How and why should I repent?

Seven-year-old Jimmy snatches a toy car from 5-year-old Joey. Joey pinches him.

Mom demands apologies and separates them.

Jimmy and Joey both mutter, “Sorry,” and grumble as they stomp to their rooms.

The next day, the same scenario plays out with blocks.

Instinctively, we know neither Jimmy nor Joey is genuinely sorry. Neither their hearts nor their behavior has changed.

Repentance Is More Than Saying Sorry

If you have sex with your girlfriend on Saturday, tell God you’re sorry on Sunday, but have sex again on Monday, that’s not repentance.

Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change in behavior.

Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change in behavior. It’s not just about changing our actions. It’s not about working to do better. It’s changing our minds to see things God’s way, and out of that our behavior changes (Acts 26:20). Our first act of repentance is salvation. When we decide to give our lives to Jesus, we change our minds about who we think Jesus is, admit our sin, and commit to following Him.

What Is Sin and Why Does It Matter?

Adam and Eve’s original act of disobedience introduced sin into the human heart, and as a result, we’re all born sinners (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12).

Our inherited sin nature causes us to sin daily. We sin by feeling, doing, thinking, or saying what God says is wrong or by not doing what God has told us to do. The consequence for sin is eternal death, but God promises eternal life through Jesus’ forgiveness (Romans 6:23).

Once we’re saved, we can never lose our salvation (John 10:22-30). Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross — past, present, and future. Salvation is a starting point to becoming more like Jesus. Even after salvation, we still make mistakes. We still sin, and our sins still grieve God’s heart (Romans 7:14-25, Ephesians 4:30).

We don’t lose our place in God’s family when we sin, but we miss out on the joy that comes with salvation unless we repent of our specific sins (Psalm 51:12). We will always be God’s children, but we break our friendship with Him when we continue to live in sin.

While our sin sometimes hurts other people, it always hurts God. God will continue to draw us back to Him, but we shouldn’t mistake God’s patience for His permission (2 Peter 3:9). 

This is why the Holy Spirit lovingly convicts us of sin — to lead us to repentance and to draw us back into friendship with God (Romans 2:4).

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