In my post of September 15th I focused on how Mormonism defined repentance and contrasted that with the Christian view of repentance. But I did that only briefly. Therefore I want to focus on the Christian view now since the idea of repentance repeatedly is brought up in comments.
The Greek word for repentance literally means a change of mind. The command to repent in the Bible is mainly (but not exclusively) used in mission settings and is addressed to non-believers. In that context it’s helpful to remember that the root meaning of the word is to change your mind. In those contexts the call to repentance is a call for people to change their mind from thinking that salvation depends on their efforts and seeing that salvation depends on Jesus’ efforts.
One thing that aids that change of mindset is seeing the extent and seriousness of our sin. When we see how thoroughly sin has corrupted us and how serious each and every sin is, then we are primed to look for help outside of ourselves. That is why when people think of repentance, they often think of being sorry for their sin.
But if that sorrow over sin doesn’t result also in a turning to God it is not repentance. Judas was extremely sorrowful over his betrayal of Jesus but he didn’t think God could forgive him. His sorrow didn’t end up in repentance. Still today there are a lot of people who are sorry for their sins, but they aren’t repentant because they aren’t looking to Jesus. Now compare Judas to Peter who also was very sorrowful over his denial of Jesus. But he trusted that God would forgive him. He was repentant.
The question has been asked more than once if repentance is a one-time event or a process. I like to think of it as a state believers are in. When the Holy Spirit caused me to see the truth about my sinfulness – and Jesus, my Savior, I repented. That is, I had a new paradigm, a new mindset. I changed from thinking I had to earn salvation to trusting in Jesus saving me. That mindset of trusting in Jesus for salvation is the state I now am in. That is now my mindset. Therefore I don’t have to daily or weekly or monthly or what have go through the process of repenting by turning away from myself and looking to Jesus for salvation. As a believer, that is now part of my being – that is my mindset.