What is Repentance?

These last few weeks, God has been convicting me of a number of wrong attitudes and character traits, which I could broadly sum up as the extreme self-centredness of my worldview – my world revolves around me. It strikes much to the heart of the Christian life, when you realise that all these things you were supposedly doing “for God”, actually turn out to be serving yourself – your own ego, your own self-esteem. Such a realisation can almost bring you to the point of asking “have I ever truly repented?” – so far all my attempts at repentance really seem to have been more about remorse that I’m not quite as amazing and awesome as I originally thought I was, rather than confession of the fact that I have sinned against the immortal glory and majesty of the Holy God who created me.

As always, Jim Packer has some very helpful words of challenge and encouragement. I thought I’d share here some bullet point definitions of what repentance actually is, from his excellent book A Passion For Holiness:

  1. Realistic recognition that one has disobeyed and failed God, doing wrong instead of doing right.
  2. Regretful remorse at the dishonor one has done to the God one is learning to love and wanting to serve.
  3. Reverent requesting of God’s pardon, cleansing of conscience, and help to not lapse in the same way again.
  4. Resolute renunciation of the sins in question, with deliberate thought as to how to keep clear of them and live right for the future.
  5. Requisite restitution to any who have suffered material loss through one’s wrongdoing.

As Packer points out – it’s harder than it sounds! But I love number two: I’m still very much learning to love this amazing God, and learning true repentance is a part of that. Thank the Lord that I’m not saved by my ability to “repent properly”!