What does repent mean in the Bible?
If we read the Bible, we will notice that God calls us to repent.
Luke 5:32 [NKJV]
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
But what does it mean to repent according the Bible?
It means that you leave what God prohibits and return what He commands. It means that you have remorse, and seek forgiveness and atonement, the needed reconciliation between God and us. Furthermore, after shown remorse, have a strong urge to abandon those wrong doings, turn our back on it and strive to not do it again.
The Hebrew word “teshuva” (תשובה, pronounced “teh-shoo-vah”) is translated as repentance, but it means a lot more than just a feeling of regret. It means ‘to return”.
Repentance does not just mean ‘to be sorry’. It is not just an action or words, but rather a feeling. It is not only a state of mind, but a decision. That means that you turn away from sin and move back toward God.
Repentance in the Bible
Changing your ways changes God’s judgement.
When we move away from our sinful ways, stop living in darkness, and decide to move into the light, God draws us closer to Himself.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
It means to turn away from sin, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Teshuva means to constantly make the decision to return to God, not just being sorry and apologizing once. It is continuous decision to return to God and except His grace and receive a new beginning.
During repentance, we are transformed. It is not just an apology or a confession. Regret is only one step of ‘teshuva’.
What is Repentance?
It means more than just saying sorry, to repent means to change your mindset, to change your way of thinking, to change your way of feeling and being to leave the sin and refuse it. It means transformation and returning to the original plan of God. That is, to obey Him, consult with Him, live with Him, and have fellowship with Him.
So, you recognize your own wrongdoing, and return to God, face Him, and deny your own desires.
You show remorse, but it also means that you choose a path away from that sin. It is a path of reconciliation with God, and a path of freedom.
God expects more than just a sacrifice, He desires loyalty and faithfulness.
For I desire [a]mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
More than a sacrifice
FOOTNOTE: ([a] the word is translated from the Hebrew word ‘chesed’, which means loyalty and faithfulness. It is two very important requirements in a covenant relationship with God.)
King David writes in Psalm 51:16-17
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. [NKJV]
The prophet Jeremiah brought the word of God to the people, saying:
Jeremiah 7:21-23 [NKJV]
21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’
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In 1 Samuel 15: 22-23, the prophet Samuel spoke to Saul, saying:
22 So Samuel said:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of [a]witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.”
Footnote: [a] Rebellion = bitterness and divination = sorcery.
God is looking for humble, obedient servants who will remain loyal to Him throughout eternity. Faith is undying loyalty and trust and obedience Him under any circumstance.
When to repent
We must understand that it not too late to repent, although Satan will pressure you into believing that it is too late to repent. He will convince you that you are too sinful to appear before God and that the sin you have committed is far too great to be forgiven. Satan will keep trying to convince you every single day that you are not good enough to appear before God, and that your sin is too shameful. Do not submit to that thought. The thought is not yours but given to you by Satan.
The truth is, according to the Bible, it is not too late to repent. I will not say that it is never too late, because when you die, it is too late. But you must not believe that you cannot go to God now for something that happened in the past.
God’s gift of grace
God is always willing to forgive. It is a gift. But we must accept that gift.
If we read the story of the prodigal son, we see that God will always take you back, just like the father took back his lost son.
BUT, we need to return to God. Just like the father took back his son, God will pour out His love.
However, throughout Jesus’ ministry, He healed a great number of people, but there is one thing that stands out in all of the stories.
Jesus said, “Teshuva”
He said that to the woman who was to be stoned to death for committing adultery.
John 8:3–11 NKJV
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Jesus healed a man who has been sick for along time and could not walk. Jesus healed him.
John 5:14 NKJV
14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
Jesus clearly knew what sin caused the illness. Jesus said to him,” sin no more”.
All the people Jesus met, and healed, were forgiven by grace, but were also given an instruction. “Teshuva”. Turn away from sin and return to Me.
When Jesus said, “Teshuva”, He did not mean that we will be completely sinless. He warned them not to return to the sinful lifestyle they have led. He warns them to think and make different choices. His words not only extend mercy, but also demands holiness.
John 1:14 NKJV
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus is the perfect balance between grace and truth. When forgiven, it is expected of us to turn away from sin and stop our rebellion.
John 14:15 NKJV
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.“
Those who know God’s love, will naturally strive to obey Him.
Repent and return to God
To return to God requires more that just a feeling of remorse, or courage. It takes faith.
First, believe that you belong to God and you are saved by His grace through the sacrifice Jesus made for you on the cross.
In Mark 5, we read of the woman who was healed when she touched Jesus’ robe.
Luke 17, tells the story of ten lepers wo were healed. In both instances, Jesus said, “your faith has healed you”.
What does repent mean in the Bible?
We are not expected to fix our mistakes before we turn to God with our sins. We are not expected to fix our sins before we can be forgiven. What we must know is that we must FIRST TURN TO GOD.
The first step is to return to God in faith. We must return to God and accept His mercy.
Then repent your sins; declare your sins to God, ask for forgiveness, then ask for strength and courage to resist the temptation to commit that sin again.
What is grace?
Grace is provided by God for the times we do sin. However, it is important to know that we must steer away from deliberate sin.
The Bible says that we cannot be saved by living by the laws (Torah) alone, but can only be saved by grace. We need to do our best to live according to the laws in the Bible every day.
When we do fail, there is grace. The Bible, the written Word of God, clearly tells us to repent.
I once heard someone say, “it is better to ask for forgiveness later than to ask for permission now.”
WOW! Think about that statement for a second…
Does that sound Biblical to you?
You may just as well say, “Father, please forgive me for I am about to sin”.
The Bible tells us that it is not what repent means.
Deliberate sin has a price
Ask God to forgive you for your deliberate sins. Ask Him to help you to steer away from those sins, and have the courage to refuse those sins.
Yes, this also applies to addictions.
We are expected to read the Bible to get to know God’s character and what He expects from us, then we will better understand what sin is and how to repent.
Jesus is calling you to repentance today. The Father is waiting for you to return.
He is waiting for you in love, just like in the parable if the prodigal son.