What is Repentance

I promised to simplify that long theological word. It literally means to feel a godly sorrow for the wrongs we have committed. Such genuine sorrow is only possible when we fully recognize that our only hope rests in the death of Jesus on the cross in our place. Helplessly we must turn away from self and "behold the Lamb of God," who takes away the sin of the world. What happens as we watch Him bleeding, suffering, and dying on the cross? We realize that He was holy and innocent. We were the guilty ones. We should be hanging there instead of Him. We are overwhelmed to realize that He would have submitted to the torture and death for only one soul, even for you or me. Suddenly our eyes fill with tears as we realize that our sins caused His death on the cross. His heart was broken by the crushing weight of sins that had been taken from us. He was voluntarily suffering the punishment we deserved. We are filled with sorrow that we ever committed those very sins that now are taking the life of the Son of God. That sorrow is repentance.

We must clearly distinguish between a worldly sorrow and a genuine godly sorrow. Sometimes children say, "I'm sorry" when facing punishment for misbehavior, but often they are merely regretful that they got caught. This is not true repentance. When I was in high school one of my teachers was the sports coach. He was a nice enough fellow, but not a very effective communicator. Therefore, it was a treat when a young lady teacher took his place in the middle of the school year. All of us boys were especially delighted because this new teacher was very pretty and not much older than some of us.

In the beginning, we were vying for her attention in ways that were probably very distracting to everyone. One day I stayed after school with two friends to play some basketball. Later, after all the other students had left, we went by our room to pick up our books. Just before opening the door, we glanced through the one clear pane of glass in the door and there we saw our beautiful girl-teacher weeping at her desk. No one needed to tell us why she was crying, because we instantly remembered some of the things we had done during classes. None of us had any desire to hurt that teacher. We liked her very much and had no idea that we were causing her so much grief. We were sick and ashamed of ourselves that day, and it was three very sorry boys who crept down the hall without opening that door. All three of us made a covenant that day that we would never do anything again that would hurt our pretty young teacher. We were truly repentant.

This same principle applies to those who feel sorrow for the pain their sins caused Jesus to suffer, and by God's grace they determine to turn away from everything displeasing to Him.

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