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True Repentance

Repentance is one of the most fundamental and critical concepts within the Bible. As found in both the Old and New Testaments, it was also a requirement to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus, Himself said when He started His ministry to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15). 

Today, there are many different views on what it means to truly repent. Some believe it means telling God you’re sorry for breaking His commandments, or confessing all your sins to Jesus and believing in Him; others say it means confessing all your sins to a Priest or spiritual leader. 

The truth is, how you view repentance will determine your walk and relationship with the Lord, both in this life and the life to come. While this might be an uncomfortable topic for many, Jesus said no one is exempt from this, that all must repent or perish (Luke 13:1-5). 

One of the Hebrew words for repent, nāḥam, means to regret and to be sorrowful for an action. (1) Thus showing that repentance involves a person to feel remorse and regret for the actions of sinning against God. Sin itself is a whole topic of its own, but it involves a violation against the commandments of God, or a ‘missing of the mark/target (2). We will dive deeper a little later in this article regarding the topic of sin.

The Apostle Paul makes mention that godly sorrow is what leads us to salvation, but also that ungodly sorrow in a person can lead to death. While acknowledging our sins and feeling remorse towards them is good in the sight of the Lord (Psalm 32:5), He doesn’t want us to walk around beating ourselves up over mistakes we have made. This is a place of torment that is not at all fruitful.

​​2 Corinthians 7:9, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

2 Corinthians 7:10, For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

In the Old Testament, the message of the prophets was always to get the people to repent, or turn away from sin/transgressions and lawlessness – the breaking of the commandments (Eze 14:6; Eze 18:30; Jon 3). This shows that repentance involves acknowledging sin against God, and also to turn away from sin. 

We see examples of this in Scripture with the woman caught in adultery when she was told by Jesus to ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11). Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, upon receiving Jesus, vowed to make things right with anyone he wronged financially (Luke 19:1-10). The people in Nineveh repented upon hearing the Prophet Jonah’s message of repentance (Jonah 3).

When King David sinned against God after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, he repented to the Lord. He asked God to wash him thoroughly from iniquity, cleanse him of his sin (Psalm 51:2-3) and create in him a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).

To the ancient Hebrews, the heart was seen as the seat of thought and emotion, the mind (3), and also known as the conscience (4). Most people know the conscience to be an inner feeling, or that little voice inside their mind that tells them what is right and wrong. We see this depicted visually in the Disney movie Pinocchio where a cricket is given the task of teaching Pinocchio, a wooden puppet, how to distinguish between good and evil, so that one day he will become a real boy.

The Greek word conscience, suneídēsis, is defined as a knowing of oneself or consciousness; that faculty of the soul which distinguishes between right and wrong and prompts one to choose the former and avoid the latter (5). David, in a state of repentance, was crying out for God to clean his mind, or conscience. 

Repentance is more than just changing one’s actions; lying, cheating, stealing, and murder are all results of how a person thinks. Jesus said it isn’t enough just to refrain from murdering someone, but not even to be angry with a brother (Mat 5:21-26). Nor is one to just refrain from committing adultery, but that by even looking at someone and lusting after them, one has committed adultery in their heart (Mat 5:27-28). 

This shows the importance of the cleansing of the mind as sin first starts within the mind! We see this when with Cain, who was jealous and angry of his brother before murdering him (Gen 4), and again with king David, when he lusted after a married woman before commiting adultery with her (2Sam 11). John says that all unrighteousness is in sin (1Jn 5:17); yet, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness (1Jn 1:9). 

The Greek word for unrighteousness, adikia, means moral wrongfulness of character (6). Character is the way a person thinks, feels or behaves (7). John also says that all unrighteousness is sin, which further emphasizes the need to be cleansed into righteousness, which is a correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting (8).

Without sugarcoating it, the truth is – without repentance from sin, there is no salvation. Repentance is not just saying sorry, but a renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2) and a change in one’s actions. 

God’s Word is what washes us (Eph 5:26) because it is what brings us out of ignorance. His Word shows us how to overcome our sins, but it also involves letting go, or dying to our old ways of thinking. Just as the Apostle Paul says:

Ephesians 4:21, “If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Ephesians 4:22, that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,

Ephesians 4:23, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

Ephesians 4:24, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (NKJV)

If you are struggling with things in your life, if you’re sick and tired of yourself, tired of struggling, tired of leaning on your own understanding, tired of how you think, or act, then take heart in God’s promise to change your circumstances when you repent or turn back to Him! 

2 Chronicles 7:14, “And My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.” (AMP)


  1. Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible (Strongs Number H5162) 
  2. Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible (Strong’s Number H2399)
  3. Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible (Strong’s number H3820)
  4. Brown-Driver-Briggs Definition (Strong’s number H3820)
  5. Thayer’s Definition (Strong’s Number G4893).
  6. Strong’s Definition (Strong’s Number G93)
  8. Thayer’s Definition (Strong’s Number: G1343)

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