True Repentance Is More Than Just Words

We live in an age when politicians and nearly everyone else only admits to as much wrongdoing—if they admit it at all—as is necessary to minimize it and then move on with their lives. But what does true repentance look like?

Repentance begins with our personal walk with God, our families, and those closest to us. Sometimes it needs to go further than that—for example, to those we work with and under, depending on how broadly we have wronged people. To be repentant means to not just be sorry about sin, but also to be committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep from falling back into it.

Repentance is more than reciting well-rehearsed words while trying to minimize our losses. Genuine repentance is vulnerable. It confesses not just as much as what has been found out, but more. It doesn't withhold information (e.g. from our spouses or friends) in the hope of preserving an image or a reputation. It puts itself at the mercy of others; it does not presume to direct or control them and how they respond to us.

Read Psalm 51, an expression of pure repentance. Notice there is no explanation of the extenuating circumstances—of how busy King David is, how lonely the man at the top is, how irresponsible it was for Bathsheba to be bathing in sight of the palace, how Uriah was a neglectful husband. David didn’t rationalize or justify or qualify his sin. He owned up to it, 100 percent. He simply admitted he was wrong.

God says through John the Baptist, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The sincerity of our repentance is demonstrated by how willing we are to take the steps necessary to nourish our souls and reprogram our minds from Scripture, so we can draw on Christ’s power to be restored and live righteously.

“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20).


Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries