Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Simple Act of Repentance

In the Christian song, “Just as I Am, Without One Plea,” there is a neat and tidy description of four (4) types of repentance:


We are welcomed by Christ to repent and draw close to him toward a new spiritual life. This happens for a first time when we accept his offer of salvation by praying the “believer’s prayer” with our mouth and believing what we say in our heart.[1]

This can also happen for the once-saved Christian who’s perhaps been backsliding, and wants to re-commit their lives to Jesus. It’s not uncommon for mature Christians to re-commit.


When we say sorry to people we transgress in life we are at times forgiven; with God there’s no conditionality. He pardon’s us with his all-consuming grace. We must therefore seek pardon--his forgiveness--so we can move on.

Pardon, by definition, requires grace (undeserved favour) because only sin or offenses are pardonable--good deeds are not applicable. God is the great ‘pardoner.’

Psalm 51 is a great prayer for seeking God’s forgiveness, particularly verses 1, 9, 10 and 12.


There are times when we’ve done the wrong thing, and we feel guilty and ashamed, and we need not only God’s forgiveness but his cleansing hand too. (This is not to say his forgiveness doesn’t ‘cleanse.’)

He knows it’s our nature to occasionally get things wrong and to have a screwed-up sense of motivation from time to time; all he expects of us is to continue our training and focus on his Word and his Son, Jesus.

Psalm 51 is a great prayer for cleansing, particularly verses 2 and 7.


We all need relief. There are times when we simply try too hard. For the lives of us we can’t stop, as the busy seasons of life dictate terms. Rest is truly only available through Christ who loves us.

We can also need relief from some of the ghosts and burdens of the past. Guilt, again, can weigh us down. Only the forgiveness of a totally sovereign God can assuage guilt and shame.

At times we simply ‘miss the mark’ even though we’ve tried to hit it. God knows we’ve tried and again relieves us the instant we ask him.

What Repentance Means

Repentance is not simply saying sorry, it’s committing also to actively turning away from one damaging direction or action toward another more appropriate one--a turning toward God. It can also mean to adjust our tack slightly so as not to ‘miss the mark’ in future.

There are at least three Greek words (with various cognates) for repentance used in the Bible. Metanoeo means to undergo a change in frame of mind or feeling and to make a change of principle or practice, to reform, and epi-strepho means to turn toward, around, or back from something. Meta-strepho means to change, turn about or convert.

What are we asking Christ to bless us with in our repentance?

It is important to be clear in our own minds and hearts so we can receive from him exactly what we need.

One thing Psalm 51 shows us that’s truly required for effective repentance is some acknowledgement of the heart condition appropriate for the penitent person, particularly in verses 16-17:

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

We must be truly sorry.

“Just as I Am, Without One Plea,” the Song[2]

Now, the theology of Just as I Am, Without One Plea of course is not simply about repentance, but it’s also very much about God accepting us ‘just as we are.’ Isn’t his love amazing, that he’s saved us from the turmoil of an unredeemable life?

It’s a salvation song first and foremost; but it’s highly illustrative of some key reasons for repentance, and for some key ways of receiving the grace of atonement, forgiveness, cleansing, relief, and ultimately, rest for our (at times) weary souls.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Romans 10:9 (TNIV) says, “If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
[2] I found this useful:

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