Clearly blame shifting, self-justification, and cold indifference are not evidences of genuine repentance. But neither are tears, emotional brokenness, and impassioned promises never to do the sin again. Some people cry and some don’t; some become deeply emotional, and others don’t; furthermore, emotion can be faked. Believers need a Biblically objective understanding of true and false repentance.

Read Judges 10:6-16

God rejects Israel’s initial attempt at repentance in Judges 10:11-14, but accepts their second in 10:15-16. Why? Based on the difference between Israel’s two efforts, it is clear that the repentance God accepts has four characteristics:

  1. A verbal acknowledgement that what was done was sin (v. 15, “we have sinned”).
  2. A willingness to accept the legitimate consequences of the sin (v. 15, “do to us whatever seems good to you”).
  3. A humble request for undeserved mercy—in contrast to self-justification (v. 15, “only please deliver us this day”).
  4. A willingness to take active steps to stop the sin and to replace it with God-honouring behaviour (v. 16, “so they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord”).

Words of repentance aren’t enough . There also needs to be objectively expressed contrite humility seen in a willingness to accept consequences and to stop making excuses. And what good is a repentance that doesn’t actually stop doing the sin and start doing what is right?

*This devotional was taken from Joel James, “Repentance: Real or Not?”, Grace School of Ministry, Counselling class