To help the exercised391 reader identify true repentance, consider the fruits that demonstrate godly repentance.
1. A real hatred of sin as sin, not merely its consequences. A hatred not only of this or that sin, but of all sin, and particularly of the root itself: self-will. “Thus saith the Lord God, Repent, and turn from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Ezek. 14:6). He, who hates not sin, loves it. God’s demand is, “Ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed” (Ezek. 20:43). One who has really repented can truthfully say, “I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104). He, who once thought a course of holy living was a gloomy thing, has another judgment now. He, who once regarded a course of self-pleasing as attractive, now detests it and has purposed to forsake all sin forever. This is the change of mind that God requires.
2. A deep sorrow for sin. The non-saving repentance of so many is principally a distress occasioned by forebodings of divine wrath; but evangelical repentance produces a deep grief from a sense of having offended so infinitely excellent and glorious a Being as God. The one is the effect of fear, the other of love. The one is only for a brief season; the other is the habitual practice for life. Many a man is filled with regret and remorse over a misspent life, yet has no poignant sorrow of heart for his ingratitude and rebellion against God. But a regenerated soul is cut to the quick for having disregarded and opposed his great Benefactor and rightful Sovereign. This is the change of heart that God requires: “Ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner…for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Such a sorrow is produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit and has God for its object. It is a grief for having despised such a God, rebelled against His authority, and been indifferent to His glory. It is this that causes us to “weep bitterly” (Mat 26:75). He who has not grieved over sin takes pleasure therein. God requires us to “afflict” our souls (Lev. 16:29). His call is, “Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful” (Joel 2:12-13). Only that sorrow for sin is genuine that causes us to crucify “the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).
3. A confessing of sin. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Prov. 28:13). It is “second nature” to the sinner to deny his sins, directly or indirectly, to minimize or make excuses for them. It was thus with Adam and Eve at the beginning. But when the Holy Spirit works in any soul, his sins are brought to light; and he, in turn, acknowledges them to God. There is no relief for the stricken heart until he does so: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long, for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). The frank and brokenhearted owning of our sins is imperative if peace of conscience is to be maintained. This is the change of attitude that God requires.