What is repentance? How do we repent? Is there a point in which we cannot repent?These are questions that are vital to our spiritual lives and we need to be able to answer these two questions. Scripture gives us plenty of wisdom and insight as to how to gain repentance. So let us dig into Scripture to find out how to repent and what it is.
If we look up the word “repent” in a dictionary you may find that it has something to do with feeling sorry for doing something or feeling remorse. But what is hidden from this definition is the action behind the remorse. There must be a change when we repent so we no longer do the wrong thing that we feel sorry for. 2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us an accurate depiction of what repentance looks like. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”. Notice how there is an action here to “turn” from their wicked ways. That turning requires action, not just a feeling. Revelation 2:5 further validates, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”. This church at Ephesus had started to fall away and Jesus gave them firm instruction to “do” the works they did when they first became a church.
So we now realize that if we are going down a wrong path, we should repent and turn away from the wickedness and seek God and obey His commands. But is there such a thing as too far gone? Can we be so far off the path, that we reach the point of no return? Can we lose our salvation? Some say that Hebrews 6:4-6 validates that this is true. Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace”. This seems to tell us that if we were once Christians, and have fallen away, it is impossible for us to be brought back to repentance. But if we ponder that thought, then what about the story of the Prodigal Son, he had fallen away but his father allowed him back? Is this a contradiction? Of course not. Let’s dive deeper.
Let’s look at the example of the Prodigal Son. At first, the son left and spent everything he had and was starving to death. But then he realized his mistake and “repented” by going back to his father and humbling himself. After his return, the father was rejoiced and celebrated his return. So what is the difference between this story and what the writer of Hebrews tells us is impossible? The answer is simple. Desire. The son in the parable had the desire to come back. Those who Hebrews mentions as not being able to repent, have no desire to repent. If we have no desire to repent, then repentance is impossible because our hearts are not right.
So to conclude, is it possible to fall away completely? Yes. But as long as we have a desire to come back to our first love Jesus Christ and change and follow him, repentance is always available. Just as Peter says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”