Many people believe repentance is when you feel sorrow, guilt, or shame for sin; but this is not repentance. The Bible says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). If one is only sorry he got caught, then this will not lead to repentance. Godly sorrow helps bring on repentance. Repentance is not sorrow for sin, but one cannot repent without being sorry he has sinned. “Let the wicked forsake his way…let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him…for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). In repentance, one must first understand he has sinned, feel sorrow for the sin, and then stop and turn away from that sin.
“Truly, the times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). All people are commanded to repent. It is not possible for anyone, except our Lord, to live a sin-free life, but this is no excuse for our sinning. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We also read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” It is God’s goodness that should lead us to repentance. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Paul says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2). To show our repentance we are to “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Why should we repent of sins? “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:3). Spiritual death is separation from God in eternity. Jesus says, “I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Unless one repents he cannot go to Heaven, but will eternally suffer the torments of Hell. We must give up our sin and “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12).
If one is an alien sinner then he must, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). But if one is a child of God who has sinned then he must, “Repent of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). We must repent before we ask God to forgive us. Our repentance also includes our confessing our sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes his sin shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Repentance is a change of heart, which results in a change of actions for the better. Without repentance we cannot receive forgiveness and be saved. Where we spend eternity, in Heaven or Hell, is determined by our repentance. All of Heaven is anxious for us to repent. Jesus says, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).