Hebrews 6:1 - 2
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Repentance from dead works and faith in God are two foundational issues in the life of a believer.
Repentance is the first step. It must be taken in order to even enter into a true relationship with God. It is taken in faith. Faith is the substance of the christian's whole life and walk.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.
God commands us to repent. If we don't repent, then we are in sin. Then we have to repent! :-) There is no choice or option given here. We do not have the luxury of choosing NOT to repent. It is a command. We do not have any options to repenting. We can't just go make God some brownies instead. That's not repentance, that's making brownies. Confession is not repenting, it's confession. Being, or saying you're sorry is not repentance. It is being or saying you're sorry.
Both repentance and faith are gifts from God the Father to us - we turn from our ways to follow Him.
Both repentance and faith go beyond our initial experience of salvation and work actively throughout our walk of sanctification.
What does 'repent' mean?
From Webster's Dictionary:
REPENT', v.i. [L. re and paeniteo, from paena, pain. Gr. See Paint.]
1. To change the mind in consequence of the inconvenience or injury done by past conduct.
2. In theology, to sorrow or be pained for sin, as a violation of God's holy law, a dishonor to his character and government, and the foulest ingratitude to a Being of infinite benevolence.
There is an implication of conscious moral separation from God; a personal decision to forsake sin and enter fellowship with God.
It is a conscious decision to make a 180 degree turn and go the other way, forsaking all that we thought was good and right in our own way and choosing to go a different way.
Have you ever been lost while driving? I am usually pretty good as long as I can see the position of the sun and know what time it is, (thank you Boy Scouts). Well, I never let on to my family that I am lost unless it's completely hopeless. They usually hear something like, "Oh, don't you just love this dirt road, it's so beautiful out here today." But if the sun has set or there are serious clouds and we are on a road she has never seen before, and every curve is to the left, my wife knows we are probably lost. But she never says anything. Thank you, honey. I like to try new roads and find shortcuts. I know some of you are laughing right now because either you or your spouse or your parents do this too. But sometimes I get so lost, the only thing left to do is turn around. I was going in the wrong direction. I had gone astray. I had to turn around. Completely.
Why is repentance important?
Well, as we saw earlier, it is commanded. It is also essential for salvation:
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Act 11:18When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Repentance is something that God himself desires for all of us. He is patient with us. OK, He's more than just patient. The Word says He is longsuffering! Sounds like a true father to me!
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
If we do not repent before God of our ways, then we are choosing to go our own way. Our own way will lead us in the wrong direction. In fact, our own way goes against God's way or away from God Himself. Who wants that? A friend of mine likes to rap. I told him he should use this in one of his songs. If we go our own way, we will surely go astray.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Our own way leads us astray. Because of this, we should indeed choose repentance and follow God.
Repentance calls for a renunciation of self confidence and will initiate a confidence in God.
Judges 10:15 - 16
And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.
Try reading the rest of this passage to get an idea of what the Israelites were going through. They had turned their backs on God. He told them that he wasn't going to help them anymore. They repented. They realized what they had done to God and told Him that He could do whatever He wanted with them, (duh) but just please save them from this current attack. We must confess that we have sinned, turn from it, put it aside and place our confidence in God.
It is key here that they got rid of all their idols. Repentance should look like repentance. There are times when our sin involves other people, directly or indirectly through actions. Sometimes it is only known between us and God, through our thoughts or feelings toward others. Either way, repentance should look like repentance. Something should look different. It should be a visible change; visible to God or others.
But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
'Works meet for repentance' = Put away the idols.
1Thessalonians 1:7 -8
So that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
The Thessalonian Church had a faith in God that was heard about in other places; so much so that Paul didn't even have to preach in some of those places. People were believing simply because of the repentance and faith of the believers in Thessalonica. Repentance should look like repentance. We must repent and turn to God.