The Bible indicates that repentance is another key step we need to take along the road of life if we want to experience God's forgiveness. Repentance and forgiveness go together.
In Luke 24:47 we read that "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." In Acts 2:38 Peter says, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." In Acts 5:31 we read that Jesus is the one who gives "repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel." And, as we saw yesterday, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
But what is repentance? The Greek word, metanoia, means a "change of mind". Christian repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in direction. Repentance is something we need to do when we first come to Christ and it is something we need to continue to do as Christians. Notice how many times the Lord, addressing the seven churches in the book of Revelation, calls upon them to repent. (See Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19.)
Martin Luther once said, "Repentance is part of the daily life of the Christian." And Charles Spurgeon once wrote, "Unless I repent daily, I am not serving Christ as I ought."
Naturally, I like the way C. S. Lewis talks about repentance in Mere Christianity....
This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person—and he would not need it.
Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all--to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God's leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
But supposing God became a man--suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person--then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.As Lewis makes clear in this chapter from Mere Christianity, Jesus is the only perfect penitent, the only one who has lived out a life of repentance perfectly, a life that involved death on a cross. And Jesus did this for us. So that now, by his Spirit, Jesus can come into us and live out that perfect penitence again in us. What an amazing gift it is that we remember and celebrate during this Holy Week, an amazing gift we are invited to receive, this day, and every day.