Acts 26:17-20 Delivering thee (Paul) from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (KJV).
Is the cessation of sinful behavior the definition of true repentance? Repentance includes the cessation of sinful behavior, but it is only a byproduct. Until this truth is brought to bear, some will continue to have a difficult time discontinuing unwanted behavior. By definition, repentance is a change of mind, to think differently, or to reconsider. In relation to sin, it means that one changes his view to coincide with God’s point of view. As a result, he turns away from sin by turning to God. Until a person changes his point of view, sin will remain. Just because a person does not do something, it does not mean sin is not in his heart. That means there has to be a change of heart.
As long as one filters sin through human reasoning, one will live a life of compromise. Rationalization undermines the changes necessary for holy living. Human reasoning will make concessions at every turn, especially when it comes to pet sins. If one is going to repent in the truest sense of the word, one is going to have to possess a Biblical worldview; otherwise, one will determine for oneself of what is right and wrong. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (KJV). Denying the self means that we will not determine what is sin and what is not sin; God does. That means we will have to believe God when He says, “Be ye holy for I am holy.” We cannot change Scripture to fit our liking; rather, we need to conform to His Word. Like it or not, maintaining the sin of unbelief will keep a person in bondage to sin.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9, KJV). When we confess that we have sinned, we have agreed with God by not trying to hide it from Him. Affixing blame for our shortcomings reveals that we have not truly changed in the way we view sin. We can say we hate sin all day long, but unless we are honest in our approach to sin, we are not walking in the truth. Repentance requires complete surrender. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32, KJV). When we surrender to Him and His Word, our minds will undergo a renewing process whereby our way of thinking begins to conform to God’s way of thinking. Galatians 5:16 puts it this way, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (KJV). Repentance means walking in the Spirit, and conforming to the image of Jesus. If we are walking in the Spirit, we will not even be conscience of sin, because we are walking in freedom from sin. As it is written, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17, KJV).