Religion will say that repentance means to stop sinning or to turn from sin. However, Jesus taught that repentance is God recovering us by His efforts.
In Luke Chapter 15, the lost sheep and coin didn’t get “un-lost” before they were found. Their recovery happened because their owners, the shepherd and woman, went looking for them. After Jesus told these stories, He said all of heaven rejoices when just one sinner repents. So what was the act of repentance in each of these stories? Did the lost sheep find the shepherd and apologize for getting lost? Did the lost coin make its way out of the darkness into the light so it could be found? No! The sheep and coin were found and recovered by the one searching for them. The shepherd came to the lost sheep as did the woman who used the light of a candle to find the lost coin.
Repentance in the gospel is all about God recovering us. It isn’t about us finding Him or leaving the darkness. It is all about how we respond to a divine rescue mission God accomplished by sending His son to suffer, die, and be raised from the dead.
The lost sheep rested in the security of the shepherd’s arms as he carried him/her home. The coin wasn’t forgotten; its owner knew its value and did what was necessary to find and recover it.
It doesn’t matter how far away and lost we are or how dark the hiding place. God is a good shepherd who knows how to find us. His light drives out all darkness so we can be found and recovered.
True repentance is resting in God recovering you no matter what condition you might be in.
Heaven doesn’t rejoice because you turned from sin or promised God you would stop sinning. Heaven rejoices because the One who loves you unconditionally with a perfect love has found and recovered you. It is His love and power that sets you free from sin, not your willpower.
In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance is believing the gospel, not telling God you are sorry for your sins.
Jesus taught that repentance is believing the gospel. God wants you to trust His promises to you far more than He needs you to make Him promises He knows you can’t keep. Rest in His promises that He is faithful to keep you.