REPENTANCE IS MORE THAN REFORMATION

To reform is “to improve one’s character or conduct; to become better; to behave better; to give up misconduct; to make better by removing faults or defects.”  One who genuinely reforms will from that moment on live a better life. Certainly this is to be desired.

However, reformation falls short in at least one vital particular- it does nothing about the past. It leaves upon the pages of God’s record all the sins that a person has committed. Consequently, it leaves the sinner still under the sentence of eternal death.

WHAT IS REPENTANCE?

Repentance is first of all, a turning away from all sin. This first aspect closely  resembles reformation, but repentance further involves turning to God and believing through prayer for forgiveness and cleansing from all sin. Such prayer is not necessarily vocal, but it usually is. The repentant person confessess to God that he is a sinner and asks for forgiveness. If he/she obeys the gospel, he/she can rest assured that God will forgive, for His Word promises, “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9close1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV) close1 John 1:9close1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV) ).

THE BASIS OF REPENTANCE

How is genuine repentance brought about?  Paul explained, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10close2 Corinthians 7:10 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV) close2 Corinthians 7:10close2 Corinthians 7:10 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV) 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV) ). Before a person can repent, he must feel sorrow for his sins and this must be Godly sorrow. For someone to be sorry merely because his sins have been found out or because they have brought trouble upon him, is not enough. He must be sorry because he has broken the commandments of God, spurned His gospel and thereby grieved Him days without number.  Such godly sorrow is the only motivating force for real repentance.

TIME FOR REPENTANCE IS LIMITED

The time to repent is strictly limited by the extent of earthly life. There can be no repentance after death. Since in the normal course of events no one knows how long he/she will live, it is perilous indeed to procrastinate. The Bible declares, ” It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” ( Hebrews 9:27closeHebrews 9:27 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (ESV) closeHebrews 9:27closeHebrews 9:27 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (ESV) 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (ESV) ).

The time of repentance is further limited by the duration of a person’s capability of being impressed by conviction. A continued refusal to repent when called by God’s Spirit brings hardness of heart. Paul spoke of people who were ” past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19closeEphesians 4:19 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (ESV) closeEphesians 4:19closeEphesians 4:19 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (ESV) 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (ESV) ). Such people no longer feel God’s Spirit leading them to serve Him. They have lost all desire for repentance.

Think of the goodness of God to you, and surely your heart will be inclined toward repentance. The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9close2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV) close2 Peter 3:9close2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV) ).