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True Repentance

written by Asher Intrater
July 01, 2002

True repentance is a rare commodity. People do all kinds of religious and psychological exercises to avoid repenting.

Jesus (Yeshua) once said to a group of religious people, “The tax collectors and the harlots will enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not repent and believe him.” – Matthew 21:31-32. John’s message was one of repentance (Matthew 3:2).

When Jesus came, He told people to “Repent and believe the gospel.” – Mark 1:15. He did not say, “Believe instead of repenting.” Yeshua did not take something away from John’s message, He added to it.

Repenting is simply admitting what you have done wrong and committing not to do it again. It is a moral change, an act of the will. It is turning back to God, deciding to obey Him instead of disobeying.

Here are a few excuses for not repenting:

Christian Theology
Repentance is the prerequisite for receiving forgiveness of sins. The cross brings you to repentance, so that you can receive grace. It does not exempt us from having to repent. Our faith in Yeshua deepens our repentance to the point that we die to ourselves and are born again.

One way to prove that repentance is still part of the gospel is to note how it is used throughout the New Covenant scriptures. Yeshua taught extensively on repentance. But repentance was also emphasized after the resurrection.

Throughout the book of Acts, Peter and Paul called people to repent. For example, Acts 2:38: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (See as well Acts 3:19, 5:31, 8:22, 11:18, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20).

In the epistles born-again believers are called to repent whenever they sin. For example, 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Finally, we see that repentance was also emphasized by Yeshua in His messages to the early churches in the book of Revelation. Five out of the seven churches were called to repent. (See Revelation 2:5, 2:16, 2:22, 3:3, 3:19).

Jewish Tradition
The most common used expression in Hebrew for “repent” is hazor b’tshuvah. Unfortunately, this expression has come to mean to follow ultra-orthodox tradition. So when we try to talk to someone in Israel about repenting, they immediately associate the idea with wearing black clothes, separating their dishes into milk and meat, etc.

Not only does this deter the secular Jews from repenting, it also causes the religious Jews to think that they already have repented. Tradition substitutes morally neutral rituals (such as lighting candles and washing hands) in place of true moral change.

People of all religions tend to think that they are righteous because they do certain rituals. In essence, they are using those rituals as “fig leaves” to cover up their lack of repentance. I am often surprised to see how difficult it is for religious people to ever admit that they have done something wrong.

Humanistic Psychology
Humanism believes that there is no God and no absolute moral standards. Therefore, there is no need to repent. Guilt is never seen as a conviction of sin, but only as an archaic psychological hindrance that needs to be ignored.

Everyone is “okay.” No one can say that anything is wrong. We are “beyond” morality. A terrorist purposely blowing up innocent civilians is seen as “morally equivalent” to a policeman shooting the terrorist. Even the worse kinds of sexual perversions are not called “sins,” but rather “alternative lifestyles.”

We are not told to do what is right, but only to do whatever feels good. This is all a vast disguise or illusion convincing people that they do not need to repent.

Blame Shifting
Blame shifting can come in two forms: avoidance and\or accusing others. This is essentially what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Adam shifted the blame to his wife. Eve shifted the blame to the serpent. Even Cain, after he killed Abel, called into question the right of God to hold him accountable. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:9.

We often accuse others to compensate for our own sin. If I have done wrong, I can make myself look good, relatively speaking, by making those around me look bad. If I accuse and criticize everyone else, I will by comparison seem more righteous.

I have often wondered what would have happened in the Garden of Eden if Adam and Eve had simply fallen on their knees, admitted their sin, and asked God to forgive them. Instead, they made excuses, justified themselves, and shifted the blame. We often do the same. How hard it is simply to say, “I was wrong.”

Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.

He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.

Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.

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