Squeeze a few drops of bleach into the water. Stir the water gently to help the bleach clear the food colouring from the water. (Teaching point: When we come to God in repentance he forgives us and removes our sin.)

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John Ortberg relates how he once got lost… “At one point when I was driving in unfamiliar territory, I was quite sure the lady in the guidance system was wrong. She said to go left, and I didn’t go left. I went right because I knew she was wrong. Then, in a fascinating response, she said, “Recalculating route. When safe to do so execute a U-turn.” I knew she was still wrong… so I unplugged her. That is the beauty of that little box; you can unplug her. And – would you believe it – I got lost as a goose, which my wife enjoyed immensely. So we plugged that lady back in, and you know what she said? “I told you so, you little idiot. You think I’m going to help you now? You rejected me. There is no way. You must find your own way home by yourself.” No, of course she didn’t say those things. She said, “Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn.” That is grace. God will say to you, “Here is the way home. Execute a U-turn.” As soon as you are ready to listen, as soon as you are ready to surrender, that is repentance. And He will say, “I will bring you home.” That is grace.”

John Ortberg: The Me I Want To Be, 2010, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.45

St Augustine lived a wild and immoral life. At the age of 32 he was converted in answer to his mother’s prayers. Shortly after his conversion he saw a woman he used to know. The moment he saw her he ran away. She called out: ‘Augustine, it’s me! Don’t you recognise me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I know it’s you, but it’s no longer me!’

Source: Nicky Gumbel, 30 DAYS: A Practical Introduction to Reading the Bible, 2006, Alpha Publications, p.83

Confession without repentance is just bragging!

There is difference between being sorry or remorseful for things that we have done wrong and being repentant – which is not the same thing. When my children were growing up and they committed some minor misdemeanour and were sorry for what they had done, I would often say to them: ‘It’s good that you are sorry but I don’t want so much to hear sorry as to see sorry.’ In other words, its right to be remorseful and apologise but to change your wrong behaviour, that’s what really matters! To be remorseful is to be sorry. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, was full of remorse. In fact, he felt so sorry for himself, and was so full of guilt for what he’d done, that he went out and hanged himself. But as far as we know Judas didn’t repent; he didn’t seek forgiveness and restoration; he didn’t seek to live a changed life that honours Christ. He was remorseful, yes, but not repentant (cf. Matthew 26:24–25, 27:3–5 and John 17:12). To be remorseful is to be sorry but to repent is far more than just being sorry: to repent is to confess your sins, your wrongdoing, and to seek God’s forgiveness; to repent is to want to turn your life around; to turn away from your old way of life and to seek to live a new life through the Lord Jesus. – Jesus calls us all repent… and then to keep on repenting when we know we have sinned.

R. Ian Seymour

We must correctly distinguish regret, remorse, and true repentance. Regret is an activity of the mind, whenever we remember what we’ve done and ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?” Remorse includes both the heart and the mind, and we feel disgust and pain, but we don’t change our ways. But true repentance includes the mind, the heart, and the will. We change our mind about our sins and agree with what God says about them; we abhor what we have done; and we deliberately turn from our sin and turn to the Lord for his mercy.

Warren Wiersbe

The Transformation Study Bible (NLT), Colorado USA: David C. Cook Publishers (2009), supplementary commentary by Dr Warren W. Wiersbe, p.1398

In his book, ‘The Me I Want To Be’, John Ortberg shares this humorous analogy: “Have you ever seen an animal repent? We have a dog and a cat. Our dog sleeps in a little house every night, and he always gets a treat before he retires. He expects it. He feels entitled to it. When I stand up after 9:00pm, he goes crazy with anticipation. He stands at the door of the cupboard where the treats are and won’t go into his house without a treat. But sometimes the dog does a bad thing. When that happens, and when we find the bad thing, he does not expect a treat. He will run from us. He will actually kennel himself without a treat. He knows he’s been bad.

Sometimes our cat does something wrong. Do you think the cat repents? No. Do you know why? Cats are evil. Somebody once said the difference between a cat and a dog is that a dog has a master, while a cat has staff!”

John Ortberg, The Me I Want To Be’ 2010, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.164-165

You will not find a better definition of repentance than the one given in the old children’s hymn:
“Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before
And show that we in earnest grieve
By doing so no more.”

Praise God for the gift of conscience. Though the pangs of a guilty conscience can cause great suffering, the purpose of this gift is to bring us to God for confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. (Read Psalm 32)

Explore Bible notes, 11/1/2011

Repent is a Roman military word, meaning “about turn”. To “repent” is to turn around completely.

Carl Laferton

Did you know that most of the Bible was written by three people who had committed murder? Moses, David and Paul were all guilty of murder, but because all three of them were repentant, God forgave them and used their lives in amazing ways.

J. John

Source: J. John, Soul Purpose, p.78

Forgiveness is the FREE gospel offer. Repentance is the COSTLY gospel demand.

Illustration of Repentance and Forgiveness: Our relationship to God is something like this rope, with God on one end and us on the other. (Have a volunteer take God’s end of the rope.) When we sin, we rebel against God; it’s like we sever the relationship. (Cut the rope, visibly.) But when we repent God forgives us and our relationship is restored. (Tie together the two ends of the rope and illustrate that the rope has become shorter.) Life – my life – is a series of knots; of being broken and then fixed again – of being repentant and receiving forgiveness. And if we keep short accounts with God; if our times between ‘confessions’ become shorter – just as the rope becomes shorter – we actually draw closer to God; we grow in holiness.

I remember as a young boy I would sometimes fall over in the playground and graze my knee, as children are apt to do. With my knee smarting and bleeding I would cry out seeking comfort. The school nurse would put a band-aid on the wound to make it better but first of all she would clean it with neat Dettol, which would often hurt more than the initial injury itself! – The experience was that of desperately wanting to receive the healing comfort of the band-aid but not that of the cleansing. Isn’t that so true to life? We want God’s blessing and we want to be comforted, but we don’t want to have to go through the painful experience of facing up to our sin, of being purged and cleansed, in order to be comforted. There is, however, no other way: We have to recognise our sin, confess and repent of it, and then, by faith, receive the cleansing and purification of Jesus… before we can be comforted.

Illustration from Christianity Explained: When I become a Christian, Jesus comes to live in me spiritually, by his Holy Spirit. Then, over the days and years that follow, the Holy Spirit wants to change me from the inside out, to make me more like Jesus. When you buy a house there are two stages; MOVING-IN DAY (this happens once) and the RENOVATION and REDECORATION (which is on-going).

Becoming a Christian is the moving-in day. This occurs once when God gives me the grace to repent and surrender to Jesus – when I ‘open the door’ and the Holy Spirit moves in to take up residence. This happens, genuinely, only once, although many Christians cannot specify the exact day on which it took place. Being a Christian is an ongoing or progressive work. The various rooms in the house represent all the aspects of my life: Marriage; Family; Money; Ambition; Leisure; Sexuality; Time; etc. The Holy Spirit is not content to remain in the lobby. Once he has entered my life, he will want to change me into his image of what I should be like. This does not happen all at once – it is a gradual work, like renovating a house. The point is: when I become a Christian, I must be willing for Jesus to become Lord of all. This willingness is the beginning of repentance, and what this means in practice will be worked out progressively as I grow in this new life, by his Spirit.

<i>Christianity Explained </i>

Christianity Explained, 1985, New Malden, Surrey: The Good Book Company, p.55

Repentance can be a dirty word in a society obsessed with tolerance, personal choice and individual rights. But because Jesus is God’s King, repentance is essential. Without repentance there is no salvation.