True salvation inevitably brings with it some level of true repentance toward a transformed mind, goals, and manifest behaviours. We not only think differently, we start to act differently too, as we seek to live in a more morally-accountable way.
True repentance is not always connected with true (or new) salvation. Anyone can truly repent. All it seems is required (to draw on God’s power and grace) is sufficient humility in response to the exposed truth, which engenders deep reflection at the heart level, toward a turning from one’s old ways to the new.
I said to someone only recently, I have more problems at sin than most. This is because I see myself from my own God-revealed state--though not condemning--a resultant bliss-filled benefactor of his rich portions of grace. I currently have two known areas of self-acknowledged sin (which to some might be that minor they’d hardly warrant reflection--but to me, a child of a holy God, these are to be worked on until completion i.e. eradication by God’s grace one moment at a time).
I read recently a beautifully incisive description of what true repentance is, and this explains in part why it’s so hard. It describes repentance as being beyond simple regret, and that for us is easy to explain. Regret is sorrow over an act whereas repentance is sorrow because of an act; two quite divergent responses on the moral plane.
Repentance, furthermore, is split into two forms. And this is the key to uncovering why at times, when we’re frustrated by ongoing sin, we don’t become delivered from it.
Repentance is engaged by sorrow rooted in us hurting relationships by our acts and omissions, not the least of which our relationship with God. It starts viscerally--from deep within. It’s manifest sorrow for the hurt caused to another, even to God directly.
The power of true repentance toward a transformed mind, heart and hence, behaviour, is the resurrection power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
When we truly repent at the heart level (reaching the deep emotions because we begin to comprehend the impact of our behaviour on relationships) and not simply leave it at the intellectual level of the act itself, the power of God’s Spirit sweeps powerfully through us, giving us confidence and poise to do the thing he wishes us to do, one day at a time.
We hence become intrinsically motivated to make our relationships right; to restore the virtuous balance. We’re prepared to pay whatever restitution is required.
And this is why the Lord’s discipline in the form of resonant life consequences is so critically important; though we like it not! The consequences force us to decide. Do we submit in humility or reject the rebuke in pride (our default is, of course, the latter).
Consequences and restitution also propound the lesson, helping us truly learn so we don’t make the same mistakes again or as much.
The sign of true conversion, the witness of the ‘circumcised heart’ then, is the willing and almost enthusiastic response to all life rebukes, in an honourable and dignified way, and not from excess guilt or shame. (God’s got no interest in us feeling excessively guilty or shame-ridden; that’s the lot of the enemy.)
This is the resonant echo of the risen Christ in us as we bear our respective crosses over the whole lifespan. For repentance is as much a part of the Christian’s journey as any other part, and possibly more. It’s uniquely inherent in the Christian walk.
And this is the best sign of true conversion; does resurrection life flow through the person in these circumstances or not? That’s got to be the test question.
Whether the person’s been Christian 80 minutes or 80 years, the same fact remains. Can they call upon the power and grace of God to truly repent unto life eternal?
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
 Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come, Along the Virtuous Way: Growing Kids God’s Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002), p. 205, 210.