Repentance Not to Be Repented Of
True Christians are totally surrendered to God.

During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God’s people commemorate the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Egypt represented sin. The Israelites endured hard slavery, lost their understanding of God, and faced genocide under Pharaoh. As God began to intervene, the Egyptians suffered 10 plagues.

But the Israelites did not leave Egypt until there was a sacrifice of blood. This symbolized Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for all mankind.

The night before their miraculous exit from Egypt, the Israelites observed the Passover. God instructed those who feared Him to kill and eat a lamb, and to put its blood on the doorposts of their homes. Those who disobeyed found that the firstborns in their families died that night. This was a bloody night. To this day, it shows God’s people the tremendous price for sin.

God placed Passover immediately before the feast of Unleavened Bread. He wants us to go into this feast with a clear picture of what sin did to His Son. If we don’t see the terrible price for sin, we won’t get serious about fighting sin. But if we do understand that the blood of the Lamb had to be shed, that understanding motivates us to yield to God and do everything we can to violently resist and conquer sin!

“The decision to forsake sin is up to you. It is your part in God’s master plan. God will not force you, but if you don’t forsake sin willingly—here and now—you can never fulfill God’s purpose for your life—the development of righteous, holy character. And you will never receive the gift of eternal life!” (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 34, 1958).

You have a choice! The glorious gift of eternal life is hanging in the balance. God is working out a creation project in you, but you have to do your part. You must make the decision.

This is what the feast of Unleavened Bread is all about. These seven days picture the putting away of sin and keeping of God’s commandments. We need God’s help and power to accomplish this. No man can overcome sin and conquer the devil on his own. But each person who submits to God the Father and Jesus Christ in this miraculous process has this choice to make.

Remove the Weight

The world of professing Christianity teaches that God’s plan of redemption ended with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not true. The Israelites’ journey didn’t end with the night of the Passover, and God’s plan did not end with Christ’s crucifixion.

As the ancient Israelites were preparing to flee Egypt, they “baked unleavened cakes” (Exodus 12:39). They had to move fast. Baking cakes with leaven would have slowed them down. This teaches us an important lesson.

Leaven is a type of sin (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:8). Just as physical leaven would have hindered Israel’s progress out of Egypt, sin today slows down a true Christian’s progress to leaving sin and becoming a son in God’s Family.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The weight of sin slows us down in the spiritual race that we are running. The Greek word for “weight” in this verse means “burden” or “encumbrance.” Sin makes us heavier. It burdens us and slows us and trips us up as we try to grow in godly character. The longer we let it linger, the harder it will be to remove it from our lives. That is why God told the Israelites, “Go!” He wanted them to get out of Egypt, a type of sin, as fast as they could! He gives us the same charge today.

Eating unleavened bread during this spring festival is a powerful reminder that when God exposes sin, we must act fast to get rid of it. We can’t take our time removing sin from our lives.

It is easy to be weighed down by sin. Unless we consistently block it and shake it off, it will automatically accumulate in our lives, and we will grow accustomed to it, comfortable with it, favorable toward it. A true Christian must throw aside every weight and sin and distraction that hinders him from his one and only life goal: to serve God.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (verse 2). We cannot keep sin off without the help of Jesus Christ, our living Savior!

If you are continually overwhelmed by a trial or test and you are easily giving in to sin, you are not looking to Jesus Christ enough. His strength brought the Israelites out of sin. His strength is the only thing that can bring you out.

In the May 1980 Good News magazine, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “If some of you brethren try to solve your problems or overcome your bad habits or resist sin in nothing more than your own power and strength, you, too, will find yourself outnumbered, overpowered and doomed to defeat!”

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (verse 3). When you consider what sin did to Jesus Christ, you realize that we cannot become casual about sin. We must get rid of it!

Notice verse 4: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” This verse shows that although Christ gives us the spiritual power, we must expend every effort to quit sinning and start obeying His commandments. The Bible teaching is that you must resist sin! It is not “come as you are” Protestantism that is shamefully taught in the name of Christ today.

Hear and Do!

True, godly repentance means overcoming sin permanently. That is what the spring holy days are all about.

Today, the world is full of sin. God has chosen some to come out of sin, and has miraculously intervened to deliver them out of that captivity. Once God has liberated you from sin, you must go forward, never turning back. The wicked man must forsake his way and the unrighteous man must forsake his thoughts (Isaiah 55:7). True biblical repentance is much different from and much deeper than even devoted Christians understand.

Many Christians associate repentance with self-pity. They recognize that they are sinners, which is good, and they recognize that sin hurts them and others, which is also good. But it stops there. They sorrow over the effects of sin, but they do not sorrow unto repentance from sin. They don’t change! Repentance is actually a sharp departure from sinful actions and sinful thoughts. It’s a sharp departure from disobedience toward the way of obedience to God’s law.

“Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21; Revised Standard Version). God is planting His Word in us, like a farmer plants seeds. He implants His Word in us so that we might grow in godly character. God wants change and growth—that is what conversion is all about!

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (verse 22). When we hear but don’t do, we are deceiving ourselves! You deceive yourself when you do not act on the instruction that God gives you and keep His law. You think you have experienced repentance, but you haven’t.

Godly character is not merely agreeing with what is right (God’s law), but successfully doing it. As rare as it might be, agreeing with the truth is the easy part. The hard part is living it. It requires a great amount of human exertion, but even that is not enough. You can only truly repent with the power of the God of the exodus.

“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (verses 23-24). God’s holy law is like a spiritual mirror; it tells us what we need to know about righteousness and sin. Mr. Armstrong said in 1981, “If you just see the law, and you read it, and don’t do anything about it, you go your own way and forget about it, you’ll never get into God’s Kingdom.” You can’t just sit on the knowledge that you have! You must do something with it. You must act. God has opened the way for you to come out of Egypt. The pillar cloud of your salvation, Jesus Christ, is leading the way. But you must be the one to walk out!

“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (verse 25). You have to look into God’s law! This means studying God’s Word.

But there is a serious warning here: Your Bible study must result in action—or you are deceiving yourself. You must study the Bible not just for knowledge but in an attitude of looking for correction (2 Timothy 3:16). In fact, receiving individual correction is the most important reason for consistent, personal Bible study. Correction straightens us out and keeps us on the right path.

You can’t just say you want to apply what you are learning. You cannot just read an article or hear a sermon, agree with it, and do nothing. You cannot be a forgetful hearer. You must use God’s law to change how you live.

This World’s Repentance

“And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5). After this instance, God admonished Cain to live the right way and bring an unselfish sacrifice before Him (verses 6-7). God was correcting Cain. He was reminding him of cause and effect. He was trying to help Cain see the error of his ways—to see how selfishness brings misery and suffering.

Cain received correction and had the opportunity to repent. But instead of applying the correction, he multiplied his sins.

Cain murdered his own brother! (verse 8). This is how Cain responded to God’s correction. Rather than facing up to his own selfishness, he decided that his righteous brother was the real problem.

When God confronted him for the obviously horrible act of murdering his own brother, Cain still refused to recognize his sin (verses 9-10).

Cain bristled in response to God’s correction. He refused to repent. Even after receiving his judgment from God, he said: “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (verse 13). Cain was sorry, but he was sorry for the effect of his sins, not sorry that he had sinned!

“Cain was just wallowing in self-pity,” my father writes in How to Be an Overcomer. “He could have repented, but he never did. Instead he just said, This punishment is too much—woe is me. He began to complain about his trial. …Self-pity is like cancer because it wipes out our enthusiasm to fight back. We just want to wallow in our self-pity when we receive a fiery trial. We endure the trial, but we don’t rejoice in it. We don’t see it as correction from a loving Father. That attitude won’t change anybody.”

If our attitude or response does not bring about a change in behavior, it is nothing more than human sorrow and self-pity. This is how this entire world has responded to correction since the time of Cain.

This is the way of the world: Ignore the cause and deal with the effect through anger, resentment, sorrow and self-pity. No matter how the world chooses to deal with the effect, there is never true, godly repentance.

We see another example of this worldly form of repentance with Judas. During Christ’s arrest and trial, Judas got swept along in the satanic mob rising up against Christ. Judas betrayed Jesus Christ! Once he realized what was about to happen, however, he quickly backtracked.

Notice Matthew 27: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself … Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (verses 3-4). Did Judas truly repent? He, like Cain, was deeply remorseful over what he had done. But what did he actually do when his error was made plain?

He “went and hanged himself” (verse 5). Judas was guilty before God—and he knew it. He looked for a way of escape from the terrible guilt he was experiencing. But he did not choose repentance toward God! He wallowed in self-pity to the point of suicide.

Judas’s repentance was much like the repentance we see in the world today. His repentance only added another awful sin on top of his betrayal of Christ.

When someone truly, deeply repents toward God, he exerts his effort and God gives him the power to reverse direction and change his life.

Divine Correction

“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5). It is easy to forget the divine purpose for God’s correction. But we need it in order to repent. God uses it to bring permanent change into our lives!

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (verse 6). The Almighty God punishes His children because He loves them! True Christians today are the beneficiaries of God’s just and merciful punishment and admonition—but also of His encouragement and comfort.

If we aren’t being corrected, then we have no father! (verses 7-10).

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (verse 11). It hurts to be corrected, but when God corrects us, it is always for our own good, just like a loving father chastens his son so that he does not grow up to be evil and miserable.

“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (verses 12-13). Our paths need to be straightened. We need correction to keep us on track.

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (verses 14-15). Refuse God’s correction long enough or often enough, and it will eventually lead to bitterness. Let God show you the truth about yourself so that you can overcome the sins that so easily beset each of us.

“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (verses 16-17). Esau was heir to the physical birthright. But he sold that inheritance for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). In Hebrews 12, Paul is saying that people of God have actually given up the Kingdom of God and eternal life for something as worthless as a bowl of soup.

Esau cried sorrowfully—he shed tears because of what he had given up—but he wouldn’t accept the correction. We have all kicked back against consequences. But with the mind of Christ, we can humbly accept correction and turn to God in repentance.

All of Esau’s human sorrow did not result in change. He didn’t look at his own responsibility and his own sin. Instead, Genesis 27:41 tells us that he focused on hating Jacob to the point of wanting to kill him!

God expects change. He doesn’t want you to only be remorseful over your sin; He wants you to act on the correction you have received from His Word or His ministry and change.

Sorrow Unto Repentance

Psalm 51 provides the account of King David’s prayer of repentance following his sin with Bathsheba. A study into this prayer shows that David’s remorse was not self-centered. He recognized that his sin was against God Almighty. He desperately desired for God to remove his transgressions completely (verses 1-4).

David knew that God desires a “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (verse 17). God wants to see us respond in humility to His correction. This approach to correction is far different from Cain’s, Esau’s and Judas’s.

Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in “How YOU Can Overcome”: “[B]e not deceived—God won’t receive you just as you are! You can’t sit down at His immaculate, holy table with your wrinkled, soiled clothes and dirty hands, which symbolically represent the human sinning condition.

“No, you must be first washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ—and before Jesus, as your Savior and Mediator with God, can wash you of the filth of your sins, you must first repent of transgressing God’s holy law, which means to be so sorry that you forsake your way and the world’s way and turn to a life of obedience to God’s laws and ways!

“Of course you’ll have to come as you are to Christ for cleansing from the filth of your past life—but confessing your filthy, sinful condition, asking Him to cleanse you and wash you in His blood, because you can’t cleanse yourself—so that He may present you chaste and pure and spiritually clean to His Father, that you may then receive the indwelling power of God that will enable you to overcome and keep God’s law, and live as His sons ought to live!” (Good News, June-July 1982).

God expects His people to be clean and pure! The spring holy days remind us of what it takes to truly cleanse and remove sin from our lives.

In the first-century Church, the Apostle Paul sternly rebuked the Corinthian congregation for becoming casual with sin. A known adulterer was permitted to remain in the Church because the members assumed they were showing love by tolerating the sin. Paul, however, had God’s viewpoint on the matter. In 1 Corinthians, he reminded them that we cannot tolerate sin. The adulterer was eventually put out, and the Corinthians learned a powerful lesson. It brought about change.

Paul wrote the Corinthians: “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while” (2 Corinthians 7:8; rsv). Humanly, Paul was sorry that he had to write his first letter to the Corinthians, as it was so corrective. But his letter made the brethren sorry for only a short time. Eventually, however, it did shake them to start taking their calling more seriously.

We must remember that sorrow and repentance are two different things. Sorrow can lead to repentance, but repentance is the actual, sincere change of thought and action.

“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing” (verse 9). Godly sorrow leads to repentance!

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (verse 10). When we make permanent change and replace the leavened bread with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, we don’t keep going through the vicious cycle of sinning and repenting year after year. It’s repentance not to be repented of! You make the necessary changes and stay on that path, not wavering.

In Chapter 1 of How to Be an Overcomer, “Repentance Toward God,” my father writes: “The reason godly sorrow is ‘not to be repented of’ is because it causes you to overcome your sin! Someone with worldly sorrow may feel bad for a while, but he will never overcome his problems. With godly sorrow, it may not be immediate, but you are not content until you overcome that problem. You get into contact with God and take the problem to Him, and you strive with all your being to become like God in that area. That is when you begin to make real progress.”

Godly repentance means you have quit sinning, you have stopped disobeying God’s laws and ways. It means you have unconditionally surrendered to Jesus Christ as your living Savior, your Lord and Master. It means you are letting Him live His life over again inside of you through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

True repentance is a deliberate decision to change the direction of your life. The right kind of sorrow produces change and brings repentance to an individual.

“Sorrow of the world” produces anxiety, frustration and eventually death. It focuses on self, producing a rotten attitude overlaid with self-pity. This is not godly repentance.

“For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (verse 11).

There are seven attributes to godly sorrow taught in this verse:

  1. Carefulness: You must apply diligence and earnestness, in contrast to carelessness. You begin to walk carefully and do the right things.
  2. Clearing of yourself: Right the wrong, and make it obvious where you stand against sin.
  3. Indignation: Hate the sin! Don’t justify it as “not that bad.” Be truly ashamed of your sin to the degree that you hate it and plead with God to help you eradicate it (Romans 12:9).
  4. Fear: Have the proper fear of God (Proverbs 1:7). Deeply respect your Creator, and fear to sin against Him.
  5. Vehement desire: Develop an eager desire to do what is right, to be cleared before God, and to change.
  6. Zeal: Be emotionally, energetically zealous in carrying out instruction and correction (Revelation 3:19). Don’t allow yourself to run out of drive as you try to overcome. Never grow “weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).
  7. Revenge: Take vengeance against sin! Violently remove that leaven from your life. Godly sorrow will cause you to hate sin. Respond to correction in haste, like the Israelites leaving Egypt (Exodus 12:33-34). Use God’s power to identify, seek, attack and destroy sin!

“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaventh the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). Like leaven, sin starts small, but it eventually puffs up the entire loaf.

Yeast simply cannot be taken out of leavened bread. In order to remove yeast and make unleavened bread, you must make a new loaf. The same is true of true Christians. You must become a new creation, totally surrendered to God.

“… Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (verses 7-8). The feast of Unleavened Bread pictures our worshiping God in sincerity and truth. To remove malice, wickedness and hypocrisy, we must implant sincerity and truth. We must keep the commandments of God!

“When you have to tackle a problem,” my father writes in How to Be an Overcomer, “concentrate everything you have on that problem. Bring everything possible to bear on solving it. … Do you lay siege to your big problems? A siege is a military blockade of a city or a fortified place intended to compel it to surrender. It is a persistent attack. To lay siege means to pursue diligently or persistently. How about preparing a siege against your laziness? Or your lust, or sense of inferiority, or vanity, or whatever problem you face? Lay siege on it—go right at the heart of it with everything you can muster! Destroy its will! Decimate your old man’s will to rise back up—and you will conquer it. That is how we can win battles against our serious problems.”

We may look at the issues we need to overcome and think there is no way we can overcome them. But with God there is a way! But He needs us to show resolve. He needs us to stand up and demonstrate some character!

“God expects us—through His help—to expend every effort to quit sinning. We must come totally out of—no longer to participate in sin. If we are to become a part of His Family and receive the gift of eternal life, we must prove our obedience here and now by getting the leaven of sin out of our lives! This is our part in God’s plan” (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, op cit).

This is what the spring holy days are all about. They are about coming out of sin. But to do that, we must have a clear picture of what our sins did to Jesus Christ, and then we must violently work to overcome them.