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Repentance: What is it, and WHY do we need to DO it?

Imagine you are walking down the street of your local city, and you see someone standing on the street corner, yelling out to all who are within range... "Repent, you sinners... or face the damnation of hell fire!"

What would your first thought be upon hearing those words? What would it be telling you? Would hearing such words teach you anything helpful?

We need to know some things about what "repentance" means if we are going to seek God's mind on the subject, and be involved with it...

To make this as concise as possible, we'll just take this in a "WHAT - WHY - WHO - HOW - WHERE" study approach.

WHAT is Repentance?

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Luke 13:3 Christ says, "... except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.

OK... this clearly points out the fact that we are commanded to repent, and if we do not, we WILL perish.

So, the first question we need to ask is: WHAT EXACTLY IS REPENTANCE -


  • Is repentance a one time thing?

  • Is it the same as confessing?

  • Is it the same as penance?


In the New Testament, there are four words that are used to define "repent, repented, repenteth and repentance."

The first word used is translated...

NT:3340 = REPENT/REPENTED = metanoeo (met-an-o-eh'-o); to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction. This is used the largest number of times in the New Testament

Next most used... NT:3341= Repentance = metanoia (met-an'-oy-ah); from NT:3340; (subjectively) compunction (for guilt, including reformation); by implication reversal (of [another's] decision):

Next most used...REPENT/REPENTED = NT:3338 = metamellomai (met-am-el'-lom-ahee); from NT:3326 and the middle voice of NT:3199; to care afterwards, i.e. regret: - repent (self).

Least used = repented NT:278 = ametameletos (am-et-am-el'-ay-tos); from NT:1 (as a negative particle) and a presumed derivative of NT:3338; irrevocable: KJV - without repentance, not to be repented of.

We will be working primarily with the first two definitions because they describe the actual meaning and intent of the words used to define "repent."


  1. to think differently
  2. feel compunction
  3. compunction (for guilt, including reformation
  4. reversal (of [another's] decision)

Great, now we have the actual meaning of this word.

What are we repenting of?

1 John 3:4 Whosoever commits sin transgress also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

We know this is speaking of God's law... More on that later...

So, once again, is repentance a one time thing? Is it the same as CONFESSING, or PENANCE?

I know someone who, in her youth, who would make up sins in order to have something to "confess" to the priest at confession. But, was that true Repentance? Is that what God is looking for?

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

John is speaking to converted church members here, and he clearly states that IF... if they sin, and confess their sin, God is faithful to forgive these sins. Contrary to some beliefs, it IS possible for a Christian to sin, even after baptism and "accepting" Jesus Christ as savior.

Confessing simply BEGINS THE PROCESS OF REPENTANCE, something all humans need to do when sin exists and we are aware of it.

BUT, the next logical question one might ask once we know WHAT repentance is, is "WHY REPENT?"



  • "What? Admit I'm wrong. . .? How am I wrong???"

WHY do we need to repent?

Heb 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Sin is pleasurable... It is easy, fun, something our carnal nature "naturally" seeks to do.

I can recall my beginnings with God's truth. I was excited to finally find what made sense to me, after 9+ years searching for "truth." At that beginning juncture, I believed that Baptism was pretty much the last step in this whole process of discovering truth.

  • I was sorry for things I'd done.
  • I repented of what I saw.
  • I studied God's word

  • I prayed

  • I tried to keep the Sabbath and other commandments as best I knew how once I learned of them...

I believed baptism was the crowning moment in my spiritual development... you know, the Heavens would open... I'd wave to Christ... I found the truth, and now I almost ready, except for baptism. I was ready for the resurrection after that.

Boy did I ever have a rude awakening coming. LITTLE DID I KNOW of what I was in for... AND IT WAS A GOOD THING, TOO!!!

We've all heard of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine in the Arizona Superstition Mountains. Imagine you get the "gold bug" and decided to search for this lost mine. You spend month after month, year after year searching. Suddenly one day you actually fine it. There is it in all its splendor. You can see the actual gold veins running throughout the walls of the mine, with even a few nuggets laying on the ground.

WOW!!! You did it. So, you proceed to set up your tent camp, lay out your lounge chair, pop open your cooler of refreshments, and sit back and enjoy the fact that you found the treasure.

The next day, you continue to marvel and enjoy the fact that you found the gold. You are happy, elated in fact, and you lay back in your lounge chair, again, and enjoy the thought of that treasure.

You do this, day in and day out, happy and content that you found the mine and the gold, and consider yourself rich and "set for life." You rejoice everyday, singing, dancing, rejoicing. You tell all your friends that you found a great treasure. . . but you DON'T DO ANYTHING TO GET THE GOLD AND YOU DON'T USE IT FOR ANYTHING.

Does this make sense to you? Is that how you would handle finding such a vast treasure of gold? Your friends would hear all about this wonderful blessing you claim to have found, but they never see any actual fruit of finding it. No change in your life, no change in your surroundings. You just are happy that you found this great thing, and yet it is actually of NO value to you without DOING SOMETHING WITH IT. Undoubtedly, you would begin immediately to do all you could to dig for that gold, get it out of the mine and refine it in order to be able to USE it in some tangible way, right?

In this way, those you tried to convince that you really did find a treasure would be convinced by your changed and improved lifestyle.

It is the same way with God's truth. It is far greater than any gold mine or ALL gold mines in the world, yet if it is not ACTED upon, it is useless, as we will come to see.

Repentance is part of the treasure God brings forth for us. Unless we know what we need to repent of, and why, we will be wandering in our walk with God, just like we would be useless in obtaining the gold from the mine if we knew nothing about mining or refused to educate ourselves in it.

So, let's look at WHY repentance is something God wants us involved with . . .

turn to Jer 17:9 . . . well known scripture...

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

Not a very good description of our minds, is it? A deceitful and wicked nature is WHAT we ARE if nothing is taking place to make that different... how many people in this world see themselves in this way?

How many of US see ourselves in this light? Just as the gold that is part of the worthless ore in the mine, so, too, is sin a worthless part of our nature. If the gold is not removed from the ore, and purified, it is of no value to anyone.

In Rom 8:7 "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."

NT:2189 = ENMITY = hostility; hatred.

Have you seen this part of YOUR nature? Do you see the ore mixed in with the gold in your life? This is another smack of reality... Our true nature hates God and is hostile toward Him - we are not even SUBJECT to truth and God, and CANNOT BE, without God's help...

Doesn't this mean that there HAS to be something that occurs to make this different?

Repenting means to change. A murderer can be caught... and confesses to the murder... but is this the same as repenting for what he did? Is admitting to a wrong the SAME as repentance?

without God's calling as we know from John 6:44, man's nature cannot even BEGIN TO be changed. But a calling from God is like discovering that gold mine, but it is not all that is necessary in God's plan for us. Having an open mind to understand God's word, and confessing our sins is just the beginning.

In Gen 6:5 - "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

We read those scriptures... but do we include ourselves in them??? Have we ever actually viewed ourselves as wicked and evil, capable of anything?

There's a danger in human nature that can deceive us...

Turn to Luke 18:11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican."

We could add . . . Rapers, murders, thieves, deceivers, liars, unmerciful, vain, self-righteous, unloving, proud, egotistical, selfish, lustful, unjust . . .

This Pharisee could not see himself as God saw him.

How big could we build the list by looking around the world at all that takes place??? How many types of sins are there out there??? There is evil and horrible things everywhere we look... And it is tempting to say... "Yep, those guys out there sure are carnal, evil, corrupt... I"M sure glad I'm not like them . . ." I don't murder, steal, cheat, commit adultery...


I've spoken with and we have all probably heard of people who make claims such as:

"I COULD NEVER DO . . ." You fill in the blank...


I believe, beyond any doubt, that there is NOTHING that I wouldn't or couldn't do in the way of evil, given the right circumstances or events.

If I were in their shoes . . . had their upbringing, lack of love, or whatever brought them to do the horrible things people do, my nature could do the same thing...

The story of Adam and Eve is a good example. Many like to point back to them and blame them for all that mankind has had to endure. many will say, "they" would never had rebelled against God had "THEY" been there in the garden...

This is self deception for anyone who believes such a thing about themselves. The potential for evil pertains to every human being that lives or has ever lived, and if we believe otherwise, IF WE BELIEVE "WE COULD NEVER DO. . ." we are deceiving ourselves and do NOT really understand our own natures and potential for evil... AND we will never really understand what true repentance is.

AND . . . We will never understand more about others in the world, and people's decisions in life.

The danger in our nature is twofold:

  1. Not remembering what that nature IS...

    Turn to James 1:23 "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a mirror; 24 For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. 25 But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."

    Such a good analogy for how our carnal minds work if we are not involved actively with the process of repentance... NOT GUILT... NOT BEATING OURSELVES UP.

    Another danger in our nature . . . (forgetting...first)

  2. not ever TRULY knowing/understanding ourselves OR THAT NATURE, and how to properly deal with it:

    Two types of repentance described in scripture. . .

    2 Cor 7:10 For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.

    How do we distinguish between "worldly sorrow" and "Godly Sorrow?"

    Sorrow = NT:3077 lupe (loo'-pay); sadness: KJV - grief, grievous, grudgingly, heaviness, sorrow.

    No one likes to be wrong. No one likes to do something we recognize as bad. People everywhere have this type of sorrow. It is a common, human kind of sorrow that the carnal mind deals with. Guilt is a form of sorrow... recognition that we messed up or did something wrong...

    HOWEVER, is guilt or sorrow the SAME AS REPENTANCE?

    I was raised Catholic most of childhood till age about age 14. I was taught that confession was going to a priest to tell him the sins I had committed. He would then give me "penance," or a string of "prayers" that were "vain repetition" which Christ taught to NOT do. Penance is a form of the word repentance or to repent... It was the Catholic form of repenting and that "took care of the sin..."CONFESSING ONLY

    For me, my guilt was the penance. It took me quite some time to realize true forgiveness that comes through grace and God's mercy. I would realize I had sinned, confess to God, (more on that later), but then I would feel that I HAD to feel bad, guilty and do some "psychological flogging" of myself for a few days till I could feel that "I" paid enough to "deserve" to be forgiven, and then I could let it go.

    Now, I could have left things right there, "felt forgiven" and then just gone on to do the same things over and over again... let myself suffer for a while and be over it... But would THAT be TRUE repentance?

    No, that is worldly sorrow... and accomplishes nothing. It is, in fact, a slap in the face of Christ's sacrifice, and Satan's way of negating that sacrifice and it's real power in human lives.Unless we truly know what repentance is, we shamefully ignore that sacrifice, and play Satan's game which leaves us unchanged - unrefined.

    Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

    People don't like to read such scriptures as the one above. We are oftentimes taught that is we are close to God, we will prosper and not have real problems, and that if we DO have trials, we are somehow not right with God and God is punishing us. If we look back on our life from day one of our awareness of being called, do we see "tribulation?" Do we see this life as a burden... is there really tribulation taking place, or is our life pretty calm, cool and collected?

    Is the tribulation we might see JUST "out there" somewhere... the world we have to deal with hammering on us??? Do we actually see any tribulation... and struggle within, any real battle going on "in our minds???"

    If we don't, what could this be telling us about our actual spiritual state of being?

    Rev 3:17 Because you say, I am rich , and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that you art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

    The Laodiceans, essentially view themselves as being sinless. They are content with their relationship with God and their state of being, and yet, they are completely oblivious to their true spiritual condition. This spirit or attitude actually exists today in many forms. Is this how we view ourselves? Do we battle like Paul mentions in Romans 7, long after he was called?

    Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

    Paul speaks very clearly about this battle between his carnal mind and his new mind that is lead by Christ's spirit. although Paul speaks of not having the personal strength to win this battle, he knows where that strength comes from, and he portrays the vital awareness that we ALL should have of this struggle. He also, in countless scriptures, teaches that we are to continue the fight to the very end, as Christ taught that we were to endure to the end.

    Today, there are many leading people to believe that "grace is all that is needed for salvation" or that universal salvation is the true nature of things. The "grace alone" or universal salvation concepts remove the actual need for repentance or change to be occurring in the process of salvation. It is a Satanic facade created to give people a false sense of security and comfort, while chaining them from achieving the spiritual development God requires.

    2 Cor 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that youreceive not the grace of God in vain.

    How can grace be received IN VAIN, if it is all that someone needs, and we need it only once? People can actually receive grace, and yet, if they do nothing with their treasure (God's spirit) they can receive the grace that will be meaningless in their life because they choose to REMAIN dirty, unpurified and unchanged.

    2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

    Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

    Growing in grace... finding grace??? means there's MORE to the equation. You don't just receive grace once for all, just like finding that treasure and doing nothing. You have to be a doer.

    Heb 12:4 You have not yet resisted to blood , striving against sin.

    Now think about this: how many of us have EVER fought against sin in our lives so hard and so diligently that we gave up some of our own blood in the process?

    • What does this tell us of how God thinks about sin?

    • How bad is sin?

    • How important is it to deal with it?

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    Sin, in God's eyes, is SO bad that it claimed the life of the only other being in the universe like Himself. THAT'S how much God hates sin and THAT'S how much WE should hate sin...

    • Do we see sin in that light?

    • Do we hate sin that much?

    • Do we take sin that seriously, that it claimed the life of Christ.

    It IS possible that we can die for our own sins... we can personally pay the penalty for every sin we have committed. Do you know HOW we can do this? By not repenting, (CHANGING) and then paying the death penalty in our own stead, NEVER TO LIVE AGAIN!!!

    We've looked at What repentance is, Why we must repent, and now we need to know WHO? Who Repents - and To Whom?

    Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    Every human alive has sinned and will sin. It is our nature and what we have to learn NOT to do by being changed by God's hands. But, WHO do we repent TO?

    Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

    1. Sin is AGAINST God. It is against His nature and whole being. It counters His nature and His eternal goals and we must be moving in that same direction. Keeping in mind that God is leading us somewhere in all this, we should be focusing on WHAT HE WANTS FROM US.

    2. However, we can also sin in dealing with our fellow man:

    Matt 5:23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

    Sin affects our relationship with both God and man... Our eternity is based on relationships with both God and mankind...The only two things we take with us is our character, and our relationships with others... and both these either last forever, or they cease forever...

    Now to How does one repent?

    Rom 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

    This is another study of itself, getting into our calling, but we know that without this leading, repentance is NOT possible for anyone on this earth. I think there is one scripture that is the biggest focus for me on what repentance means and how it occurs:

    Matt 16:24 Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

    Deny = NT:533 aparneomai (ap-ar-neh'-om-ahee); from NT:575 and NT:720; to deny utterly, disown, abstain:

    Questions here:

    • How does one DENY HIMSELF?


    • How does "SAVING YOUR LIFE" lead to losing it?

    • How does "LOSING YOUR LIFE" lead to "FINDING IT?"

    • How does "GAINING THE WHOLE WORLD" relate to NOT denying yourself, NOT "TAKING UP YOUR CROSS," and lead to you "LOSING YOUR OWN LIFE?"

    Isn't ignoring the self, ignoring sin, ignoring the "WHY" we should repent or change, "SAVING YOUR LIFE?"

    Isn't "LOSING YOUR LIFE for Christ's sake" the same as

    Resisting, fighting self and surrendering self to God for change to take place?

    Isn't "DENYING THE SELF" the same as saying NO to sin and turning against it EVEN AGAINST SELF DESIRE to obey sin?We are confronted with sin...

    We know we shouldn't do it...

    We really WANT to do it...

    But we, in believing God that it is NOT good for us, we deny ourselves and DON'T DO IT. This process of denying the self is where the change comes in... God's power working with our self-will and helps remove the sinful desires and brings us to be less carnal and more Godly...Example: Sabbath and gun show... Denied self...

    That seemingly constant pull, that unrelenting or reoccurring stuff we HATE in our lives... THAT HAS TO BE DESTROYED. It is ANY aspect of our lives that is contrary to God and His word...

    Giving up the self... desires... etc... getting rid of self = more of God's nature. Sacrificing self... crucified self... What is this "CROSS" Christ speaks of?

    • Isn't it sin?

    • Isn't it our nature?

    • Isn't it the knowledge of sin and the battle with it?

    • Isn't it being willing to carry the burden of overcoming sin, fighting it, enduring it as we grow and develop?What do we have to help us with repentance...???

    In learning HOW to repent, we have some tools to use, each one being a study in and of itself:

    Prayer - Seeking God's mind on sin

    • Asking for a greater realization of sin

    • A sking for the power to see sin, and to overcome it. . . How did David view sin?

      Ps 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.David is not only concerned about the sins he sees . . .

      Ps 19:12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse me from secret faults.

      How many of us have sins we don't yet even see? Isn't that the way it goes??? Coming to see the sin, doing battle with it and overcoming it?

      Ps 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

      David is speaking to God... he understood the impact sin has in his life . . . and is asking God to reveal and cleanse him from the sins he cannot yet see and to prove his makeup.

    Bible Study

      That's what we are doing here... to try to learn more about how God views sin and to seek THAT mindset against it...

      Knowing God's mind about what He expects from us can only come from knowing what scriptures say to us.

      All the action words throughout the bible... directly tied to salvation... overcome, endure, resist, fight, study, pray, repent, conform, examine, submit, humble ourselves...

      This doesn't even hint of "grace alone."


      This is always good, especially when we are really doing battle against a sin or weakness... fasting empowers us, and is another way we can deny ourselves and put God above our own desires.

      -Fasting doesn't have to be strictly no food and water... Just food, as some scriptures indicate.

      -Doesn't have to be strictly 24 hours every fast we do, but if we fast only once a year, what are we losing in the way of understanding? How are we losing this tool's ability to help us grow?


      Next to prayer, for me, this is probably the most beneficial means of coming to see things and understand things about myself and about scriptures.

      God leads us to truth, but we have to consider what we see, and ask for discernment from God.

      Meditation means to take time to consider things. Consider God's word. Compare ourselves with God's mind...

      1 Cor 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

      Examination MUST include meditation on how we match God's word in our daily living.


      - we need each other... being able to converse about God and His way with like-minded people is very valuable...

      Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. (There's Meditation again...)

      James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that youmay be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

      Now, I don't believe this is saying we have to reveal every dark little secret we have or do battle with, but we can sure share the fact that we ARE doing battle with something in particular and for others to pray for us...

    Finally, WHERE does repentance take us?

    Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

    Rom 8:29 "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son , that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."

    Gal 4:19 "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..."

    How can this end result occur if there is no change taking place in us?

    -Unity of the faith . . .

    -Unity of the knowledge . . . Not knowledge about Christ, but HIS VERY knowledge that will bring us TO Christ's fullness.

    2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these youmight be partakers of the divine nature , having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

    A sinless, perfect nature . . .

    Ultimately . . .

    Rom 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

    Where we are going should be clear to all of us... it should be our motivation, our drive, our reason for existence...

    You'll notice I left out one aspect of repentance...

    WHEN??? EVERY DAY... IT IS A WAY OF LIFE... Part of the job...

    So, finally, what is Repentance???

    Repentance is a way of life . . . AWAY from a carnal, Satanic mind and toward the mind and thoughts of God that we have access to every minute of every day...

    -It is acknowledging what we are without God - seeing ourselves for what we really are.

    -It is realizing our true selves and how badly we need forgiveness and God's power to change.

    -It is overcoming, fighting the good fight, resisting, submitting . . . CHANGING, willingly, against self desire, in faith, applying what God tells us, regardless of how we may feel about it ourselves.

    If we feel anything contrary to God's word, WHO DO YOU THINK IS WRONG???



    that will mean being a true child of God and being resurrected to spirit life for all eternity

    Repentance is more than sorrow, more than simply saying I'm sorry." It involves doing, submitting to God's leading, molding and refining, denying self... and taking up the fight to overcome that self desire that is contrary to God!!!

    Web pages created and material written by Jeffrey T. Maehr. Common Law Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. Reproduction allowed if credit to this website is listed with material. Off site material and some articles authored as stated.