How Can I Know My Repentance is Genuine?
How Can I Know My Repentance Is Genuine?
Why couldn’t Esau repent as stated in Hebrews 12? Does there come a point where God will no longer accept repentance from someone? How can I know my repentance is genuine so that I’m not like Esau?
The passage that Dawson referred to is Hebrews 12:14-17:
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
This brings up a principle that is worth remembering – that repentance is, at least in some sense, something that God grants and gives. Repentance, in some sense, isn’t “all up to us.”
God Grants and Gives Repentance
2 Timothy 2:24-25
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Repentance is God’s gift – no one could ever turn away from darkness and turn to the light unless God was working in them. Anytime we turn to God, it’s aways a response to His working in us.
While repentance isn’t “all up to us,” it is also wrong to thing that repentance is God’s business and not mine. No one should think that God repents for us. God works in us, but we may not be aware of His working, and we certainly won’t feel it as compulsion. It comes to us as a choice, and we must choose to repent.
There are only two kinds of repentance that God refuses:
- Insincere, false repentance
- Repentance that never happens
Going back to the Hebrews passage – focusing especially on verses 16 and 17:
 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:  looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;  lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
- Was Esau’s repentance false, insincere?
- Was Esau’s repentance something that never happened?
 Like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright: Many Christians today sell a birthright of intimacy with God as cheaply as Esau sold his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34 and 27:30-40).
 For he found no place for repentance: “It is not a question of forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is always open to the penitent. Esau could have come back to God. But he could not undo his act.” (Morris)
 Though he sought it diligently with tears: When Esau later sought the blessing he was rejected by his father Isaac and found no place for repentance before Isaac. Esau’s birthright wasn’t restored simply because he wished it back. It could never be regained because he despised it.
The real lesson of Hebrews 12:16-17 is that repentance does not erase all the consequences of sin.
- Genesis 25: Esau sold his birthright
- Genesis 27: Esau wanted his birthright back, and could not have it (Indeed he shall be blessed, Genesis 27:33)
- Genesis 27: Esau vows to kill his brother Jacob, who got the birthright instead of him
- Genesis 28-32: Jacob is with his uncle Laban for 20 years, not seeing Esau
- Genesis 33: When Esau meets Jacob again, he is a blessed man. He could say to his brother Jacob, I have enough(Genesis 33:9).
- Esau turned out to be a blessed man, but he never got the birthright. Jacob was the one chosen to carry forth the covenant God made with Abraham and Isaac, not Esau.
So, no matter how much Esau cried and repented – and no matter how much he was later blessed – there were still consequences to his sin of giving up the birthright.
The lesson for us from Hebrews is that our sin may make us suffer consequences that God’s forgiveness will not take away.
So, how can we know our repentance is genuine?
- Understand what repentance is – a change of mind, a turning 180 degrees. It’s not focused on feelings. Repentance isn’t measured by feelings or emotion, but on how you think and live. Of course, emotions are not bad in repentance, but they are not the measure of repentance.
- Take seriously the idea of living out your repentance.
- When you repent, you can’t give God perfect sincerity – we can’t give God perfect anything! So, give to God all the sincerity you have. To the best of your ability, don’t hold anything back. Tell Him everything. Don’t try to excuse or minimize your sin. Bring the real you the real Jesus.
- Don’t expect that repentance will erase all the consequences of sin.
Does Matthew 21 imply that there will be a hierarchy in heaven based on suffering, trials, and persecution?
In Matthew 21, the mother of Zebedee asked Jesus the following, “Grant that one of these two sons may sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your Kingdom.” In verse 22, Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking for.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Does this imply that there might be a hierarchy in heaven based on suffering trials and persecution?
I don’t think that there will be a hierarchy in heaven, in the sense that some will be better than others. But there will be reward given to us in heaven. That reward will be based on our faithfulness in this present life. Our faithfulness in this present life is important for us, to honor God the way we should, and to receive whatever reward that we’re going to receive in heaven.
It seems that John and James believed very much in a strict hierarchy in heaven, but the Bible itself doesn’t tell us that there is a strict hierarchy in heaven. It only says that believers will receive more or less reward as it would be glorifying to God.
What is the proper way to repent in prayer?
Friends, I think a great pattern for repentance is found in the words of David in 2 Samuel, where David repented to Nathan the prophet, after his great sin with Bathsheba and the far worse sin of murder when he arranged the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. This was David’s response, in 2 Samuel 12:13a – So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” This was a succinct statement of repentance.
Now, it’s true that David sinned beyond the Lord. He did sin against Bathsheba, he obviously sinned against Uriah whom he murdered, and he sinned against all his family and his kingdom and his associates. But David recognized that the greatest sin that he had to deal with was how he had sinned against the holy God.
True repentance is coming to God without excuses, without trying to put the blame on anything else. A good prayer of repentance before God won’t have a “but” in it. In other words, it won’t sound like this, “Well, Lord, I’m sorry, butyou know the pressure I was under.” Or, “Lord, I’m sorry, but…”. I think that is a good indication to show that a repentance is not good, that it’s weak and faulty.
I would say a good prayer of repentance is, “Lord, I have no excuse. I have no defense. I have no explanation. I’ve sinned against You.” It would be to simply put it that way. That kind of humility before God finds great favor with the Lord. That’s what we’re trying to do in repentance, coming humbly before God, where we find His favor.
Is it acceptable to use alternative medicine, like traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, Ayurveda?
I don’t know anything about Ayurveda, but I’ve heard of homeopathy and, of course, traditional Chinese medicine. I would say that those things are acceptable, to whatever degree they are truly medicinal and not spiritual in nature. We as Christians are not into the application of magic potions, or the kind of thing that will do things on a spiritual level, in a magical or superstitious way. We have no interest in that.
Listen, the Lord God is our Healer. And we’re grateful for the way that He uses modern medical science. But we also recognize that modern medical science doesn’t have everything understood. There may be some value in nontraditional forms of medicine, but the emphasis needs to be on the medicinal aspect of it.
We can take a legitimate caution over spiritual or superstitious things that are brought in under the guise of these things. We should only take things for medicine, if we have a good reason to believe that they’ll work medicinally, and not because of some magical or spiritual power. The magical, spiritual power doesn’t exist in the Lord. His healing comes simply through the power of His Holy Spirit. So, I would be cautious with it. But again, if there are medical grounds for doing these things, I think this could be permitted for a believer.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14, what is meant by Christ leading us in triumph?
In 2 Corinthians 2:14, what is meant by Christ leading us in triumph? In the NLT, it’s “Christ’s triumphal procession.”
2 Corinthians 2:14 – But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.
This is a wonderful question. It’s referencing the idea of the Roman triumphal parade. I’d recommend that you look at my commentary on 2 Corinthians 2, where I speak of this phenomenon of the Roman triumphal parade. The Romans would have a triumphal parade when a great Caesar or general had conquered peoples in distant lands. They would come back bringing the slaves they had captured, the spoil they had gathered in battle, the generals from the enemy armies which they had humiliated, and their own triumphant troops, and they would march them in these amazing parades through Rome, which was the ultimate triumph parade. But they would have similar parades on a smaller scale in other great cities of the Roman Empire. The Roman triumph parade was probably the greatest spectacle that anybody the ancient world could see with their own eyes. All the pageantry, all the scale, all the magnitude of that event would be amazing to see.
Paul draws on that image of the Roman triumph parade. Paul says that we who are believers in Jesus Christ, and he as an apostle, are marching in Jesus’s triumph parade. Maybe we’re counted among the soldiers of the Lord. Maybe we’re those captives that Jesus brought out of darkness, and we’re marching in His triumph parade as His captives. But we are part of the majestic triumph which Jesus Christ has won over this entire earth. It’s a beautiful, powerful picture. But it simply means that we are part of this collection of winners for Jesus’ sake, and those who have joined with Him. We are part of His triumph parade.
Are all angels male?
In the Bible, angels are only represented to us by the male gender. You can make an argument that, because Jesus said that in the resurrection we will be like the angels in heaven, who do not marry and are not given in marriage, it may be that angels don’t have a gender. But the only gender by which God represents angels to us in is the male gender. I’m not going to say that angels are male, or are female, although we have no biblical indication of any kind of representation of a female angel. But I wouldn’t say that angels are either male or female. But I would say that God wants us to think of them as male, because that’s the only way that He represents them to us.
Every angel that has a name in the Bible, such as Gabriel or Michael, they are male names. Any times angels appear in the Bible, such as they did in the book of Genesis at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they appear as males. So, God wants us to think of them in a male sense; that’s the only way that He has represented them to us.
This is like another issue which rising in importance in these present days. Friends, we must be very insistent on the idea that God represents Himself to us as male, and overwhelmingly so. There are a few places in the Scriptures where God describes Himself as having attributes that we normally associate with women or with mothers. Examples would include protecting us as a hen covers her chicks, or nourishing Israel, as a mother nourishes a child, like in breastfeeding. But nowhere in any direct sense does God represent Himself as a female God. Overwhelmingly, God represents Himself to us as being male.
Now, it’s not because God is male. God is neither male nor female; He’s God. But it was very important to God to represent Himself to us as a male. I’m a little shocked at how some people will take four or five verses against literally thousands of biblical references to God in the masculine, and act as if it’s an even wash. It’s not. God has deliberately and overwhelmingly represented Himself to us in the Scriptures as male. You can discuss the reasons why; I think I know many of the reasons why. But the fact of it cannot be denied. For someone to say, “God has represented Himself to us as male and female” is a gross distortion of the biblical text. It is wrongly dividing the word of truth. It’s taking thousands of verses on one side, and four or five verses on the other side, and saying they’re equal. They’re not equal; one far outweighs the other. And again, that’s God’s self-revelation.
Why did King Saul not mention that he knew David when he came to fight Goliath?
When we ask, “Why didn’t this happen?”, sometimes it’s an impossible question to answer. There could be many potential reasons why something didn’t happen. But I can think of a few reasons.
First, when Saul first met David, he was a very young man, but when he fought Goliath, it could have been a year or two later. Kids grow up a lot in a year or two. It could also be that Saul just wasn’t in his right mind.
I’ve also heard the idea that when David fought Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, what Saul really wanted to know was what family he came from. His family connections would be very important, especially because he had promised that his daughter would be married to whomever defeated Goliath.
So, there are several possible suggestions. Maybe Saul wasn’t in his right mind, because he wasn’t always in his right mind. Maybe David had changed a lot in a year and a half or two years. Or maybe Saul wanted to find out the family background of David, in case he would marry Saul’s daughter.
Since Judas oversaw the money, did Jesus let Judas purposely steal from Him?
Did Jesus let Judas purposely steal money from Him, as he was in charge of the money? I’m not sure if there’s any relation this and with Judas selling out Christ.
That’s a good question. Yes, I think there is a definite connection there. Jesus let Judas condemn himself and add to his guilt, and He kept the way of repentance open to Judas. But Jesus certainly knew that Judas was stealing the money. There can’t be any doubt about that. And it is very much connected to how Judas sold out Jesus.
Many people throughout the centuries have tried to offer different theories as to why Judas betrayed Jesus. Many people want to try to give a knowable motive to Judas. You know, “Judas really believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but was frustrated because Jesus wasn’t sort of putting Himself forth as the Messiah. So, Judas wanted to back Jesus into a corner where He’d have to show Himself as the Messiah. And then it all went wrong, and Judas was sorry about that.” Okay, that’s a speculation. I don’t think it has any accuracy to it. But people speculate things like this. Many people try to think up a noble reason why Judas would have betrayed Jesus.
But let me tell you something. The only reason given in the Scriptures for why Judas betrayed Jesus was greed. He sold Him out for money. So, the same greed that drove Judas to steal from the common money of the disciples also led Judas to sell out Jesus to the religious leaders for thirty pieces of silver.
Now, I’m not saying that there couldn’t have been other motives. Many times, people do things from more than one motive. But the only motive that we’re told about in the Scriptures is that Judas did it for the sake of money, which is really sad and tragic, isn’t it?
Is there a good book that gives background to the Old Testament books of the Bible?
Can you recommend a text that would help me to know how and who were the recipients of each book of the Old Testament, and where they were written?
There are many books available along those lines. One example is Halley’s Bible Handbook. It is a great introduction to every book of the Bible. It is a really helpful handbook to the Bible. Any good study Bible will offer introductions to each book as well. There are a lot of good study Bibles out there.
I would also recommend A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix. It’s a great little book introducing you to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
Finally, there was a dear woman named Henrietta Mears who years ago wrote a book called, “What the Bible is All About.” That’s a great book as well.
How do I know my repentance is good enough?
First, understand what repentance is. It’s a change of mind. It’s turning 180 degrees. It’s not focused on feelings. You can’t measure repentance by feelings or emotion, but on how you think and act and live afterwards. We’re not saying emotions are bad in repentance, but they’re not the measure of repentance. So, understand what repentance is.
Secondly, take seriously the idea of living out your repentance. Repentance needs to be lived out and not just for a day, but over time. It needs to be lived out.
Thirdly, when you repent, give God all you can. We can’t give God perfect sincerity. We can’t give God perfect anything. So, give to God all the sincerity you have, to the very best of your ability. Don’t hold anything back. Confess your sins freely and openly to God. Don’t try to cover or excuse or minimize in any way. Be perfectly open and honest to God, without trying to make yourself look better one bit.
Finally, don’t expect that repentance will erase all the consequences of sin. There may be consequences that come from our sin. Even if we’re forgiven by God for those sins, we will still have to endure those consequences in this natural world.
Were the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 angels or men?
Can you give me your take on whether the sons of God were angels or men in Genesis 6, where the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were attractive?
I’ll give you my opinion, which is a minority opinion among Bible scholars and students throughout the generations. Most Bible commentators and preachers hold a different opinion than the one I’m going to give.
My opinion is that they had to be some kind of demonic fallen angels. These were not faithful angels. I would regard demonic spirits as being angelic beings, they’re just fallen angelic beings. But there was something definitely demonic in the Genesis 6 scenario.
Here are the main reasons I believe that. I think it explains the unnatural offspring described in Genesis 6. It describes why God would judge the world so profoundly with a worldwide flood. And then it also explains the passage in Jude 1:6-7, which talks about angels in former times who sinned in a sexually immoral way, like the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. To me, the best explanation of those things is the idea that there was some kind of demonic work going.
I cannot answer the question, “How could a demonic spirit impregnate a human woman?” I can’t answer that because I don’t know. I would suspect that it was a unique form of demonic possession which is no longer allowed by God. I think it would have been a form of demonic possession that overwhelmed the personhood, and in some sense the physical makeup of that person, enough to where unnatural offspring could be produced.
Again, I understand that there are some weaknesses to the approach of saying that it was angelic beings, and not just the descendants of Cain, in Genesis 6. But to me, it’s the best explanation of the biblical data, even with all the difficulties.
My husband is an alcoholic and an unbeliever. I pray for him, but I feel none of my prayers get answered.
I am very sorry to hear of your situation. I’m very sorry to hear that you have to live with the burden of a husband who is an alcoholic, and a husband who is an unbeliever. But I would just say to you, don’t give up praying. I have no explanation to you why it seems that a prayer that was not answered a thousand times may be answered on the 1001st time. We can’t make God answer our prayers. All we can do is cry out to Him. I don’t blame you for being discouraged. I don’t blame you for feeling that it’s such a burden, because it is a significant burden. But I do just want to recommend to you that you keep on praying and don’t lose heart. Jesus one time told a story, a parable, about which He said that He told the story so that we might pray and not lose heart. I know that’s what God wants for you.
How important is it to kneel when in private prayer?
I think that there’s importance to it. When you look at all the people in the Bible who knelt in prayer, it’s very impressive list. Paul knelt in prayer. Jesus Himself knelt in prayer. Solomon knelt in prayer. Daniel knelt in prayer. Moses knelt in prayer. Many, many people in the Bible knelt in prayer. We have enough kneeling in prayer to show us that it’s a practice worthy of imitation. But we have enough prayer that was not done while kneeling to show us that it’s not required.
I would say most of us should kneel in prayer more than we do. But it is true that ultimately, the posture of our heart is more important than the posture of our body. It’s just helpful to understand that sometimes the posture of our body affects the posture of our heart.
So, how much should we kneel when we pray? More. Many of us rarely kneel when we pray, and we could stand to do more of that.
Are a lot of social media platforms a potential stumbling block for Christians?
Yes, social media platforms are a potential stumbling block for many Christians. I’m going to be straight with you, dear brothers and sisters. Jesus told us that if we would follow Him, there would be times in our life when we’d have to give up things that are dear to us, and would have to die to those things, so to speak. That’s a heavy thing. It’s a heavy thing to die to anything.
Please understand that just because something is very dear to you doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t want you to give it up. Jesus wanted us and asked us to give up many things that are dear to us. And I don’t doubt that there are some people listening to me right now, whom Jesus would ask to give up a particular social media platform, and maybe all your social media, because while those things may be fine for other people, they are very disruptive to your life with God. If that’s the case, you need to be real about it, and you need to do what Jesus tells you to do. And that is simply to give up something that’s dear to you. So yes, we should be real before God about any liberty that we have in our life, and simply say, “Lord, if You want me to give this up, I will be willing to do it.”