If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. . . . He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 1:9, 2:2
Repentance is not turning inward, but turning around. Repentance is not self-condemnation, but Holy Spirit conviction. Repentance is grace in action: Jesus points out the areas in our lives that are wrong and he then releases, restores, and renews. Repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in behavior.
Repentance begins as a work of the Holy Spirit; he changes our minds convincing us that our actions are wrong and hurtful. The Holy Spirit’s conviction leads to brokenness over our failure resulting in an admitting of that wrong to the Lord (and to others, if necessary). Our confession opens the door of our hearts for the receiving God’s great forgiveness. The overwhelming love, mercy, and grace of God pours out into our lives bringing about a change in our behavior.
Repentance is the recognition that God is right and that we are wrong. We are wrong because we have broken God’s law; and as a result, our selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others. Repentance is not trying to prove to God our sincerity, nor is it a mechanism for earning God’s pardon. Repentance allows you and me to receive the forgiveness that was accomplished for us on the Cross two thousand years ago.
Repentance does not twist God’s arm to give us a forgiveness that he would otherwise be reluctant to release. Repentance is opening the door to a joy and a freedom that has already been given in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Repentance says, “Yes, Lord, your work on the Cross was for me and I receive it now without any qualification or hesitation.”
Jesus earned our acceptance before God, now receive it, and walk in it (Rom. 3:21-26). Be a great receiver!
Repentance in the Christian sense is not primarily concerned with doing ‘better’ from now on; it means returning home to him who has done all things ‘well.’
Helmut Thielicke, Being a Christian When the Chips Are Down (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), 43.