What does repentance look like?

Repentance is a change of mind and heart that produces a change in behavior. In real life it is not always easy to know when a person is genuinely repentant. In Second Corinthians the apostle Paul distinguishes between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow may produce a change in actions, but that change will not continue. True repentance will not be repented of. (2 Corinthians 7:10) The chief evidence of genuine repentance is a persistence in forsaking the sinful behavior.

However, everyone falls into sin. Those struggling with addictions or other life controlling sins may find the process of repentance to be full of successes and failures. When someone says they are repentant but then fall back into sin, have they truly repented or not? Are there other characteristics of true repentance that enable a person to distinguish between godly and fleshly repentance?

2 Corinthians 7:11 lists seven characteristics of Godly repentance. Godly repentance produces a carefulness to not return to the sin again. The repentant is not lazy about his transformation. He is diligent and anxious to change. True repentance will not toy with sin. The repentant will set up safeguards and take precautions against falling back into it.

Godly repentance produces a desire to show that sin is being avoided. The repentant will be transparent about his transformation, allowing others to look into his life to see that he has truly turned away from sin.

Godly repentance produces a deep grief over sin. The repentant soul is troubled by the sin they committed. Their sin will not be a source of pride. The repentant will not regale others with stories of his sin. True repentance sees sin as a shameful thing. The repentant is upset by his sin.

Godly repentance produces fear. This fear is a carefulness which is deeply concerned about sin. The repentant one will no longer view their former sin as pet to be pampered, but as a poisonous serpent to be avoided.

Godly repentance produces a strong desire for holiness and righteousness. Godly repentance produces zeal- an intense passion for good. Godly repentance produces a readiness to see justice done. The repentant accepts the consequences of his actions and is anxious to be vindicated from any further association with the sin.

These characteristics of repentance will not always be evident, especially when someone is just beginning to work through the process of repentance. However, if these characteristics do not become evident there is reason to question the validity of a profession of repentance.

Understanding repentance is important so that we do not deceive ourselves into thinking we are repentant of sin when we are not. The addict may convince himself he has turned over new leaf, but his habit and his attitude towards his habit show he is still in bondage to his sin. Understanding repentance protects us from bondage to sin and the consequences sin brings. For the unsaved, the consequences of sin will be eternal punishment. For the Christian, the consequences of sin may be the chastening of the Lord or the loss of rewards in heaven. Repentance is not easy, but it is far better to endure the sorrow of repentance than to suffer the sorrow of Divine judgment.

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation

The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace, through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:9) The Bible is also clear that a person’s works no part in bringing salvation. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) But many preachers talk about repentance when they preach the message of salvation. If salvation is only through faith what does repentance have to do with it?

The Bible preaches repentance as part of the gospel message. The end of Luke’s gospel records Jesus’ command to His disciples to take the gospel to all the world. In that commission Jesus connected repentance to forgiveness. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” (Luke 24:47) In Acts 2 when the Jews asked Peter what they must do to be saved, he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) The gospel Paul preached was a gospel of repentance. “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21) Repentance is necessary for salvation.

How is repentance a part of salvation but not a work? Repentance is a change of mind or heart that results in a change in behavior. Repentance is not an action, or inaction. Repentance is a changed mind that recognizes sin and guilt. Repentance is a changed heart. A person can change behavior without true repentance. Many motives exist for a change in behavior. Fear of consequences or desire for a benefit may cause someone to change without ever recognizing he has sinned. A drunk may give up drinking because it affects his ability to get a promotion but never repent of the sin of drunkenness. On the other hand, a profession of sorrow or an acknowledgment of guilt is not necessarily repentance. Sorrow that does not transform the person is not repentance. Repentance produces a change in behavior. Changed behavior is not repentance, but it will be the fruit of repentance.

How does this relate to salvation? Repentance to salvation is not turning over a new leaf or becoming a better person. Repentance to salvation is a change of heart that turns away from false beliefs about God and salvation. Paul’s gospel message was a message of repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus. He preached to the Jews repentance of their rejection of Jesus. (Acts 13:39-41) Peter’s message to the Jews was the same as Paul’s- repentance from their rejection of Jesus. (Acts 2:36-38) Paul preached to the Greeks repentance from idolatry. (Acts 17:29-30) Repentance to salvation is a turning away from false gods and false methods of salvation and a turning “to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

Repentance is necessary for salvation. No one can be saved unless he turns away from all false beliefs, all attempts at saving himself, all self-righteousness, all false saviors and all rejection of Jesus to trust in Him alone for forgiveness of sin. Repentance is the other side of faith. Repentance turns from false worship to faith that trusts Jesus alone.

What is love?

With Valentine’s day less than a week away, love is on many minds. Love is a topic of great concern in our culture. Hundreds of songs have been written about love. Love is the subject of hundreds of books, the discussion of philosophers, the study of scientists, the concern of philanthropists and the desire of everyone. The universal fascination with love has produced a myriad of definitions and descriptions of love. From the unclear, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” to the comedic, “Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage” to the serious, “There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” love has been defined thousands of ways.

The Bible commands Christians to love God and love offers, but it does not give a definition of love. What the Bible gives is numerous examples of love. The most important example being God’s love for fallen humanity. The most important passage describing human love for others is 1 Corinthians 13.

First Corinthians 13 does not define love, but describes fifteen key characteristics of love. A person who is practicing Biblical love endures the wrongs of others against them, is benevolent towards others, does not covet the good others have received, does not boast, is not puffed up with pride, acts appropriately towards others, is not self-seeking, does not have a quick temper, does not keep a record of wrongs done against them, does not delight in sin but delights in truth. The person who practices Biblical love is patient and trusting, he does not lose hope and he does not quit when things are difficult.

Love, like faith, can only be known through actions. A declaration of love that is not joined by loving deeds is not Biblical love. The book of First John insists that love works. Love does not just wish someone well it does well for them. First John also insists that love is sacrificial. Love gives- even at great personal cost. Biblical love imitates the God who loved mankind and gave His life for their salvation. Biblical love is willing to give of itself, even to the point of death. Biblical love gives with no thought of what it will get in return. Biblical love gives even if those being loved do not respond with love or appreciation. “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” (2 Corinthians 12:15)

The Biblical description of love and the example of God’s love for humanity leads us to a definition for love. Love is a commitment to do what is best for another person no matter the cost or how they respond. A key component in the Biblical depiction of love is commitment. Biblical love is not an on again/off again feeling. It is a willful mindset that perseveres through negative feelings and difficult times. Biblical love is not devoid of feeling, but it is not defined by feeling. Further, Biblical love is sacrificial in nature. It gives of itself freely for the benefit of others. Love is an unwavering commitment to the good of another.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Why do preachers talk about “the Greek” so much?

You are sitting in the pew on Sunday morning listening to the pastor talk about a Bible verse and all of a sudden he says, “The Greek word is ‘didaskolos.’” Why do preachers do that? Why do preachers like to bring up Greek and Hebrew?

The prophets and apostles did not write the Bible in English. Most of the Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew, the language of the Jews before they were taken captive by the Babylonians. Most of the New Testament was written in Greek, the common language of the Roman Empire in the days of the apostles. A few portions of the Bible were written in Aramaic, a language related to Hebrew that was probably the native language of Jesus and his disciples.

When studying the Bible it is helpful to remember all of our English Bibles are translations of another language. Unfortunately, whenever a text is translated from one language into another something is lost in the transmission of information. A word that is very precise in one language may not be able to be translated by an equally precise word in another. Emphasis communicated by grammar or word order in one language may not be easily communicated in another.

Many of those who study the Bible recognize the value of the additional information that can be learned by looking at the Greek or Hebrew words behind the English the translation. One example of this value is the different meanings of the Greek words translated “love” in English. One word emphasizes a deep commitment to another and the other word points towards a deep fondness for another. Neither of these concepts are easily translated into English, and are not clearly communicated by the word “love.”

A preacher will refer to the Greek or Hebrew when he wants to point out the significance of a meaning that is not immediately obvious in the English translation. This is not to imply the average reader cannot understand the Word of God. Instead, it shows that Scripture is understandable to modern readers. We can know what the original authors wrote and meant.

On a related note, modern technological tools make it easy for the Bible student to see the original text and the meanings of those ancient words. The most accessible of these tools is based on the concordance of James Strong. Smartphone apps like Olive Tree and YouVersion offer Bible translations with built in links to Strong’s Concordance. By tapping a word you can see the Greek or Hebrew word, the various ways it is translated into English and, most importantly, a basic definition of the Greek or Hebrew word.