The title of this post implies that there is a kind of repentance that is not genuine. Sadly, this counterfeit repentance is rampant in many gospel presentations and in the belief of many today. This is devastating because counterfeit repentance is of no value.
I have heard many people “lead” individuals to Christ by telling them they are sinners, getting them to admit their sinners, and then to simply ask them to pray a prayer of asking Jesus into their hearts, and then their told, “you’re now saved!” What about repentance?
Some might go a little deeper and call for people to be sorry for their sin, or even to stop sinning. But is this repentance genuine? In this post I would like to consider the components of genuine repentance.
Genuine repentance involves the use of one’s intellect, emotions and volition. Or to put it another way, repentance will involve action from the head, heart, and hands.
Recognition of Personal Sin
This first component of the repentance involves the intellect. When one sins and repents, the individual is to recognise that what they have done is sin. This is the thought process of understanding that what was done by the individual is an actual sin and therefore it is a transgression against God. The temptation is for people to persuade themselves that was done was not actually sin. Genuine repentance will include the recognition of personal sin.
Remorse for Personal Sin
Once somebody truly recognises that what he or she has done is sinful, the true process of repentance leads to remorse for his or her personal sin. This remorse involves an actual sorrow and regret for the transgression. This remorse occurs because the individual is persuaded in their mind that they sinned. This genuine kind of remorse is called “godly grief” (2 Cor. 7:9-10) in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Counterfeit repentance may involve grief, but it is nothing more than a “worldly grief” (2 Cor. 7:10).
Repulsion of Personal Sin
The next emotional (or internal) component is a repulsion of personal sin. This involves an intense hatred and disgust of the sin committed. This hatred is fuelled by the passion and desire to be holy as the Lord is holy. The holiness of God unmasks the sin for what it is. As the repentant individual’s eyes are firmly fixed upon the Lord, their love for Him results in a hatred of the sin. Counterfeit repentance doesn’t hate the sin because it is against the Holy character of God; they hate the sin because somehow it hasn’t satisfied their selfish desire.
Renouncing of Personal Sin
The fourth component is one of volition. It is the renouncing of personal sin. This is the act of renouncing and turning from the sin. Once this act of sin occurs, the individual pursues that which is according to the will of God (cf. Titus 2:12). It is the practical action of casting the sinful behaviour aside so as to walk in the will of God.
Repentance is a great gift that God grants a sinner and is practiced throughout the life of a believer. Let us be faithful to Scripture in our presentation and practice of the doctrine of repentance.