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" Repentance and Emotions? "

"For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2Co7:10)

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to shame. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (Jac4:8-10)

I've been reading several (new) 'explanations' of repentance lately; I suspect, from those who hadn't been proclaiming it, but since some of us are proclaiming from Scripture that without it, one cannot be saved but will "..likewise perish" (Lk13:3,5); they have joined the bandwagon to proclaim it.

But they also, then, make a point of -defining- it according to their own terms so as not to jeopardize the doctrines they've been proclaiming all along when they weren't proclaiming it. The common saying is that: Repentance is not about emotions and doesn't include them; repentance is not about being 'sorry' for one's sin, because repentance means "change"..."changing one's mind". This is also part of Billy Graham's famous definition of repentance he proclaims at his crusades. Making a 180-degree turn and change one's mind, and going a new direction.

So, if we want to be a bit foolish (2co11:17,21,23) for a moment, I suppose with that definition, a person could easily go: Eeeny meeny miny mo...which way shall I go? Well, sh'zamm! Lookie here! I think I'll decide to go to Heaven. I've been not-much-the-wiser, not given it much thought, but I think I'll change my thinking on the matter, and 'think about' and 'decide' that I really do want to go to Heaven. I'm going to make that -mental- 'change' in attitude and outlook. See what a wonderful person I am for availing God of 'me'!?

And these people come "just as I am", dragging the world along with them. And after their claimed "commitment" to Jesus, you can't tell that anything has changed. They still talk the way they used to, behave as they used to; after all, they have been assured that God -accepts- them "just as they are" (sin, filth and all), they don't need to change the outside, just the inside.

At a website that somebody recently invited me to check out, they say this: "To repent means to change ones mind. It is an act of will, not simply a showing of remorse." This statement certainly gets closer to truth with the inclusion of the word "simply".

However generally, this -new- 'repentance' changes the mind; claiming it does not include remorse. They claim this is so... by definition. They claim this from purporting to have looked up the matter in lexicons and dictionaries. So, let's do that briefly, shall we...

  • In 1Sa15:29 God does "not repent": Hebrew, 'nacham' -to be sorry, regret, suffer grief, etc.
  • In Ezk14:6 "Repent and turn away from your idols": "repent" and "turn away" are the same word, 'shuwb', -to turn back, return, restore, etc
  • In Lk13:5 "unless you repent you will all likewise perish": Greek, 'metanoeo' -to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins. Are not "heartily" and "abhorrence" expressions of emotion.
Most lay claim and give extra weight to ordinary 'dictionary' definitions. So, are you ready for this?


  1. To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
  2. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it
  3. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Does this not agree with our opening Scripture passage! And is this also not what most people think of repentance, until somebody comes along explaining it away, suggesting that the word doesn't really mean what it means. Most people really -do- know what it means; which is why they also reject it in their hearts, and welcome the new (false) definition. So, what is the order of progression towards salvation? Godly sorrow leads to repentance; and repentance, in turn, leads to salvation.

And then, according to the second passage, when there is remorse, 'who' does the saving? "He (God) will exalt you" ('lift you up' KJV).

I would suggest that today's remorseless repentance is a product of today's psychology, whose primary goal is to heal the wounded inner child through the building up of self-esteem. Remorse, and its accompanying 'shame' (being ashamed for one's sins), goes contrary to striving after self-esteem.

I would submit to you that those who follow these doctrines CANNOT be saved... by definition. Self-esteem is the opposite of remorse, shame and humility. But notice that the "lifting up" that God does for the sinner follows one's remorse for their sin.

Jesus told about two: one was full of self-esteem; and the other, shame. The one loved himself and his own accomplishments and standing in the community and church; and the other would scarcely lift his eyes heavenword and implores, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" (Lk18:13) Notice Jesus' verdict upon the two: "I tell you, this man (the 2nd one) went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (vs14)

But... isn't the 'first' thing needed: Faith? After all, Paul and Silas proclaimed, "BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved..." (Ac16:31)

Certainly, Faith comes first. One must believe that God exists, and that God is the "rewarder" of mankind (Heb11:6); giving Eternal Life to the righteous and everlasting judgment to the ungodly. (Mt16:27, Rev22:12, Dan12:2) But merely believing God exists does not save. Satan and his demons also believe in God's existence, and "shudder" (Jac2:19); because like Esau, they have "no place for repentance" (Heb12:17)

The sinner sees God's glory and wails, "Woe is me! for I am undone! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (Is6:5) He understands God's verdict that "there is none righteous" (Rom3:10, Ps14:3), and that even the goodness we view in our self-esteem is like a filthy "mensturation cloth" (Is64:6), and even our own "mouth...condemns" us. (Job9:20) As Jesus would proclaim: "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Mt12:34)

So the sinner 'repents' (according to this current 'new' definition). He decides, "I -NEED- to change (repent)". The more he thinks on it he realizes, "I -WANT- to change". So he makes a resolution, "I'm -GOING- to change". Perhaps he even goes 'forward' at a crusade meeting, and makes a "commitment' to "do better...from now on". He 'promises' God that he won't sin anymore; he is going to do his very-level-best to accomplish this goal. He has set this as a 'goal' for himself.

Thing is, he quickly makes a discovery: "I -CAN'T- change!!" I try and try; but the harder I try, the more I fail. He comes to the same aweful conclusion that the apostle does: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom7:24)

What is the solution? "...through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (vs25)

You see... -this- is where Saving -Faith- steps in. Repentance acknowledges that a change is 'needed', and may even 'desire' to change; but it comes up against that brick wall of -CAN'T-. In my own efforts I cannot be saved. It is only at the "name of Jesus". (Ac2:38, 4:12)

Saving Faith "receives" Jesus (Jn1:12), submitting to -His- change. What Jesus provides is the birth "from above" (Jn3:3) all complete with a new -nature-, becoming a "new creation"; becoming "in Christ". (2Co5:17) The old -self- of self-esteem does not belong. Faith lets go of that which one clung to...one's own self-sufficiency, and receives the "sufficiency [which] is from God" (2Co3:5)

What is the nature of that initial repentance? Jacob speaks of lamenting, mourning and weeping. And indeed, many do weep. That is a very -emotional- response. But no two people are alike. Perhaps another will suddenly be 'jolted', an emotional/spiritual 'switch' will flip within their being, their eyes of understanding (Eph1:18) will pop open, they'll get a 'chill' where the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end (as they suddenly suck in their breath) with the sudden realization of God's holiness, and their own sin and state of doom, the realization of their past blindness, and they will spiritually knock themselves up-side their own head with their palm with an exclamation of, "WELL, OF COURSE!!" And they will come "trembling" (Ac9:6, 16:29) to God. Is such a trembling any less emotional?

What comes first? What comes next? It's kind of like a car engine. Before you can start your car you need to make sure it has fuel. The fuel has to be delivered to the engine cylinder. But the engine will not run unless that fuel is ignited; which requires a spark. The spark is supplied from the battery and the electrical system. So, you need to make sure the car has a battery. In the olden days you might pull the choke knob and pump the gas pedal, to make sure there is fuel; so you might think that the fuel is "first", and 'then' you turn the key to start it. But in truth: if there is no fuel the engine will not run. And equally true: if there is no spark, neither will the engine run. It requires -both- for the engine to run.

In the same way, Salvation requires -both- Repentance -and- Faith. As Paul reminded, as he claimed that he had not left out any necessary details, "...repentance toward God -and- faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ac20:20-21)

And repentance -includes- both 'remorse' -and- 'change'. The remorse comprised of deep outward emotional expression or the tight-lipped trembling (according to the person's personal emotional makeup) based on what is in the person's 'heart' (Rom2:29, Jer17:9, Ezk36:26); and the change involving "fruits worthy of repentance" (Mt3:8) If the change has taken place, the person is saved; they have received God's new nature, and are behaving as such. They have experienced "repentance unto life" (Ac11:18)

See how that works? A person believes in God, but that belief contrasts the sinner's sin, and so the response is repentance (remorse); but repentance cannot function by itself without the faith that Jesus can save; but submitting to Jesus' salvation of the birth from above cannot be entered into without the humility and submission aspects of repentance. Just as the car will not run without both fuel -and- spark, salvation is not possible without faith (in God), remorse (for sin), (desire to) change, faith (in Christ's salvation), submission to Christ's new nature receiving the "faith -of- Christ". (Ga2:16, Php3:9)

It's the complete package. It is -not- "sola fide" (faith alone). That doctrine from the 'church fathers' of the Reformation is sending many who believe in it, down the path to Hell! ...because typically, those who promote that doctrine also refuse to repent!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ which Paul proclaimed: "...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised the third day according to the Scriptures..." (1Cor15:1,3-4) And what Jesus did when He died: He "loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev1:5) As a result, Eternal Life is available to "everyone believing into Him" (Jn3:16)

Thus, "God...now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Ac17:30) And, as Jesus proclaimed, as He began His earthly preaching ministry, and the message He commanded to be proclaimed after His departure: (these are Jesus' own words)...

"Repent and believe in the Gospel." (Mk1:15)

And in this next one notice where the middle comma is, that the "gospel" precedes the comma, and "repentance" and "remission of sins" are linked together after the comma...

"Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day(,) and that repentance and remission of sins be preached in His name to all nations, beginning out of Jerusalem." (Lk24:46-47)

The 'mere' fact that Jesus came and died on the cross (the Gospel) does not save. Salvation is offered by God's "grace" as a "gift"; but in "faith" (Eph2:8) the gift must be "received"...

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those believing into His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn1:12-13)


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