Following on from my previous post where Thomas Watson explained counterfeit repentance. But that still leaves the question as to the nature of true repentance. Much modern preaching has reduced repentance to a change of mind without a change of action. This has been the major catalyst in accomodating professed conversion all the while making no demands to abandon our former sinful carnal lives. Can you imagine an adulterer returning to his wife and telling her that he has "changed his mind" and wants to move back home - and not only that, but that his mistress may also move in with them? Yet this is a very good representation of what we see going on in the world of seeker sensitive mega-churches loaded with people who have "walked to an altar" but refuse to walk with God. When the reformers taught "faith alone" they were talking about a repentant faith. Jesus taught that we cannot share allegience with Him and the world (Matthew 6:24).
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7)
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
John the Baptist understood this:
He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then shall we do?" And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages." (Luke 3:7-14)
Jesus demanded it:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
It is something that God causes:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules . . . . Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. (Ezekiel 36:25-27,31)
Thomas Watson described the following three ingredients of genuine repentance:
Ingredient I: Sight of Sin
The first part of Christ's physic is eye-salve (Acts 26:18). It is the great thing noted in the prodigal's repentance: `he came to himself' (Luke 15:17). He saw himself a sinner and nothing but a sinner. Before a man can come to Christ he must first come to himself. Solomon, in his description of repentance, considers this as the first ingredient: `if they shall bethink themselves' (1 Kings 8:47). A man must first recognize and consider what his sin is, and know the plague of his heart before he can be duly humbled for it. The first creature God made was light. So the first thing in a penitent is illumination: `Now ye are light in the Lord' (Ephesians 5:8). The eye is made both for seeing and weeping. Sin must first be seen before it can be wept for.
Ingredient 2: Sorrow for Sin
I will be sorry for my sin (Psalm 38:18) Ambrose calls sorrow the embittering of the soul. The Hebrew word `to be sorrowful' signifies `to have the soul, as it were, crucified'. This must be in true repentance: `They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn' (Zechariah 12:10), as if they did feel the nails of the cross sticking in their sides. A woman may as well expect to have a child without pangs as one can have repentance without sorrow. He that can believe without doubting, suspect his faith; and he that can repent without sorrowing, suspect his repentance.
Ingredient 3: Confession of Sin
Sorrow is such a vehement passion that it will have vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping and at the tongue by confession: `The children of Israel stood and confessed their sins (Nehemiah 9:2). `I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence' (Hosea 5:15); it is a metaphor alluding to a mother who, when she is angry, goes away from the child and hides her face till the child acknowledges its fault and begs pardon.
How often does God call upon us to turn to him? He swears, `As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways' (Ezekiel 33:11). God would rather have our repenting tears than our blood.
Turning to God makes for our profit. Our repentance is of no benefit to God, but to ourselves. If a man drinks of a fountain he benefits himself, not the fountain. If he beholds the light of the sun, he himself is refreshed by it, not the sun. If we turn from our sins to God, God is not advantaged by it. It is only we ourselves who reap the benefit. In this case self-love should prevail with us: `If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself' (Proverbs 9:12).
If we turn to God, he will turn to us. He will turn his anger from us, and his face to us. It was David's prayer, `O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me' (Psalm 86:16). Our turning will make God turn: `Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord, and I will turn unto you' (Zechariah 1:3). He who was an enemy will turn to be our friend. If God turns to us, the angels are turned to us. We shall have their tutelage and guardianship (Psalm 91:11). If God turns to us, all things shall turn to our good, both mercies and afflictions; we shall taste honey at the end of the rod. (online source)