The Heart of True Repentance

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Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer…But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.

Exodus 9:27-28, 34-35

Repentance is the ultimate evidence of salvation. It is the purest fruit of the believer’s heart. Without it, there is no true indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Salvation belongs to the repentant alone. Jesus said it very clearly in Luke 13:3,5

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

What does it mean to repent? The word repent in the Greek is metanoeó — it means literally to changes one’s mind or to change one’s thinking. The way the word is used throughout the Bible is the action of changing allegiance. An unbeliever is a slave to sin, and when the unbeliever, by the grace of God, places his faith in Christ, they repent of their sin and the way they think of God has now changed. Their minds that were once darkened are now awakened and brought into the light of Christ. The God that was once hated is now loved and obeyed. The message of the cross that was once foolishness to the lost is now the repentant believer’s joy and hope.

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The heart that is truly repentant is sorrowful over sin. Their heart is broken by sin. Yet do not be deceived, there are two types of sorrow according to scripture:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Cor 7:10

A person can feel regret over sin for many reasons. They can feel the regret of sins consequences, whether it’s a husband losing a wife to an adultery, or a Pastor losing a ministry for being overbearing. A child feels sad when they are caught stealing cookies. Many a person can be just like Pharaoh, who was only sorry for the harm his sin was bringing on his own kingdom. When the consequences had subsided, he went right back to his wicked ways. 

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What then is true repentance? I believe King David himself shows us the heart of true repentance when he says,

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.

Psalm 51:4

A repentant heart toward God is not sorry for the loss of status, wealth, or relationships. Genuine, godly repentance is sorrowful over sin for God’s sake. As I mentioned earlier, repentance is the change of one’s mind toward God. When we see the cross of Christ and are reminded of the pain that Christ bore for our sins, the truly repented sinner will mourn for Christ sake. The sinner whose mind has been renewed by the Spirit of God by the power of God’s word will seek God above all things. That change in mind toward God instills a desire in us for God. No one can truly desire God and not see a change in behavior. The desire for God and trusting in Christ is the direct work of the Holy Spirit and He will not fail to bring about the fruit of repentance (1 Cor 12:3).

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True repentance is also lasting:

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You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

John 15:16

Oh sinner, will you repent today? Will you turn from your sins and see the beauty of God? Saint, have you forgotten the Lord your God? Have you been too busy in cares of this world that you have forgotten how God hates sin? Believe on Christ and repent of your sins. Hate the sin and love the Savior.

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