What does it mean to live a lifestyle of repentance?  Often, we are inclined to pursue a lifestyle of resolve, not repentance, thinking that if we just try harder, we will stop sinning and thus earn God’s favor. We believe too much in the power of our active righteousness—our ability to change our behavior.  What we need is a hunger for Christ’s passive righteousness—the spotless record Jesus has already achieved. He gives his children his righteousness when they turn to him in repentance.

Even though the word “repentance” may conjure up images of self-contempt, shame, and groveling in some of us, the true gospel does not leave us to wallow in shame.  A lifestyle of repentance means that as we are continually made aware of our sin, we go to Jesus—which leads to forgiveness, grace, gratitude and joy.  True gospel repentance draws us closer to Jesus. Like the prodigal, even if we come to our Father full of shame and regret, he welcomes, forgives and restores us. Our repentance thus leads to celebration and greater appreciation of God’s grace—his unmerited favor.

OK, you might wonder. So if true repentance leads us back to Christ in the gospel, how does this principle apply to human relationships? Does repentance automatically lead to reconciliation? And how do I know if someone is really repentant, or just mouthing the words?

When a relationship is broken and reconciliation is being sought, effective restitution requires two people to pay the cost of their reconciliation. The very word “restitution” means payment. We often force two parties to reconcile because the right words have been spoken. We need to look deeper, however. Has there been a currency of repentance? Words are not the currency of repentance. Pain is, godly sorrow is. There is a cost involved. Both parties pay. Without payment, repentance is shallow and reconciliation virtually impossible. Remember, we can forgive people who sin against us regardless of their response, ability, or willingness to interact with us. But for restitution to occur, both parties must look at what has occurred and be willing to pay a currency of repentance.

It is not wise to trust people who are unrepentant. If a person has not come close to paying the cost of his or her repentance, they are most likely feeling and exhibiting only worldly sorrow. This is where we often misunderstand the concept of grace and assume it to mean that a person does not need to pay the cost of their repentance to another. This only encourages worldly sorrow, which eventually negates an experience of true grace.

A person exhibiting godly sorrow (i.e. Zaccheus, Luke 19) recognizes his sin and offers a currency of repentance. In the movie Get Low, the protagonist Felix Bush isolates himself for 40 years as self-inflicted payment for his sin. He experiences pain, but it is not the pain or currency of repentance we are talking about. It is not until old man Bush comes clean before his community and experiences the pain of openly owning the truth of his actions that there is even the possibility of reconciliation between him and the few remaining people who know him. Of course there is no payment Felix can offer—and neither is there one that we can offer—that actually covers our sin apart from what Jesus has already accomplished on the cross. Yet, there is a currency of repentance that passes between two people walking the path of reconciliation. If this currency is absent, be cautious to assume that true repentance is present.

Only the reconciliation we have with God in Jesus gives us the power to pay the currency of repentance to one another. As I recognize that my brother’s (or sister’s) sin against me is much more insignificant than my past, present and future sin against God, I begin to gain a gospel perspective. This moves me toward forgiveness. I begin to look at the plank sticking out of my own eye, not the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye (Matthew 7). I begin to recognize that Jesus paid the highest currency because of his desire to reconcile me to God. I can rejoice that Jesus loved me enough to pay this price. And because I am secure in this love and this identity, I can pursue a lifestyle of repentance.

Shari Thomas *** (Important information below)

I repent!
I read through my recent post on repentance and as I scanned down part 1 and then part 2, I noticed something I didn’t like. Something I didn’t like one bit. My wonderful friend and Sonship mentor, Stu Batstone, taught me these truths and has written about these truths. What’s more, he’s graciously allowed Parakaleo to freely use these truths. Of course, these truths aren’t something he owns but the words are his and the categories and points especially under worldly and godly sorrow are ones I’ve learned from him.  And nowhere on this blog do I give him credit for this. I don’t like that and it’s not right.  I know we all quote others and what we learn from one person we pass on to another often forgetting the original author. But I know I learned this from Stu. This is not by Shari Thomas. This is by Stu Batstone. 
Nothing like writing about repentance and needing to repent about it.