What does repentance mean?

Repentance is a big Bible word that sometimes we think of as feeling sorry, bad, guilty, shame, and much of that is a misunderstanding of repentance. We ultimately have a misunderstanding of repentance because we see want to see ourselves as perfect people that sometimes make mistakes.

When we are wrapped up in perfection repentance of any kind becomes very difficult because we are working and trying so hard to maintain our image of perfection. It creates this constant pressure we live under. We are afraid we might disappoint God. We are afraid we might let someone down. If we are honest with ourselves many of us struggle with this skewed repentance because deep down we want to be perfect. We live under constant duress that every offense, every sin, every conflict is traumatic, unnatural, and horribly threatening because someone or ourselves might find out that we aren’t perfect. If we do finally admit fault then we beat ourselves up, tell ourselves we should have done better, wring our hands and emotions and tell ourselves that it won’t happen again. We think this is repentance, but this is a misunderstanding of repentance.


A gospel understanding of repentance accepts we aren’t perfect, we are broken, hurting people and we are going to mess up sometimes. We don’t need to prove our remorse to God with guilt and shame, but simply accept it and receive the benefits of Christ’s work on the cross. A gospel understanding of repentance believes when Jesus died on the cross it was enough. The gospel doesn’t beat us down and we simply receive His grace.

Is there remorse, sadness, and brokenness in our repentance? Yes. But the heart motive isn’t to win back the approval of God so that He will accept us to know that we are truly sorry, but it is ultimately turn our hearts toward joy because as we see our shame, brokenness, and ugly parts it shows the greatness of the gospel. In our flaws we see how unlovely we are and how lovely He is to love us so much.

For some of us that is really hard to believe and this morning we are still hiding behind the bushes and hoping God doesn’t see how bad off we are and this morning He is calling out to us, “Where are you?” We are hoping He doesn’t see us, and He is calling out, “Where are you?” Not just part of us, the clean parts, the good parts, but all of us, to come before Him in a repentant heart because when we step out from behind the bushes we aren’t given fig leaves to cover ourselves, but we are given the righteousness of Christ and completely accepted and covered by Him.

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