What Does Biblical Repentance Really Look Like?

In recent months there have been some pretty high profile men (Mark Driscoll, Doug Philips,Tullian Tchividjian) who have either stepped down from the pastorate, or have been asked to, due to different sins in their lives. A firestorm of opinions has since lit up the blogosphere and every form of social media. Some have said that these men have not met the biblical level of repentance while others defend these pastors by saying that they have gone over and above what scripture requires for repentance. If you have been a Christian for very long, I hope repentance is something that you seek to do regularly. If we sin much, then we need to repent much. Scripture lays out plainly what repentance looks like. We must be careful not to add to God’s Word, just like we need to be equally careful not to take away from it. Some might want to add a certain amount of works (or penance) to the biblical model, while others may try to water down the Word so much that a person does not even need to confess one’s sin to God. The Bible provides us with the right balance. There are three parts to repentance, no more . . . and certainly no less.

Repentance in the Mind:

For repentance to be a truly biblical response it must have its place in the mind.  Repentance means “a change in your mind.”  Isaiah 55:7 says, “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.” When we sin, we must come to an understanding that this sin is a violation of God and His law. The first step of repentance is recognition in your mind that you have transgressed a holy God. However, simply acknowledging sin is not full-on repentance.

Repentance in the Heart:

For repentance to be true, one must also be convicted in their spirit (heart) that they have offended the Lord by their sin. Paul writes in II Corinthians 7:10, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Unless the Holy Spirit convicts you, there can be no repentance. Confession can happen without the movement of the Spirit, but repentance that comes from a “broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” is what “God will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). When you come face to face with a Holy God in light of your sin, a broken heart is what the Lord delights in and accepts.

Repentance in your Action:

For true Biblical repentance to happen there is still a third part that must be accomplished. This is also the hardest one to accomplish (not possible apart from the Holy Spirit I might add). It is a change in your actions. One might know they have sinned in their head, and be convicted of it in their heart, but unless they physically turn away from that sin then they have not truly repented of it. Repentance is not just a change of mind, but also a change of action. It literally means turning a 180. Luke 3:8 says that we are to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.”  In Old Testament times this might look like putting ashes on your heard and wearing sackcloth. There must be an action taken to turn away from your sin. That is not to say that we need to wear ashes or sackcloth, but this action is actually a response to the first two parts of repentance (in the mind and in the heart). Unless, however, this portion of the repentant pattern happens, true biblical repentance has not occurred in the life of the sinner.

John MacArthur has rightly said, “Repentance is not just a change of mind; it is a change of heart. It is a spiritual turning, a total about-face. . . It is an inward response, not external activity, but its fruit will be evident in the true believer’s behavior.” It takes all three parts of the pattern if a person wants to truly repent of their sin. We must never forget, conversely, that all of this is done by the work of God and not done on our own. We could never repent unless the Lord showed us our sin though His word. We could never repent unless the Spirit convicted us. We could never walk away from our sin unless given the power to, through Christ’s death to that sin. When considering what repentance looks like in the life of men like the above stated (or even ourselves) we need to be careful that we do not add man-made requirements to the person in sin. God has told us what repentance looks like. He does not take lightly someone adding to his word. Yes, there needs to be fruit of repentance, but let’s let scripture define this and not try to define it ourselves. On the other hand, God does not take lightly taking away from His divine Word either. Confession is not repentance (much to the chagrin of some of my Catholic friends). Simply being convicted in ones heart that they have sinned is not repentance. It is a complete turning from it (mind, heart, and deed).  Repentance is necessary it we want to please God. So, when we sin . . . let us be quick to repent from that sin.  When a brother is in sin, let us lovingly tell them of their need for repentance. If they do repent, then praise God for it and act accordingly. Don’t add to their reproach, but certainly don’t make light of it either. Repentance is a good thing . . . so let’s make sure that we do it the biblical way.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B Burrell

Why I Chose Courtship Over Dating . . . Eventually!

Courtship! This is an old term that in the last 10-15 years has had a bit of a revival in certain circles in the Christian community.  I believe courtship comes with some positives and negatives.  It is an old term, but the problem is that there is not an exact definition for it.  Some have a very strict view of what it looks like, while others have a bit more liberal understanding of the term.  In short, courtship has been defined as a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the safety, supervision, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage (See Proverbs 3:5–7.)  It does away with casual dating, and bears in mind dating with a purpose.

So, how did I come (eventually) to the conviction of Christian courtship over the ever popular, and almost completely accepted, view of casual dating? I grew up in a culture that knew no alternative than to have girlfriends from the time I was in 1st or 2nd grade and “date them” or “make them your girlfriend” (insert George Strait’s song “Check Yes or No”).  It is all I knew, and I took full advantage of it.  I cannot think of going more than a month without a “girlfriend” from the time I was in 3rd grade until I graduated high school.  It was all I knew, and it was actually encouraged by not just my culture, but also my church and even my family.  Why?  It is because in the last 50 years, that is all that has been known as normal.  However, I eventually became convicted that there was something wrong with this system and decided that I wanted something more.  After searching the scriptures, praying, and talking to older godly couples, the Lord had changed my mind on this cultural dating scene.  It was then that I stumbled upon some good material on the subject of “courtship” (like What He Must Be, Biblical Courtship, etc.)  I did not know what it would look like completely, but I knew that I was convinced that it seemed to be the most Christian and biblical way of dating.  And here are a few reasons why . . .

What Casual Dating Got Me:

While I enjoyed many of the momentary pleasures of having a girl friend and going on dates, what it often ended with was heart break. Either the girl would leave me for another boy, or I would lose interest and want to move on to someone else.  Either way, heart break would often ensue, thus, not taking Solomon’s advice when he wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “above all else, guard your heart.”  Casual dating also gave me a loss of innocence.  Put a young man and woman in a situation where they are spending a lot of time alone with each other, let their sinful nature take over, and see what happens.  Often that leads to many regrets.  While this does not have to be the case for everyone, it is an all too familiar scene for many that I know who grew up in the dating culture.  Physical and even sexual temptation is hard to overcome when your body is geared toward it.  I also got a loss of friendships from dating so casually.  Often, when you date someone seriously you invest much time end emotion into that relationship.  That is time and energy that you are giving to someone different than your future spouse, and even God.  Frequently when the relationship ends, so does the friendship.  Even if things end amiably, your future spouse may not like having that old flame around to bring back memories.  Thus, a friendship that could have been great is dissolved

What Courting Did For Me:

Courtship was a breath of fresh air for me. Over a period of about 2 years I sought the Lord in trying to figure out how to date in Christian way. I knew it would be counter-cultural, but I desired to honor God in my dating life.  God sent me the opportunity to practice some of these new (yet old) principles.  Jessica (now my wife) met, and then practices these principles of courtship.  After 14 months, I somehow convinced her dad to let her marry me . . . and she said yes!  So, what did courtship get me?  First, it gave me a clear conscience.  We were purposeful about keeping our relationship pure.  We set up rules for accountability; one of which meant we would refrain from being behind any closed doors.  We chose not to kiss until the day of our marriage.  We asked others to hold us accountable to these rules.  Secondly, it gave us a firm foundation.  Jessica and I entered into this relationship with a purpose.  The purpose was not just to have fun and see if we were “soul mates.”  Our purpose was to see if we were compatible for the purpose of marriage.   If we had not been, then it would not have been a failed courtship, it wold have only meant that we were not good for each other in that way.  Fortunately for me, God had providently brought us together for the purpose of marriage.  Finally, what courtship got me was a wife.  That is the end goal of courting right.  This is precisely the difference between courtship and dating: the end goal of courting is to see if you both are compatible for marriage.  If you are, there is no reason for anything other than marriage.  That is where courting is different than just casual dating.  While you may end up getting married after dating, that is not necessarily the understood “point” of dating in our (secular and Christian) culture.

Whether you call it courtship or dating, it does not really matter. What does matter is that you have a plan.  If you are a Christian then you have no other choice than to seek scripture when it comes to your dating life, or that of your children.  I am not saying everyone has to do it the way my wife and I did, but what I am saying is that we need to rethink how we do dating.  Let’s make sure that we do it in a way that most honors God and His word.  As for my family, we plan to teach our children the principle of courtship. While we may not do it the same way with our children that we did it, we want them to always think biblically and I believe courtship gives us the best understanding of what that looks like.  Whatever it looks like, let’s make sure it looks the way God would want it to; the way that would bring Him the most glory!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell