"For has anyone said to God, 'I have borne chastisement; I will not offend anymore; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will not do it again'? Shall He recompense on your terms, because you have rejected it?" (Job 34:31-33)This scripture has always troubled me. Why would God not forgive someone even when they've "repented"? If I realize I have not done right, and decide not to do it again, then why should God not reward me? As I considered this scripture, it occurred to me that sometimes what we call "repentance" is really not repentance. So when is repentance not really repentance?
- When it is void of godly sorrow. Its like getting ticketed for speeding. You tell the officer that your sorry and you wont do it again, yet, in your heart, you know you will. There really is no sorrow over the sinfulness of your transgression and no real decision to turn from it. True repentance comes from a realization of the sinfulness of our sins. It involves a whole hearted commitment to change our ways by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- When it presumes a righteousness apart from faith. The truth is that, by ourselves, we can never be good enough. Sometimes we think that if we just stop doing this and that, then we will be OK, we will be acceptable to God. This causes us to live our lives under the false assumption that our actions have made us "good enough" for God. But its only through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross that we have forgiveness and righteousness before God. False repentance will cause us to trust in our own works, while true repentance draws us closer in faith to Jesus.
- When it focuses on the reward. Repentance is not about recompense. We do not repent to gain a reward from God. Repentance, at its heart, has a desire for reconciliation with God. It cares little for rewards, it simply desires restoration. Its like the parable of the prodigal son. He returned, not for his father's rewards, but to be reunited with his father.