Exercising True Repentance
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7
suggested further reading: 2 Chronicles 7:11–22
The prophet describes the nature of repentance in three steps: first, Let the wicked forsake his way; second, the unrighteous man his thoughts; and third, let him return unto the Lord. Under the word way he includes the whole course of life. Accordingly, he demands that believers bring forth fruits of righteousness as witnesses of their new life. By adding the word thoughts, he intimates that we must not only correct outward actions but that those must begin with the heart; for though in the opinion of men we appear to change our life for the better, yet we will make little progress if our heart is not changed.
Thus repentance embraces a change in the whole man, including his inclinations, purposes, and works. The works of men are visible, but the root of them is concealed. So the root must first be changed so that afterward it may yield fruitful works. We must first wash from the mind all uncleanness and conquer wicked inclinations so that outward testimonies may be added afterward. If any man boasts that he has changed and yet lives as he did before, it will be vain boasting, for both conversion of the heart and change of life are necessary.
In addition, God does not command us to return to him before he applies a remedy to revolt from our former way of life, for hypocrites willingly praise what is good and right, provided they are free to crouch amid their filth. We may have nothing to do with God if we do not first withdraw from ourselves, especially when we have been alienated by wickedness. Therefore, self-denial comes first so that it may lead us to God.
for meditation: Isaiah’s description of repentance is an excellent mirror by which to examine our own hearts, minds, and lives to see if we have truly repented of our sin and turned to God. If we have truly repented, we may know with assurance that he has pardoned us.