1st 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.
There are erroneous concepts of repentance that have sprung up over the years, to which the followers of Christ should never subscribe. Too often we hear on the news of some prominent figure who confessed his or her sin only because they were caught, or because the news media threatened to expose the gory details of some extra-marital affair. Then we hear the oft spoken words "I take full responsibility for my actions".
However, taking full responsibility for one's actions does not constitute repentance according to the Bible. The experience of repentance involves much more than the admittance of wrong doing, or being willing to suffer the consequences.
First and foremost, we need to be aware of the fact that repentance is a gift of God. True repentance is not something the human agent produces on his own apart from God, with tears and confessions. Even though these manifestations often reflect a genuine sorrow for sin, repentance according to the Bible is something more permanent in nature. Let's read a couple passages of scripture that pertain to this important issue:
Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Which brings us to our text for today. The apostle John says that true repentance includes not only confession, but also a turning away from sin by being cleansed from all unrighteousness. There is a world of difference between sorrow for the results of sin, and sorrow for the sin itself that caused Jesus to die on Calvary. When a person experiences genuine repentance, a day of new beginnings dawns on the individuals heart, and permanent change for the better ensues. This truth is embodied in the words of Jesus as He spake to the woman who was caught in adultery. Let's read:
John 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
If a person is caught speeding, and the highway patrol officer decides not to write him a ticket because he said he was sorry for breaking the law, the individual should not then leave the scene, scrubbing his tires as he drives away. Sorrow for breaking the law will ultimately result in the person driving within the speed limit, while being always grateful for the mercy that was shown to him.
On a much grander scale is the repentance that comes from God. Jesus forgives, but also cleanses from all unrighteousness so that we do not take His grace and mercy for granted. If therefore, for any reason we have cherished sin in our lives, or we are experiencing difficulty in overcoming, then maybe we might not have come to the point of full surrender, where we are willing at all costs to relinquish the evil. The good news is that God is willing and able to save us from these situations also. But we must come to Him in humility, acknowledging our own inability to save ourselves, and trusting to His imputed and imparted righteousness that we may be saved. We therefore end with the prayer of David which should resonate with us as we experience true repentance today. Let's read:
Psalms 51:1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
May this prayer be ours, and may the Lord grant unto us true repentance, for He is faithful who has promised. God bless!