‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 2, ‘Repentance’
Repentance and love for God go hand in hand. We can’t have one without the other. If we repent, we stop doing bad things and start doing good (1 Kings 8:47; 2 Chronicles 6:37; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 8:4-13; Ezekiel 14:6; Matthew 11:20, 21). The first recorded word out of the mouths of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus (Matthew 4:17) for their public ministries was ‘repent.’ If we are going the wrong way on a road, we would change directions once we realized our error.
‘Feeling sorry’ for what we have done or are doing, yet continuing to go the wrong way, is not repentance. It is certainly not love. A lot of times, ‘sorry’ feelings are very strong, to the point of weeping or other expressions of anguish. But the feelings are not true repentance if they don’t produce a change in behavior (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). True repentance is when we change what we are doing (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8). We go from ignoring His Law to following it.
Biblically, repentance also means restitution. According to the Word, when a thief repents, not only must he stop stealing, but repay what he stole plus a penalty amount (Exodus 22:2, 7). Zacchaeus (Luke 19) restored four-fold what he might have defrauded, and gave half his goods to the poor. We do not follow through with this in modern times. A lot of times “feeling sorry” is the limit of repentance. But feelings of sorrow, by themselves, are not enough by God’s standards. If we repent, we make things right as much as we can.
10For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB95)