Repentance: The Pathway to Joy

Photo: Hopewell Scenery by Nicolas Raymond CC BY 2.0 (MODIFIED)


Martin Luther began his 95 Theses with these words, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Luther was and is correct. The Christian life is one of repentance. If Luther’s voice were solitary one may easily be unimpressed, but when Jesus’ and Paul’s are added (as primary and foundational to Luther’s), one has a weighty position indeed.

Jesus declared that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Paul, taking his cue from Christ, fulfilled the command in his own ministry proclaiming, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:2-21). Indeed, this repentance is so valuable that it leads to…

(1) times of refreshment (Prov 3:8),
(2) mercy (Prov 28:13),
(3) sins being blotted out (Acts 3:19),
(4) blessing (Acts 3:26),
(5) life (Acts 11:18), and
(6) salvation (2 Cor 7:10).

Repentance is the pathway to your JOY!

This doctrine is so valuable one must understand it thoroughly. Thus, by repentance we mean a change of mind/desires that leads to a change of behavior. The following quote (it is rather lengthy…agreed…but it is very helpful) by Jay Adams captures both the essential aspects of repentance and how biblical counselors must help the saints in fulfilling each:

“The Old Testament word for repentance is shuv (which means ‘to turn around’); the New Testament word is metanoieo (which means ‘to rethink, change the mind’). Combining the two gives a full understanding of repentance. One changes his mind by rethinking a matter and, as a result, changes his way so as to go in the opposite direction. If there is no change in the lifestyle, the repentance was not genuine. But in order to bring about a change in one’s life-style, a counselee may need help and direction from a counselor. Whenever there is sin in his life, a counselee needs to confess it, rethink his way, and then seek to take a turn in the right direction. It is important, then, to understand that to ask a sinning counselee to change, you are not merely asking him to turn around and go God’s way. Rather, you are first asking him to recognize the error of his way (as sin), to confess (q.v.) it, seek forgiveness (q.v.), and then to want to do what God requires instead. The counselor must address both aspects of repentance, and not merely one or the other. The two aspects of repentance, one having to do with thought and the other with action, correspond to the two wrongs that sinners commit against God: their thoughts are not like God’s thoughts and their ways are not like God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9). Repentance relates to both of these problems.” ~ Practical Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling.

Regrettably, indeed brokenheartedly, I would testify that not many people repent. To our shame, not many of us–those who know better, who should want greater, and who are Spirit-empowered–do not repent. If Thomas Watson were alive today I am convinced he would call the evangelical church to repent of her paltry repentance. C. S. Lewis is right, “We are far too easily pleased.” The holiday of infinite joy has been offered to us through repentance…and we have settled instead for mud pies in the slum of self-righteous pride.

If you would be the most happy you must be the most holy. If you would be both please consider these timely words from a man now dead more than 300 years (c. 1620-1686).

1. Be a self accuser. Watson said, “Confession is self-accusing: ‘Lo, I have sinned’ (2 Sam. 24.17). Indeed, among men it is otherwise: no man is bound to accuse himself, but desires to see his accuser. When we come before God, however, we must accuse ourselves.”

Nothing is more discouraging to a wife than that she must drag out of her husband his sins. If you confess only when caught…and then only as little as possible suspect your salvation. BTW: this is why accountability rarely works. If you would make your accountability partner hunt for your sins it is doomed to failure. You must be a self-accuser if you would be set free from slavery to sin and unto the joy of pleasing God.

2. Be a hater. Watson again writes, “Christ is never loved till sin be loathed…How far are they from repentance who, instead of hating sin, love sin! To the godly sin is a thorn in the eye; to the wicked it is as a crown on the head…There is more malignity in a drop of sin than is a sea of affliction, for sin is the cause of affliction, and the cause is more than the effect.”

I know my daughters love to hate haters…we must be haters of sin. You must hate sin more than you hate suffering. You must hate your sin more than you hate the sins of others. Until you see your sin as THE enemy, rest will elude your soul. As long as sin is not seen as THE metastasizing cancer of your soul, there will be noise in your heart.

3. Be a lover. Watson, again is our steady guide. “It [repentance] is sorrow for the offence rather than for the punishment. God’s law has been infringed, his love abused. This melts the soul in tears…Godly sorrow shows itself to be ingenuous because when a Christian knows that he is out of the gun-shot of hell and shall never be damned, yet still he grieves for sinning against that free grace which has pardoned him.”

If you would be as holy and thus as happy as you could be…learn to love God, His glory, His honor, His name…and making much of Him. To be rid of the cancer of your soul and joy…you must seek a greater treasure. Only when you treasure God more than avoiding being caught, punished, or losing things of this world will you begin to make progress in godly sorrow and repentance. Beloved, Jesus is THE Treasure.

If you would be most happy read the Bible…then read books from people who will exalt God and eliminate pride…read “dead dudes” and if we could ever add to C.S. Lewis about whom to read we would say, “the deader the better.” You must read Thomas Watson’s, The Doctrine of Repentance–FOR YOUR JOY…and…FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.

10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor,