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#57 Five Misconceptions about Repentance

Could you be making one of these mistakes in your understanding of what repentance is?
In this episode of Now Is the Time I talk about 5 misconceptions about repentance and I explain what Biblical repentance really is.
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 News

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5 Misconceptions about repentance.

1. Repentance is a one-time thing.

Jesus began his public ministry by calling people to “Repent and believe” Mark 1:15. These verbs are in the present imperative and could be translated, “Be repenting and be believing.”

Martin Luther said it well when he penned his 95 theses.

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” -Martin Luther

2. Repentance is when I feel really bad about what I did.

“Sense of guilt is enough to breed terror. Infusion of grace breeds repentance. If pain and trouble were sufficient to repentance, then the damned in hell should be most penitent, for they are most in anguish. Repentance depends upon a change of heart. There may be terror, yet with no change of heart.” -Thomas Watson

3. Repentance as a means of self-atonement.

“The tears of repentance wash away no sins. It is bad theology to say that they do. That is the office, that the work of the blood of Christ alone.” J.C. Ryles

4. Repentance is a vow to change my life.

“Yet, again, it is possible for men to progress even further than this, and positively to humble themselves under the hand of God, and yet they may be total strangers to repentance. Their goodness is not like the morning cloud and the early dew that passeth away, but when the sermon is heard they go home and commence what they conceive to be the work of repentance, they renounce certain vices and follies, they clothe themselves in sack-cloth, their tears flow very freely on account of what they have done; they weep before God; and yet with all that, their repentance is but a temporary repentance, and they go back to their sins again.” -C.H. Spurgeon

5. Repentance must be done during the “altar call.”

Throughout Scripture the call to repent and believe is given regardless of time or place.

-The Ethiopian Eunuch repented along-side a dusty road between Jerusalem and Gaza. (Acts 8:26-38
-Paul himself repented on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9)
-Cornelius repented in his home. (Acts 10:44-48)
-Lydia repented by the river. (Acts 16:13-15)
-Paul called the Philippian jailer to repentance in the middle of the night in a crumbling jail-house, (Acts 16:26-32)

There is never a good reason to put off repentance. It is the deception of the Devil to think that you must repent in a certain place or wait for a certain time. The call to repentance in the Bible is always immediate.

II. What is repentance?

The main Greek word “Metanoe” is used 60x in the NT. It’s basic meaning is “To change the mind”

Spurgeon tells us;

“To repent does mean a change of mind; but then it is a thorough change of the understanding and all that is in the mind, so that it includes an illumination, an illumination of the Holy Spirit; and I think it includes a discovery of iniquity and a hatred of it, without which there can hardly be a genuine repentance.” -C.H. Spurgeon

Biblical repentance describes a change in core beliefs and understandings. This change in thought disturbs the very essence of who we are. It is a change in world-view, it is a change in our understanding of God and our perception of self.

Resources

To put it simply repentance describes the inward change in a man as he goes from unbelief to belief.

Question: What other misconceptions about repentance have you noticed? Why do you think that we hear so little on the topic of repentance in the Western Church?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • DS

    I have an Android device and listen to your podcast via an app called Podcast Republic (http://www.podcastrepublic.net/).

    Is it possible that there are levels of repentance? I know when I became a Christian it was the repentance you describe – change in core beliefs & understandings.

    Afterwards, as Christians what are we called to do when we sin and seek forgiveness? It feels like a process that is unending, a desire to grow and improve, but one that is filled with constant renewing of our minds.

    I could be wrong, but it feels like the congregation I attend does talk about repentance fairly often (my ears are now up to see),

    Thanks for the post.

    • David, I don’t know if I would call it “levels” of repentance, although I think I see what you mean. As I mentioned the Bible does talk about repentance to salvation (when our core beliefs about God and self are changed) and repentance of certain sins even after salvation. Mainly I see repentance as a continual cycle of development and growth that ought to be taking place in the heart and mind of every Christian.

      I think that as believers if we fall into sin we are called to repent, or in other words change our mind about our sin and bring it to the Lord through confession. Then we are called to “walk worthy” of our calling like Paul talks about in Eph 4 and 5.

      • DS

        Enjoyed the point you make about a “continual cycle”. Thanks Caleb!