Key Verse: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
What is repentance? It certainly is not a popular word or even a common word in today’s vocabulary. Most people would describe repentance as being sorry for something or having remorse for some past action. The Biblical definition of repentance goes further than remorse. Bob Dylan once said, “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”
The world is full of people living in regret for past actions, some have even been crushed by their bad choices and vowed never to make the same mistake again. Nevertheless, feeling sorry, having remorse and even promising never to repeat that bad action still falls short of the Bible’s teaching on repentance.
Biblical repentance begins with an internal change, not an external action. The Hebrew word (נָחַם, nacham) for repent has the sense of an inward feeling of complete surrender. We see it in Isaiah’s deep inner sigh in Isaiah 6:5, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
C.S. Lewis commented: “Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means undergoing a kind of death.”
One of the simplest definitions of “repentance” has to do with turning (away) from something, but it’s vital to consider what that something is and what is that alternative direction. If repentance is to have any impact, it means we must turning away from self and turning toward God.
Biblical repentance is a deep change of the heart. It only happens when we consider God’s true holiness and consequently like Isaiah become broken, unable to tolerate our own sinful nature and willing to die to self.