God is longing for His children to turn back to truth and be united with Him. Throughout this study on repentance, I was continuously awestruck by God’s incredible mercy for us. When we sin, God does not desire for us to stay away like a cowering child, afraid of punishment, instead He desires us to abandon our sinful nature by seeking Him fervently in revelation and understanding.
In this article, we will cover three main points the Lord highlighted and pray this blesses you with greater understanding of the power and process of repentance.
1. God desires repentance.
“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.”
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV); Luke 5:32 (NKJV)
All throughout the Bible the prophets were sent by God to preach repentance: Moses, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, John the Baptist, and so on. The twelve Apostles were sent out to preach repentance (Mark 6:12). In the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, Jesus continues to exhort the Churches to repentance (Rev 2:5, 2:16); even in the end times God is longing for His people to turn to Him! Throughout the Bible we see God giving His people the opportunity to repent by revealing their sins and exhorting them to change through the teaching of His Word.
From the above examples, we can clearly see that God’s desire is for us to turn from our sin and be united with Him. If you’re still not convinced, let us see what the Early Church Fathers say about repentance:
After all these things, Christ still receives His own murderers—if they will be converted and come to Him. . . . He closes His church to no one. . . . Even he who has shed Christ’s blood can be made alive by Christ’s blood! How great is the patience of Christ. Had it not been so great, the church would never have possessed Paul as an apostle. Cyprian, ANF Vol 5, Treatise 9
Wow… what a statement! I had to stop and re-read this a couple of times to really receive the gravity of what is being said. In God’s mercy and love for us, He made a way for even Jesus’s own murderers to be saved through repentance. If this doesn’t tell us of God’s unending mercy and love, I don’t know what will.
Clement of Alexandria, a second-century father of the Church, made the following encouraging statement:
God welcomes the repentance of the sinner, for He loves the repentance that follows sins. For this Word of whom we speak alone is sinless. For to sin is natural and common to all. But to return [to God] after sinning is characteristic not of any man, but only of a man of worth. Clement of Alexandria, “Instructor” ANF Vol 2, Book 3, Ch XII
Notice how Clement mentions character and compares a man of godly character (virtue) as being one that repents after sinning.
Lastly, Lactantius, a fourth-century Early Church Father, exhorts us to come out of even the deepest pit of despair, through true repentance.
Let no one be disheartened. Let no one despair concerning himself if he has turned aside to the way of unrighteousness because he was overcome by passion, impelled by desire, deceived by error, or compelled by force. For it is possible for such a one to be brought back and to be set free. It is possible if he repents of his actions and makes satisfaction to God, turning to better things. Lactantius, ANF Vol 7, Ch XXIV
2. Repentance is a process.
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.”
“Bring forth therefore fruits befitting for repentance:”Acts 3:19; Matthew 3:8
Repentance isn’t simply a confession of sin, but a change of mind. The word for ‘repent’ in Greek is ‘Metanoeo’, which means “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins”.  The word ‘converted’ in Greek is ‘Epistrepho’ and means to return, to bring back to the love and obedience of God, and to love wisdom and righteousness. 
How many times have we said sorry, only to repeat the same mistake over again? That is not true repentance according to Scripture. True repentance requires a change of our thoughts and a change in our actions, imitating Christ. Notice above in Matthew 3:8, the Word says to bring forth fruit suitable for repentance. This means that the sign of true repentance is a change in our character.
John Chrysostom makes the point that abstaining from sin is not enough; we also have to develop virtue and that virtue is what is going to replace the desire for the sin within us.
For to flee from wickedness is not enough, but you must show forth also great virtue. For let me not have that contradictory yet ordinary case, that refraining yourselves for a little while, you return unto the same wickedness. For we are not come for the same objects as the prophets before. Nay, the things that are now are changed, and are more exalted, forasmuch as the Judge henceforth is coming, His very self, the very Lord of the kingdom, leading unto greater self-restraint, calling us to heaven, and drawing us upward to those abodes. For this cause do I unfold the doctrine also touching hell, because both the good things and the painful are for ever. Do not therefore abide as you are, neither bring forward the accustomed pleas, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the noble race of your ancestors.
And these things he said, not as forbidding them to say that they were sprung from those holy men, but as forbidding them to put confidence in this, while they were neglecting the virtue of the soul; at once bringing forward publicly what was in their minds, and foretelling things to come. Because after this they are found to say, We have Abraham to our father, and were never in bondage to any man. John 8:33 Since then it was this, which most of all lifted them up with pride and ruined them, he first puts it down. John Chrysostom, The Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Vol 1
Clement of Alexandria sums up true repentance very simply:
True repentance means to be no longer bound in the same sins for which He denounced death against Himself. Rather, it is to eradicate them completely from the soul. For on their extirpation, God takes up His abode again in you. Clement of Alexandria, ANF Vol 2, “Rich Man” Ch XXXIX
3. True repentance leads to salvation.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”2 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV)
The above Scripture clearly tells us that without repentance there is no salvation. 2 Peter 3:9 quoted earlier in this article, also clearly tells us that repentance is necessary for salvation. We cannot expect to spend eternity with God if we haven’t gone through the repentance process and healing of our soul.
Repentance is the price for which the Lord has determined to award pardon. . . . Sellers first examine the coin with which they make their bargains to see if it is cut, scraped, or counterfeit. Likewise, we believe that the Lord, when about to grant us such costly merchandise—eternal life—first tests our repentance. Tertullian, ANF Vol 3 “On Repentance” Ch VI
Tertullian makes a weighty statement, that repentance is the price we pay for eternal life. Why does he call it a ‘price’? Because it is an exchange of value; Satan’s virtue (anger, lust, jealousy, pride, etc) for the virtue of God (love, joy, peace, patience, etc). It is an exchange of the sin nature that’s so ingrained in us, for the nature of Christ, and that often hurts to do so, especially if we feel entitled to hold on to it. It is also called “a price” because repentance requires a work of labour on our behalf, a constant pressing and continuously putting to death the mindsets and actions that are contrary to the Lord. We need to be consistently vigilant with our soul and the thoughts, speech and actions that arise from within.
Hermas encourages those going through the process of repentance, and briefly explains the labor we must persist in:
Repentance is great wisdom. For he who has sinned understands that he acted wickedly in the sight of the Lord. He remembers the actions he has done, and he repents. He no longer acts wickedly, but he does good generously. He humbles and torments his soul because he has sinned. Hermas, “The Pastor” Book Second Ch II
In closing, if we could have the option to be truly free of something, wouldn’t we want to be free of it? Here at The Voice of Healing, we are blessed beyond measure to receive the revelation necessary to bring healing to our souls, so that we can truly walk out our repentance. I thank God for this process of repentance and that by the end of it we will have His nature and won’t have to worry about ‘trying not’ to sin again.
I pray that through reading this article and further studying yourself, you are able to see the necessity in true repentance and the heart of God in wanting us to come back to Him, no matter how far we have fallen.
(1) Cyprian, ANF Vol 5, Treatise 9
(2) Clement of Alexandria, “Instructor” ANF Vol 2, Book 3, Ch XII
(3) Lactantius, ANF Vol 7, Ch XXIV
(4) Thayer’s Dictionary definition for G3340
(5) Thayer’s Dictionary definition for G1994
(6) John Chrysostom, The Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Vol 1
(7) Clement of Alexandria, ANF Vol 2, “Rich Man” Ch XXXIX
(8) Tertullian, ANF Vol 3 “On Repentance” Ch VI
(9) Hermas, “The Pastor” Book Second Ch II
All scripture from NKJV unless otherwise stated.