The Anatomy of Repentance
Elder James Groce
In Genesis chapters 42-44, Joseph is trying to find out if his brothers have faced up to what they had done and are now different people. It brings to mind the concept of repentance and restoration. In order for our relationship with God, which was broken by our sin, to be restored, we must repent.
Joseph’s attempts, as seen in those three chapters of Genesis, not only seek to find out whether or not repentance has happened, but also to what depth it has gone. Did their repentance have an impact on their character? Joseph’s primary goal is to find out if the brothers have reformed.
Simeon is kept as a “hostage,” most likely to be abandoned by his nine brothers. Joseph wants to know if they are still of the same character, abandoning a brother and leaving him like they left Joseph himself. And why did he have them bring Benjamin back? He wanted to determine if they had treated him like they treated Joseph himself.
The brothers show that they are changed by their attitudes towards Joseph. But, also, when the cup Joseph used for divination is found in Benjamin’s sack, Joseph is using the cup to divine, not by oil and water, but by seeing how the brothers respond to its presence in Benjamin’s sack.
There are three types of repentance:
1. Repentance demonstrated when a person “gets caught.”
2. Repentance demonstrated when a person seems to be sorry for getting caught but does not change one’s actions.
3. Or, realizing you are going the wrong way and turning around, that’s true repentance.
How deeply will we let God test our repentance?
Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, 0 God, and know my heart: try me, and-know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The “fruit of repentance” needs to be taught as much as the “fruit of the Spirit.” It seems that far too many people forget that there is a command to “bring forth fruit worthy of repentance,” Luke 3:8.
One of the first fruits of repentance is humility. When we rely on our family history like the Pharisees and the Sadducees did, we acquire the ability to claim a relationship with God without the need to personally come to a moment of repentance. This creates a feeling of pride rather than the humility that should characterize our relationship with God. (“My family has been in this church since 1964.” “My father helped to build that educational wing,” etc.) The Pharisees and the Sadducees were quick to point out to Jesus their Jewish family history as proof of their closeness to God. Yet it was they whom John the Baptist called a “generation of vipers,” Matthew 3:7.
When we begin at the point of repentance, we realize we are from a brood of vipers. With repentance comes the awareness of the seriousness of our sins and the desire that flows from that, i.e., to get this problem taken care of right now.
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
A necessary fruit of repentance is change. Far too many people have for too long presumed that you can be a “Christian,” even with absolutely no evidence of that experience in your life. The Bible knows nothing of a faith that does not lead to a changed life. Jesus was very straightforward when he said, John 14:23-24 If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
James wrote, James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? In verse twenty he said, But wilt thou know, 0 vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Recognizing in our repentance that we have fallen short, we admit our sin and, as we just noted, pursue a changed life. But, obviously, if we’ve failed in the past, we’re going to need more strength than we possess to finish this journey we’ve now begun. The good news for those of us in that position is that we serve a mighty Lord who is able to provide all the resources we need for victory in our journey. The key is that we must recognize our need to depend on Him and trust in His strength. Too many people are trying to experience “Victory in Jesus” via their own power, smarts, and insight. They will inevitably fail. Those who have started at the point of repentance will remember their failure and turn to the One who is able to bring them through.
The first time a prophet came on the scene in the New Testament, the first cry he uttered is in Matthew 3:2; “…Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So, the first cry from heaven after 400 years of silence was “REPENT” In Luke 13:3 Jesus declares, I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Every true prophet of God has preached repentance. The repentance that does not bring an effective change, that brings no mourning for sin, that brings no remorse, that makes you just believe that you are right, is not repentance. True repentance hates all sins. If you know the havoc that sin does, you will hate all sins. For repentance to be sincere, it must be total.
Repentance without confession is counterfeit repentance. Repentance without instant obedience is not repentance; it is hypocrisy. Repentance without breaking of the desire to continue in sin is not repentance. Repentance that goes with hypocritical concealment is not repentance. Repentance that does not break the bridge between you and the world is not repentance. Repentance allows us to hate sin, not just the consequences or the effects. Repentance is to leave the sins we loved before and to show that we, in earnest, grieve over those sins by doing them no more.
The Bible is filled with passages which speak about ashes and repentance. Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Daniel 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. Jonah 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Matthew 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Ashes and repentance have Ion been associated in the Bible. Ashes signify that which once was and is no more. Repentance causes the past errors to burn to the ground, leaving only a heap of ashes. When we repent correctly, we no longer go back to those things because they are now only ashes.
Three Greek Words for Repentance
Metamellomia means “regret.”
In Matthew chapter 27, we read the story of how Judas, when he had betrayed Jesus and then realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, was filled with remorse. He took the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and other religious leaders saying, “I have sinned.” He declared, “1 have betrayed an innocent man.” We feel regret, but continue to live in sin.
Metanoeo means to “think differently.”
We begin to change our thinking about ourselves and about our sinful life. We begin to understand that we are not as good as we thought we were. We begin to want to change our behavior. It is a stress-filled way to live when our actions do not match our beliefs.
Metanoia means “reversal.”
This is true repentance. Luke 3:7-14 is a sample of John’s preaching to the crowds that came for baptism. “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming judgment? Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God,” (Metanoia). Don’t just say, “We’re safe, we’re the descendants of Abraham: That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
The crowd asked, “What should we do?” True repentance seeks a reversal of actions and lifestyle. This power is available in the Gift of the Holy Ghost. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
2 Corinthians was actually the fourth letter Paul had written to the church. That letter writing campaign began because false teachers had come into the church charging Paul with being a huckster a scam artist. But as I read the passage, something struck me. Paul says something rather remarkable in this passage; (verses 8-10); “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, do not regret it. …your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
God intended to make the Corinthians sorrowful? Yes. Why? To instruct them in the ways of righteousness and justice. To unveil His holiness and how intensely He hates sin among His people. To bring them to repentance, the prelude to holiness. And really, that is what Paul is talking about when he says that he was made happy by the Corinthian’s sorrow that their sorrow led to repentance. He was happy to know that they could experience repentance and turn from their wicked ways. Note again what Paul says their sorrow has led to; “…a Godly sorrow (which) brings repentance that leads to salvation…” and this was addressed to SAINTS! A Godly sorrow brings repentance.
Repentance is a prelude to holiness. Walking in holiness begins with repentance. That being the case, then perhaps we should start thinking about repentance being MORE THAN JUST A SINNER’S TRIP TO AN ALTAR. Maybe we should start thinking about it as a discipline of our faith a lifetime discipline necessary for a holy life. Maybe we should even think of repentance as a daily discipline. Remember, repentance is a prelude for holiness.
Six Characteristics of Genuine Repentance
James 4:7-10 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. B Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
1. Submission to God
2. Resistance of the devil
3. Drawing near to God
4. Cleansing of hands, and purifying the heart
5. Grieving, mourning and weeping
6. Humbling oneself in the sight of the Lord
When we consider all the sinful actions of men, it only tells us one thing and that one thing is that there is an anxious dread of self-reproach and doubt that many face as they approach God’s Word. They are afraid to face their failure, guilt, and sin. This keeps many from approaching God. It is not reasonable to allow the fear of facing ourselves to keep us from hearing the Word preached. It would make as much sense to refuse to see a doctor because you think you may have cancer.
The Bible, and its preaching, compel us to face ourselves. It enables us to see how God views the worst disease of the soul. But the Word does more than expose the fatal diseases of our souls; it offers an alternative way of living. It awakens us to the Great Physician who can cure our sin and bring spiritual healing through granting us the ability to repent as we adopt a new lifestyle. Coming face to face with TRUTH either causes a man to walk away and forget what he really looks like to God or he strives through REPENTANCE to allow God to change the image in the mirror.
Repentance give us the ability to rethink the way we live. Repentance requires an awakening of the mind. God awakened Peter and Cornelius. Both were spoken to in visions from God. It was necessary for them to understand further revelation from God on the subject of salvation. Repentance opens doors to more truth�about God and ourselves.
2 Corinthians 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Carefulness: The word denotes speed, haste diligence, and earnest effort. The implication is that repentance should bring a QUICK response in correcting those things that are wrong and amiss in one’s life. Repentance brings a fast and diligent response from the heart.
The above article, “The Anatomy of Repentance” was written by Elder James Groce. The article was excerpted from the Apostolic Standard Magazine.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.