Repentance can be confusing. Is it to be simply be sorry for sin? To try harder next time? To never sin again? The Bible is clear on the importance of repentance (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30). So, it is crucial to know what repentance is and what it looks like.
Essentially, to repent is to turn away from sin and to turn to God and trust in the gospel. It involves the altering of both the inward emotions of the mind and heart and the outward actions of the body. There are many vital elements in repentance, and throughout the Bible we see a clear picture of repentance.
Recognition of Sin
“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” (Psalm 51:3-4).
When you realize you are a sinner and you see your need for a Savior, you’ll then come to the point of recognizing your sin. This is to confess your sin to God and ask for forgiveness. To recognize and confess your sin is to do what David did in Psalm 51: admit that you sinned against God and agree with Him that you are guilty. In addition to recognizing your sin, you are to also recognize the remedy for it—the cross of Jesus Christ.
Remorse for Sin
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
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In repentance, Paul says that godly grief should occur. To have godly grief is to have remorse for sin, which is to show deep sorrow and regret over sinning against God. When this occurs, you will be “grieved into repenting.” And because it is a godly grief—a grief that doesn’t just acknowledge wrongdoing, but also admits crime and offense against God—it produces repentance that leads to salvation, for it leads to a confession of sin and an acceptance of the gospel. Remorse for sin is sour, but it leads to the sweetness of the gospel.
“Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” – Thomas Watson