If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
A man walked into a bank, handed the teller a threatening note and walked out with a bag of money containing more than $3,000. The man was never caught, but the whole thing has authorities baffled. It began a few months later when the bank received an envelope which had been mailed from a distant city containing a cashier’s check in the name of a Mister R.E. Morse as in the word “remorse.” Along with one of the checks was the following note: “My faith in Christ as my Savior has impelled me to undertake this reimbursement and I hope to be able to pay it off within six months.”
A bank official said, “I’ve heard of people coming forward and admitting complicity in criminal activity years before, but this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this.” Such is the power of a smitten conscience which produces real repentance–hence, the pseudonym–R.E. Morse. If genuine repentance and remorse were more common, perhaps the bank officials wouldn’t be quite so shocked at what took place.
Remorse is regret over something; repentance is positive action to make restitution for what was done. The word repentance, or repent, is found in the New Testament more than 50 times. The book of Hebrews lists it as an elementary doctrine of Christ–one of the foundation truths of the New Testament. The early church took repentance seriously. Paul talked about it in his letters to the Romans, the Corinthians, and to Timothy. The writers of Hebrews and Peter also discussed it. When Luke recorded the great commission, he included repentance as being part of the command laid down by our Lord. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
The fellow who robbed the bank became remorseful when he was converted, but he was genuinely repentant when he began to do something about his wrong by returning the money. In a very real sense, repentance is one of the sterling marks of genuine conversion–it’s obvious that God has wrought a work when repentance is present. Can a man be genuinely converted without repentance? Not according to Scripture. Jesus Himself commanded, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Let me illustrate. Suppose you were in Tokyo and you received a telegram saying, “Return to Manila immediately.” To return to Manila you must leave Tokyo; there is no conceivable way you could get to Manila without leaving Tokyo. You cannot get to one without leaving the other. Genuine conversion demands leaving where you are, and that spells repentance.
But there is even more to the concept than the outward actions. There is an internal element as well. The Greek word metanoia comes from two words– meta meaning to change, and noia meaning mind or thought; hence, real repentance is a revolution of thought–a complete change of mind which results in a different kind of behavior.
Perhaps real repentance will lead the man who robbed the bank to step forward and to accept the due consequences of his action. As J. Edwin Orr has written, “In other words, whenever a believer realizes that his life falls short of the standards of the Gospel, he must return to his change of mind, heart, and life, as at the beginning.” A renewed believer thus becomes equipped to preach a message of repentance to his friends and neighbors, and to share in the repentance for national sins.
Resource reading: 1 John 1