I have come to realize that asking for forgiveness, also known as repentance, is much more than a few words you speak when you pray. Have you considered what forgiveness really is? Do you know how to repent? What is proper repentance?
Think about it, if you ask for forgiveness of your sins, have you really repented or have you merely repeated something you say every day. Is your repentance real or just empty words? Do you continue to do the sin you repented of, or do you turn away from it completely? There may be two reasons for continuing in this sin. You may be caught too deeply in this sin, or you never really repented. Did you have any intension to change when you asked for forgiveness? What steps have you taken to change your ways? Have you even considered a way to help yourself to overcome the sin or does it stop with asking for forgiveness?
When you ask for forgiveness, you must really mean it. To repent is to turn away from sin. When you do not take steps to help yourself overcome your flesh, you will fall into sin again. You have to change the way you do things, even your thinking. We will, in this study, explore ways to help each of us to repent from our sins, but also to help us along the way to change and grow in righteousness.
In order to understand repentance better, we need to know what we need to repent of. What is YHVH’s definition of sin?
What is sin?
As believers, we are not to sin, we are to live righteously. However, we all do sin and sin ultimately leads to death.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of Elohim,
20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.
Sin is the transgression of YHVH’s commandments, to sin is to practice lawlessness.
1 John 3:4
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
The Greek word for lawlessness is “anomia”
88.139 ἀνομία, ας f: to behave with complete disregard for the laws or regulations of a society—‘to live lawlessly, lawlessness, lawless living.’ συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα καὶ τοὺς ποιοῦντας τὴν ἀνομίαν ‘they will gather up out of his kingdom all who cause people to sin and those who live in lawlessness’ Mt 13:41. In some languages one may translate ἀνομία in Mt 13:41 as ‘to live as though there were no laws,’ ‘to refuse completely to obey the laws,’ or ‘to live as one who despises all laws.’1
When people speak of the laws of government, they say you have to keep it, for if everybody obeys we have freedom. Just observe the situation in countries like South Africa. The lawlessness is so great that people live as prisoners in their own homes. You can’t go where you want when you want, for you might not survive it. Every four minutes a person is raped. No one is excluded, men, women, children and elderly are all possible victims. Is that freedom? That is lawlessness!
However, when speaking of YHVH’s laws many would not want to be seen complying to any of it. They call it legalism. We call it freedom. YHVH gave us these commands to show us how to live. It helps us in every aspect of our lives. He gave us instructions on what to eat, how to behave towards one another and best of all, He gave us instructions on how He wants to be worshiped. People now take these instructions and devise clever plans to say you only have to keep a few of these instructions or none whatsoever. This is the lawlessness that the Apostle John is referring to.
We believe, we should keep every instruction that is applicable to us. A man does not have to keep the instructions given to women, for example. We do not have a Temple, so we can’t keep the instructions pertaining to the Temple and the priesthood. Nevertheless, we can keep Sabbath and the feasts of YHVH; we can eat only clean foods to name a few examples. However, we make smart excuses and come up with clever theology to support our anomia. Y’shua said we are not to set aside even the least of the commandments.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
So, if Y’shua did not abolish the law, not even the least of the commandments, who of us is qualified to say we do not have to keep certain instructions? Why do we always have to complicate things? My answer would be because of our own lusts. We lust after detestable things like pork and prawns and pagan holidays, and man will always find a way to justify what his heart desires.
Where does sin originate?
Most believers want to do what is right, but we are human, and we have a sinful nature. Sin is born of our thoughts, in our hearts. Every sin we do, have originated in our thoughts.
10 “Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they did not know My ways’;
That is the reason Y’shua taught that hating your brother is equivalent to murdering your brother (Matt 5:21-22)and even looking at a woman in a lustful way is likened to committing adultery with her(Matt 5:27-28). When you have played around with a sinful thought, it is much easier to go and do it. The groundwork to sin has been done. We shall, further along in this post, see what we can do about overcoming this. We first need to understand the need for repentance.
The need for repentance
Sin ultimately leads to death but, sin also affects our relationship with YHVH in a negative way. It creates distance between us and Him. In order for us to come before YHVH, we are to be in a set apart state. That denotes cleanness or purity. We are to be set apart for He is set apart.
26 ‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I YHVH am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
How do we get to this set apart state? We have learned in a previous study that sin defiles us, it makes us unclean (Lev 18:24). This uncleanness is removed when we repent. So, the answer is to to return to Him! We are to draw near to Him by cleansing and purifying ourselves through repentance.
8 Draw near to Elohim and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil,
The word for “clean” denotes purity
2342 זָכָה (zā·ḵā(h)): v.; ≡ Str 2135; TWOT 549—1. LN 88.24–88.35 (qal) be pure, as a superior moral quality (Job 15:14; 25:4+); (piel) keep pure (Ps 73:13; 119:9; Pr 20:9+); (hitp) make oneself pure, i.e., as the figurative extension of washing (Isa 1:16+); 2. LN 66 (qal) be justified, be acquitted, i.e., be shown to be proper (Ps 51:6[EB 4]+); 3. LN 56.20–56.34 (qal) acquit, i.e., find and proclaim innocent (Mic 6:11+)2
From these verses in James and Isaiah, we learn that we are to cleanse ourselves. The cleansing we are to do is to return and to cease to do evil. Thus, repentance followed by obedience.
Interesting enough, when we read what John wrote about confession of sin, we saw that YHVH does the cleansing. How are we to understand this?
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We find some clarification in the book of Titus.
14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Through repentance, our relationship with YHVH is restored. This restoration is a process initiated by us through repentance, followed by obedience. When we repent, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. Y’shua is our High Priest; He made atonement for us, once for all. When we have cleansed ourselves by returning to YHVH (repentance), we are cleansed by the blood of Y’shua, through faith, and pronounced clean. We are then free to enter the presence of YHVH.
When we look up the meaning of the Greek word for cleanse, which is “katharise”, we see that this cleansing in both these verses, is a cleansing from ritual contamination. The word purify used in Titus is the same Greek word.
53.28 καθαρίζωb; καθαρότης, ητος f; καθαρισμός, οῦ m: to cleanse from ritual contamination or impurity—‘to cleanse, to purify, purification.’1
To repent is to make a fresh start. We are to confess all our sins, not concealing anything. YHVH will forgive us!
5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to YHVH”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
When we repent, YHVH forgives the guilt of our sin. What does this mean? This guilt is the judicial state of being liable for a wrong done. This state will result in punishment, in the case of sin, eternal death. When we repent, this guilt is forgiven. Our punishment is revoked.
6411 עָוֹן (ʿā·wōn): n.masc.; ≡ Str 5771; TWOT 1577a—1. LN 88.289–88.318 sin, wickedness, iniquity, i.e., wrongdoing, with a focus of liability or guilt for this wrong incurred (Ex 34:7); 2. LN 88.289–88.318 guilt, i.e., a judicial state of being liable for a wrong done, and so receive apunishmentor judicial sentence (1Sa 20:8); 3. LN 38.1–38.13 punishment, i.e., justly inflict pain or damage to an object as aconsequence of the object’s state of guilt or liability (Ge 4:13; 19:15), note: for another interp in Hos 10:10 Q, see 6412; note: for NIV text in 2Sa 16:12, see 6715; note: for MT text in Ps 73:7; Zec 5:6 see 65242
Now that we understand the need for repentance better, the next logical question would be: how are we to repent?
What is repentance?
30 “When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to YHVH your Elohim and listen to His voice.
This is the essence of repentance, return followed by obedience!
The word “suva” or ” t’suva”
2340 שׁוּב (šûb) (re)turn.
2340a שׁוּבָה (šûbâ) retirement, withdrawal (Isa 30:15).
2340b שִׁיבָה (šîbâ) restoration (Ps 126:1).
2340c שׁוֹבָב (šôbāb) backsliding.
2340d שׁוֹבֵב (šôbēb) backsliding.
2340e מְשׁוּבָה (mĕšûbâ) backsliding.
2340f תְּשׁוּבָה (tĕšûbâ) answer.
We have cited simply the basic meaning of šûb but as we shall see the verb branches into not a few different nuances. …
The Bible is rich in idioms describing man’s responsibility in the process of repentance. Such phrases would include the following: “incline your heart unto the Lord your God” (Josh 24:23): “circumcise yourselves to the Lord” (Jer 4:4); “wash your heart from wickedness” (Jer 4:14); “break up your fallow ground” (Hos 10:12) and so forth. All these expressions of man’s penitential activity, however, are subsumed and summarized by this one verb šûb. For better than any other verb it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good….
…It should be noted that in a number of places šûb means “to return from exile.” …The association between the ideas of a return from exile and a return to the covenant should be obvious. A return from exile was reclamation as much as a return from any form of sin. That God should permit either return is corroborative of his covenantal faithfulness.
To be sure, there is no systematic spelling out of the doctrine of repentance in the OT. It is illustrated (Ps 51) more than anything else. Yet the fact that people are called “to turn” either “to” or “away from” implies that sin is not an ineradicable stain, but by turning, a God-given power, a sinner can redirect his destiny. 3
Here is another good definition from the Dictionary of Biblical languages.
8746 שׁוּבָה (šû·ḇā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 7729; TWOT 2340a—LN 31.58–31.81 repentance, formally, returning, i.e., the act. of changing one’s opinion back to a former belief, implying a behavior change (Isa 30:15+), note: some sources change text and relate to 3782, “settling;” note: see also LN 41.50–41.542
“Sin is not an ineradicable stain, but by turning, a God-given power, a sinner can redirect his destiny.” This is a very profound statement! YHVHgives us the power to turn from sin and in doing so, we redirect our entire destiny.
Knowing this, I am sure you can’t wait to find out how YHVH wants us to repent.
How are we to repent?
The short answer is with sincerity or better said, from the heart. Is your repentance sincere, or just empty words? You can test yourself on this. Do you commit the same sins you previously repented of? If you answered yes, you need to consider ways to help you to overcome this sin. We shall give some practical advice, from Scripture later, on ways to help you overcome sin. But first, how are we to repent?
Psalm 51, is a great example of personal repentance. We can certainly learn from King David. YHVH desires truth in our innermost being. We are not to be blind for our own sin and are to, humbly, confess all our sin to Him.
1 Be gracious to me, O Elohim, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O Elohim, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O Elohim, the Elohim of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
15 O YHVH, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of Elohim are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O Elohim, You will not despise.
You can also read through Daniel’s prayer of repentance in Daniel 9:3-19 and Nehemiah’s prayer in Neh 1:4-11. In these two passages, Daniel and Nehemiah pray for repentance for themselves and on behalf of the nation of Israel.
We are, likewise, not only to repent of our own sins, but also on behalf of the nation. We have written about this before. You can read more about it in the article titled “What are you proclaiming on Shavuot?” Although this was written for the feast of Shavuot, this article explained national repentance if you want to learn more. We are not to neglect this; it is extremely important. However, this is not our focus here, so we will continue to focus on personal repentance.
To sincerely repent is the first step. How are we to ensure that we do not fall back into sin?
How do we overcome sin?
There are a few effective ways to overcome sin. Firstly, we have to follow repentance with obedience to YHVH’s word.
Obedience to YHVH’s Word, the renewing of our minds
We are to study YHVH’s word to know how He wants us to live, and this is not too difficult (Deut 30:11). The Torah teaches us what sin is and if we know what sin is, we are better equipped to avoid it. There is much wisdom in the psalms!
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
We can also focus our study of the Bible on our problem areas to see how we should conduct ourselves in these difficult situations. We can memorize the relevant verses, to make it our own so to speak. This is how we renew our minds.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Elohim is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Your actions will follow your thoughts. The definition as per the Louw, Nida Lexicon is as follows:
58.72 ἀνακαίνωσις, εως f; ἀνακαινόωa; ἀνανεόω: to cause something to become new and different, with the implication of becoming superior—‘to make new, renewal.’
ἀνακαίνωσις: ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός ‘but be transformed by the renewal of the mind’ Ro 12:2.1
If we treasure YHVH’s word in our heart, we shall not sin against Him, and we shall know the truth, and the truth will make us free!
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Take every though captive
Another strategy is to take every thought captive. This is where the scripture memorization is useful. We have learned that sin originates in our minds. What better way to stop it right there and then if we know what YHVH will is.
2 Corinthians 10:5
5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Elohim, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah,
What are we to think?
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
The word “dwell” means to ponder. We choose what we think about. We can choose to ponder on sinful things or godly things. Ungodly thoughts will give birth to transgression and pure thoughts to righteousness. Which one will it be?
Flee from temptation
The other piece of good advice is to flee from sin. Avoid situations that have previously caused you to sin. Sometimes this will mean that you would have to break relationships with people who cause you to sin. A gangster who makes the choice to follow YHVH will have to break his habits and relationships with his gangster buddies; he will otherwise just be tempted to return to his old life. It is the same for every one of us. If you have a problem in a specific area, avoid every situation or person that can lead you to sin.
1 Timothy 6:11
11 But flee from these things, you man of Elohim, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:22
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on YHVH from a pure heart.
Joseph is a good example of someone who resisted temptation (Gen 39:6-20). When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, he fled from her, even leaving his garment behind (Gen 39:12-13). We are to flee from temptation in the same way!
1 Thessalonians 5:22
22 abstain from every form of evil.
To abstain is to be at some distance away from, to keep yourself from it. That is good advice!
We have learned, from the Scripture, that we need to repent from our sin, humbly and sincerely and completely. When we have cleansed ourselves through repentance, we are cleansed by the blood of Y’shua, through faith, and pronounced clean. We are then free to enter the presence of YHVH.
We are to test our sincerity, by examining our lives and finding ways to overcome sin.
We have identified three ways to overcome sin. Firstly, repentance is followed by obedience. We are to leave our old lives behind, for we have become new creatures in Messiah Y’shua. We are to study YHVH’s Word to find His truth and live according to it. We are to renew our minds with the washing of the word.
Secondly, we are to take our thoughts captive by replacing lustful thoughts with scripture we memorize. We choose what we think about, choose wisely!
Lastly, if all else fails, and we do get into temptation, we are to flee from it.
And remember, repentance is not complete without faith. We have to believe that we are forgiven because YHVH said so in His Word. Remember, His forgiveness is complete, and He will not remember our sins!
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So YHVH has compassion on those who fear Him.
25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.
Hopefully, this study will help you to live the way YHVH requires from each of us. We are ambassadors for His Kingdom, and we are to live accordingly!
- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (757). New York: United Bible Societies.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Hamilton, V. P. (1999). 2340 שׁוּב. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (909). Chicago: Moody Press.
Tags: commandments, Daniel 9, flee from sin, forgiveness, Genesis 39, instructions, keep commandments, Law, Nehemia 1, obedience, obedience follows repentance, Ps 51, renewing of the mind, repentance, take thoughts captive, Torah, unclean, Y'Shua, Yhvh, YHWH
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