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For many of us, our prayer time will often have an aspect of confession. It is part of the ACTS Prayer Method I have written about previously; that you confess your sins and tell the Lord you are sorry for receive His forgiveness. It is part of the Lord’s Prayer; “Forgive us our trespasses”! But many of us easily turn this into a time of “beating ourselves up” over sin. We confess it but hold onto it. Or we do the opposite and give a cursory “I am sorry” but believe that is all that is needed. So what is the true meaning of repentance and is your life reflecting it?
Repentance Prayer – How Do We Spend Our Time Repenting of Sin?
In the Avinu or Lord’s prayer, we are told to ask the Lord to forgive us our debts or trespasses as we forgive others indebted to us. This is Yeshua’s own teaching on prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13.
Many of us could easily spend 30 minutes of a 45 minute prayer time just confessing sins and crying out to the Lord for forgiveness. I myself have done that and, on High Holidays like Yom Kippur, it is FAR more time and a lot of fasting…25 hours to be exact.
There is nothing wrong with feeling bad when we do something hurtful. We SHOULD be allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and when He does, we should repent.
In Jewish prayer or davening, we say two groups of prayers of repentance known as Viduy and Tachanun. Even as Messianic Jews, who know Yeshua as Messiah and believe our sins are forgiven us, we still pray these prayers of repentance because we stand in awe before a holy and righteous King. Just because we have grace extended to us doesn’t mean we let our sins slide.
In many synagogues throughout the world, Messianic and Traditional, on the Ark that contains the Torah scroll, you will find the words “Da Lifne Mi Atah Omed – Know Before Whom You Stand”.
This is a great reminder to all who sit or stand in synagogue before the Ark that we stand before the Lord of all! And we should always approach Him with awe and reverence.
And we should approach prayer in the same way. Yes, He is our Father, our Abba…we have a personal relationship, but that does not change the fact that He is also the Creator of the Universe. Know before whom you stand!Know before whom you stand! Click To Tweet
Repentance of sins should always be part of our prayers before a holy and righteous Judge.
But we confess, repent, receive forgiveness and move on with the true INTENT of not repeating the sin, right? Well, let’s see!
What is the True Meaning of Repentance?
Repentance in Hebrew
So what is the true meaning of repentance in Hebrew?
Well, the word “teshuva” is the word often used as repentance in Hebrew but it literally means “turning back” or “turning from”.
When we repent of sin, we should turn away from it and take a different path moving forward. We should walk away from the things in life that cause us to fall into sin, right?
But there is another aspect of repentance in Hebrew and that is the word “nacham” which essentially can be summed up to mean regret. It is what drives us to teshuva. We regret what we have done and then we turn away from it.
I believe repentance has to incorporate both of these things. We cannot regret our sins and then refuse to turn away from them. We might as well not even bothered if change is not the result…or at least an attempt at change from the heart. We all mess up and we all make mistakes. But it is the heart change God is seeking.
Think about when you were first saved. You were living a much different life in many cases, unless you were saved as a child. Many of us were on the wrong path and living lives of selfishness, sin, and lawlessness (as regards the Lord’s Law or even civil law).
When you found Yeshua, you turned away from your life of sin and felt regret for the things you had done and maybe even for the rejection of God in your life. You turned away from that path and pursued a path of righteousness. THAT is teshuva and nacham!
The True Meaning of Repentance Does Not Include Condemnation
The Bible doesn’t say to ask the Lord to forgive you over and over again for the same sin. It doesn’t say to beat yourself up over it. If you are constantly asking the Lord to forgive you for the same sin that you have confessed and repented of, you are living in guilt, shame and condemnation and that my friend is from the enemy!
The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to keep going to God with it every time we pray as though we are reading a ledger of sins to Him. The true meaning of repentance doesn’t include never-ending self-condemnation!
Yet, many of us feel like we haven’t yet done enough to be relieved of our OWN guilt.
There’s that word; FEEL.
We don’t FEEL forgiven. We FEEL we have to spend more time begging God to give us His forgiveness. FEEL FEEL FEEL!
1 John 1:9 says:
If we confess, which is the Greek word “homologeō” meaning to “agree with another, concede, declare”. In other words, by confessing our sins, we are getting into agreement with God on what sin is! We are to declare what we did, acknowledge it and get into agreement with God that it was wrong.
He says that when we do this, He forgives us and purifies us from ALL unrighteousness. All of it! Not just the ones we FEEL forgiven for! ALL!He says that when we confess our sins, He forgives us and purifies us from ALL unrighteousness. All of it! Not just the ones we FEEL forgiven for! ALL! Click To Tweet
Confession which includes nacham and teshuva brings about forgiveness once and for all. Confessing without regret and without turning away from sin is just empty words. The Greek word homologeō again means to agree with another. You must be in agreement with the Lord about the fact that you sinned and want to change.
Teshuva is not a magic formula that allows you to wipe sins away and continue living the same way as though Yeshua were some Magic Eraser.
Repentance Prayer of a New Believer
As I mentioned earlier, repentance is what a person does when they receive Yeshua! They repent and “turn away from” their sins and accept what Yeshua did for them on the cross! They pray the repentance prayer and commit to a new life in Him! He took their punishment, for the Bible says in Romans 6:23:
Remember we discussed the Hebrew word “nacham“ and how it means to be sorry for or regret? Well, it also means “comfort, be comforted”.
To be comforted! The true meaning of repentance is be sorry, to confess, turn from and to be comforted?? Let that sink in! Repentance comes with comfort!
A new believer can be comforted by the saving knowledge of Yeshua and how they are forgiven, accepted and redeemed and have a place in the Olam Haba or World to Come…the Messianic Era!
A believer can take comfort in the Word of God which says in Psalm 103:12:
When we “turn away from” our sins, God chooses to remember them no more!When we "turn away from" our sins, God chooses to remember them no more! Click To Tweet
If we are not feeling comforted but condemned after repenting of sin, that is NOT coming from God. That is an attempt by the enemy to put you under a spirit of condemnation and to make you feel the cross wasn’t enough. He wants you to feel guilt and shame because it keeps you from experiencing victory! Repentance doesn’t mean condemnation or a scarlet letter! True repentance is freedom!
What is Repentance in the Bible? – The Woman Caught in Adultery as an Example
What is repentance in the Bible? Did Yeshua offer us any examples? Yes He did.
When the woman caught in the very act of adultery in John 8:1-11 was brought before Yeshua, the Pharisees reminded the Living Torah Himself what the Law said about the situation. She was to be stoned. They asked what He had to say.
It is important to note, for those who believe Yeshua did away with Torah, that He never once disputed the punishment required by Torah Law. The law called for the woman to be stoned. He did not say “Well, let her go because I did away with all that law stuff”. No! Of the law He said in Matthew 5:18:
What must happen? The Messianic Era! The World to Come! The Torah is the Torah and will be until the end of the age. But that is for another post. Let’s carry on and look at what Yeshua DID do.
What He questioned was who had the right to judge her for her sins and said that whomever was without sin in their own life should be the first to stone her. You see, according to Jewish law there had to be witnesses who themselves were upstanding and beyond reproach in order to bring about a sentence of death upon someone.
So Yeshua starts writing in the dirt. One by one, as Jesus wrote in the dirt, they left (I like to think He was writing the names of each of the Pharisees, likely from the House of Shammai, and their own sins), each realizing there was none among them that hadn’t been deserving of God’s righteous judgment in their own lives.
One remained; the One without sin, Yeshua!
But He didn’t remain to condemn her. Yeshua Himself offered her freedom from the punishment the Law commanded! He offered her grace and mercy. He told her to go and sin no more. He told her to turn from her sin.
Repentance is a turning away from our old behaviors. Go and sin no more!
In Yeshua’s words, “sin” is the Greek word “hamartanō” which means, according to Strongs Concordance “to miss the mark, to wander from the path of righteousness, to wander from the Law of God”.Jesus never once disputed the punishment required by Torah Law. The law called for the woman in adultery to be stoned. What He questioned was who had the right to judge her. Click To Tweet
Torah is the target and sin is, in short (and in a very loose explanation), missing the mark. Sometimes we choose to miss it and sometimes we miss it unintentionally. But we in essence fall short.
She had wandered and He was restoring her to the path!
He was extending her grace by not holding her to the punishment of the Law. After all, He would be paying her debt Himself.
This is the same grace we receive today! We are saved by grace, not because we keep the letter of the Law but because Yeshua paid the debt that was ours to pay.
The True Meaning of Repentance – Go and Sin No More
We mess up. After all, we are human and we make mistakes.
We can acknowledge them, tell God we are sorry and then receive the grace offered us.
By continuing to re-live them, by not FEELING forgiven, we are saying what Yeshua did wasn’t enough and we need to take these steps in our own power to receive that forgiveness.
We try to play a part in our forgiveness where we have no part any longer. Our part was the repentance of our sins and our acceptance of Messiah! After that, He paid it all!
The enemy wants us to minimize the power of the cross by using our FEELINGS! By using guilt! He uses shame!
Forgiveness is ours in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, not because we beat ourselves up long enough for God to be satisfied that we feel badly enough.
The true meaning of repentance is being sorry for your sins, confessing them to the Lord (and in some cases to another person if you have wronged them or just need godly counsel), and then making that change in direction. You choose to walk a different path than the one you had been on and pursue the path of righteousness.
Confess your sins, receive your grace and move forward!
Get your FREE ACTS Prayer Method Workbook below as my gift to you!We try to play a part in our forgiveness where we have no part any longer. Our part was the repentance of our sins and our acceptance of Messiah! After that, He paid it all! Click To Tweet
I want to share a video with you of a song we sang at our Yom Kippur services (this is not a video of our service…due to Covid ours was online but I did want to share the song). It was such a beautiful song for the Day of Atonement after “afflicting the soul” to be reminded of Yeshua’s love for us and that our debt is paid!
Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.
CJB – Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
Originally published March 14, 2019