What is Repentance, Exactly?

In this week's sermon, Adam discussed how joy is found in repentance. In one Gathering, he explained six characteristics of repentance, but had to cut them in all other Gatherings for time's sake. We've taken time to explain the six characteristics in the blog post below, or you can listen to the sermon in its entirety (with the six characteristics) here.

We don't use the word repentance often in our culture. Not many of us have been caught saying "Oh, I made a wrong turn. I better repent here so that I can turn on Main Street." And often, repentance only gets mentioned by religious people when they're holding up signs or yelling on street corners. So we thought it good to take some time in this post to discuss what repentance actually is.

Repentance is...

  1. Agreeing with God about our sin. After King David impregnates another man's wife, and then has her husband killed (which sort of sounds like an episode of Jerry Springer, but worse), he wrote Psalm 51, where he says "for I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment." Did you hear what David calls it? Sin. He doesn't call it a character flaw or an accident. He doesn't blame it on his personality or the way he was born, or on other people. When we sin, we call it sin, because that's what it is.
  2. God-centered. Repentance is more than just "I feel bad." Anyone can regret a bind their sin has gotten them in, or negative consequences about their sin. But repentance sees our sin primarily as against God, not just as a bad choice that brought unwanted consequences.
  3. Deals with the heart, not just the action.  The opposite of sin isn't virtue–it's faith. If sin is just doing something wrong, then all we'd need to do to repent is do something right. But sin at its core is failing to make Jesus our ultimate treasure. So repentance seeks to place Jesus back in his rightful place–not just change external action.
  4. Includes confession. A wildly popular thought goes something like this: "I don't have to answer to anyone except myself and God." The only problem with that is the Bible. Repentance necessarily requires confessing to other believers, because that's where healing is found (James 5:16).  People help us fight sin, and confessing our sin to other people keeps our sin from becoming a norm in our community.
  5. Includes making restitution. When our sin affects other people directly, part of repenting is making it right with them. It's not enough to say "I'm sorry I stole money from you." We also should desire to pay them back. Other people's view of Jesus or Christians could have been negatively affected by our actions, so we make an effort to set that right again.
  6. Leads to enjoying God because of Jesus. Repentance is not the same as penance. Penance says that our sorrow pays God back for our sin. Repentance is acknowledging that Jesus has already paid for our sin. Knowing that God has done that for us in the gospel should lead to a lot of rejoicing. Appropriate sorrow over sin should never remain alone. It should always eventually morph into gratefulness and joy over Jesus' work on the cross.

Playing Hooky from the Gathering: 3 Reasons Casual Isn't Cool

Meet Lazy Lawrence. Lawrence is like some Midtown folks in that he attends the Gathering, at best, once or twice a month. Lazy Lawrence is fine with his attendance record. “Besides,” he thinks, “church isn’t all about Sundays anyway. So why does it matter if I come every Sunday or not?” Unfortunately, Lawrence is unaware of a few problems with his mentality. We thought we’d take a moment to point them out:

  1. Using good theology to encourage lazy methodology is bad theology. Lawrence is right in thinking that church is more than what happens on Sunday, but wrong in thinking that gives him license to be lazy and avoid something that scripture tells us is important.
  2. Shortchanging and confusing your family. Lazy Lawrence is sending extremely mixed signals to his kids. While he prays before meals and tells his kids that Jesus came to save them from their sins, his lackluster desire to even show up to the Gathering makes them wonder how important this Jesus guy is. “Besides,” they think, “if Jesus isn’t important enough to get out of bed for on Sundays, is he really that important at all?”
  3. Sunday apathy usually isn’t alone. If Lawrence isn’t at least excited enough  about Jesus to show up and worship with church family, chances are he’s actually not that excited about Jesus period. Usually people who can’t give an hour and a half a week on Sundays have an even harder time leveraging their entire lives for the gospel.

But in all seriousness, the gospel sets us free from all kinds of things. Not the least of them is apathy and laziness. Because Jesus endured the cross for us, we can put our big boy and big girl pants on, take off the old self, put to death apathy and laziness, attend Gatherings, and get excited about Jesus, all out of gratitude for what he’s done for us.

What Repentance Is & Isn't

In light of the sermon last Sunday on sin, confession, and repentance yesterday, we wanted to make sure everyone was clear on what repentance is. We figured a good place to start was by discussing what repentance is not. So here's some things repentance isn't:

  1. Repentance is not getting caught. It is coming clean. What does your spouse not know about you?
  2. Repentance is not denying our sin. What sin is in your life and marriage that you simply have not accepted as sin that has to be dealt with honestly?
  3. Repentance is not diminishing our sin. What have you partially confessed without telling the whole truth? What have you downplayed as a minor sin that if not put to death will only grow to damage your marriage greatly?
  4. Repentance is not managing our sin. What sin are you trying to keep under control or not letting your spouse or other people you respect see?
  5. Repentance is not blame-shifting our sin. What ways have you blamed others for your sin rather than accepting responsibility for it? Who or what do you, like Adam and Eve in the garden, blame? Do you blame God? Your spouse? Your parents? The culture? Your personality? Stress?
  6. Repentance is not excusing our sin. What excuses do you most commonly use to justify and excuse your sin?
  7. Repentance is not about someone else’s sin. When conversing with your spouse, which sins of theirs are you most apt to bring up, rather than speaking about your own sins?
  8. Repentance is not about manipulating God or people for blessing. In the past, how have your faked true repentance in an effort not to put your sin to death out of true sorrow, but rather in an effort to manipulate God or people to bless you for being a good person?
  9. Repentance is not worldly sorrow. Non-Christians can and do feel bad about their sin but do not see it as an offense against God and do not hate it out of love for Him and others. Have you simply shed a few tears, looked sad, said you were sorry, but not really repented?
  10. Repentance is not solely grieving the consequences of your sin but it is hating the evil of the sin itself. How have you lamented the consequences of your sin and what it has cost you but not truly come to hate it, fight it, war against it, and put it to death?
  11. Repentance is not mere confession. How many times have you said you were sorry with no real, deep, heartfelt commitment to change, and what confusion has this caused your spouse?

What repentance is, luckily, is much simpler than what it isn't. At the same time, it's much harder to do and can only be driven by the gospel. True repentance is a combination of three things:

  1. Repentance includes confession.  In confession, you agree with God that you have sinned. Confession includes both your mind and mouth.
  2. Repentance includes conviction. In conviction, you feel what God feels about your sin. Conviction includes both your emotions and expressions. Your heart is affected, not just your words.
  3. Repentance includes change. In change, you stop worshipping sin and start worshipping Jesus. Change includes your will and works.