But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ”Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”' (Luke 15:17-19)
Those beloved words from Jesus give us the heart of repentance. They include many concepts of which we will note only four.
Recognition of Wrong - There is a moment of awareness that often comes to those who sin. It is often not the awareness of the act itself. Very often the sins one commits are done full well with the knowledge that they should not be doing what they are doing, but they do it anyway. Later, there may come a time of reflection when different sense of awareness comes. Past the lust of the moment, one may come to understand, like David, “I have sinned.” (2 Sam. 12:13)
Remorse - Along with the moral awareness, true repentance will also be accompanied by “godly sorrow.” (2 Cor. 7:10) Almost everyone caught in wrong doing is sorry. But there is a difference in regretting the consequences of wrong and regretting the action itself, solely because “it was wrong.” We have failed to remain pure. Those who come to godly sorrow don’t blame their actions on others or excuse why it was not their fault. They accept the full weight of blame.
Humility - The religiously popular word for this concept seems to be “brokenness.” The words of the son say it all, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Those are powerful words. The father who heard those words shed tears of joy on at least two levels; first, that his son was alive, second, that his son, whom he dearly loved, had fully embraced his wrong doing. He had turned from an arrogant posture of rebellion to the humble insight that he had forfeited his standing in the family and could not return there on his own.
Determination to do Differently - The word picture of repentance is to stop... to turn around... and then to proceed in another direction. Sorrow without change is not repentance; there must also be a change in action. Twice John records the Lord telling those just forgiven to stop sinning. (5:14, 8:11). Paul’s strong words in Romans 5-6 should shock us into awareness. God forbid that anyone who understands the significance of their own baptism (modeled on the very death of Jesus) could live casually in sin and callously expect God to keep on forgiving them.
To repent means stop doing the sin.
- Tim Orbison