I will expand a bit further on repentance in general and then look at the post conversion role of repentance. I think we often assume that repentance is preceded by an emotional experience and guilt. That may be. Conviction of sin may create deep emotions or it may simply create an awareness of the need for a change of purpose in our lives. Brother Lawrence, the author of the teaching in the little book The Practice of the Presence of God, was converted when he saw a tree lose its leaves and be dead and barren while awaiting a ‘rebirth’ in the spring.
If we recognize that repentance leading to conversion is a “thoroughgoing change in one’s thinking, attitudes, and purpose” then post conversion repentance is not about a wholesale change in perspective. It is a shift in perspective when we recognize that our values or behaviour are out of line with scriptural values and behaviour (Rom. 12:1-2). If we have fallen to some gross darkness after conversion (Eph. 4:17-19) a more thoroughgoing change may be required.
Something I have noticed is that in some circles it is popular to say that ‘sin is sin and one is no worse than another.’ It sounds nice but it is not scriptural. Certainly the Mosaic Law, upon which English Common Law, and by extension our justice system were based, is very clear about different consequences for different transgressions. We may argue that the OT no longer applies. However Paul made a similar distinction when he referenced sins outside the body and how sexual immorality is a sin against our own body (1 Cor. 6:15-20). There are a number of other passages in the NT if we read the scriptures with an open heart.
What about the connection between repentance and judgment? While we may not think much about it, post conversion repentance is tied to the Judgment Seat of Christ. We are rewarded based on how we continue to respond to Christ after conversion. The passage below was directed to believers.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NKJV)
Below is something I have written over the years that is a regular part of my prayer life because I believe there is an inextricable link between repentance and the Judgment Seat. I encourage you to read not only the two introductory references but all of the scriptural references that accompany it. A key factor I reference is the need for us to discern the difference between conviction and condemnation. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin He shows us the path to freedom and wholeness through repentance. Condemnation focuses on making us feel bad and shows no healthy path to freedom and if followed leads to a downward spiral.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Romans 14:10-12 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
O Righteous Father, as I live my life before the great cloud of witnesses, and Your throne, I know I will give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Knowing this I ask You; continually reveal Your heart to me that I might walk in Your will and ways. Fill me with Your holy perfect love and passion for Jesus that I may express and reflect Your heart. Grant me discernment and sensitivity between conviction and condemnation; that I may walk in wisdom, rightly dividing soul and spirit. Continually give me the grace, wisdom, courage and perseverance to pull down and break strongholds. Shepherd my heart into a holy passionate fear of You, that I might live a life that fully pleases You and is fruitful in every good work, that I may stand before You. Jn. 17:25, Ps. 25:12-14, 139:23-24, 51:10, Rom. 14:10-12, 2 Cor. 5:10, 10:1-6, Col. 1:9-11, Heb. 4:10-12, 12:1, 1 Jn. 2:28
In my next post I will continue with the points below. I have to some extent addressed the first two but believe there is also a need to understand the distinction between the sanctification of our spirit and soul and how they differ and relate to repentance.
- What is the role of repentance in conversion and after conversion?
- Is repentance after conversion qualitatively different than repentance leading to conversion?
- Do we repent of our behaviour, nature or both?