Some suppose that repentance is merely being sorry for sin, however the Bible describes it as much more. The person who genuinely repents has a grief for sin that produces changes in their lives, even innocence . . .
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted . . . .” (2 Corinthians 7:10–13)
Paul had written to the Corinthians about sin in their midst. The above passage shows that these Christians were not only sorry for what they had done, but were filled with a desire to make it right. They were horrified at their transgression, fearful of its ramifications, full of a desire that it be rectified. And by this response to God’s conviction of sin in their lives, they proved themselves ‘innocent’ in this matter. The only way that can happen is their godly grief for sin resulted in God’s forgiveness and cleansing.
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)
Paul was comforted by their response to his admonition for sin. Keep in mind that these verses are not about initial salvation, although they apply in that case also. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin because it is essential to forgiveness and salvation. In fact, it is evidence of God at work. The person being saved by grace will also repent because of God’s grace.
Repentance is important. Chambers writes that it is the bedrock of Christianity. He says that no one can repent anytime we choose because repentance is a gift of God.
God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31)When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
Chambers also says conviction of sin is one of the rarest things. I agree. It is more likely that sin makes me feel sorry because I am disgusted with myself. I ask questions, like “How could I ever do that?” as if I could conquer sin all by myself.
Chambers adds that the surest sign that God is at work is when a person can say they have sinned against God and mean it, like David did . . . .
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:3–4)
Chambers also writes, “New life manifests itself in conscious repentance and unconscious holiness, never the other way around.” It is a gift from God and produces results, not just bitter sorrow that moans “how could I be so stupid” — but a changed life. This signifies that whenever I ‘repent’ but keep on with the same sin, I need to examine my heart to make sure God has granted me true repentance.