I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes before and felt sorry for them. We all remember that first time we did something as a child that we knew our parents didn’t approve of and felt bad. If caught we apologized, if not we went about our way. It’s one thing to confess your when caught, it’s another to do so when no one witnessed you.
The greatest example of repentance is found in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The young man took his inheritance and went along his way, wasting it on riotous living. Notice the word riotous because it’s prevalent today. The warning of riotous living is seen in Proverbs 23:20 and Proverbs 28:7 and in both cases it refers to a reckless or insignificant way of life. This sounds undesirable but there is no mention of sin here. If there is no obvious sin, why did the prodigal son feel need to be forgiven and then seek the forgiveness of his father? If his father was not around to see him “throw his life away” he could easily go back, say sorry and pretend like things simply didn’t work out in the world. The answer is that would have been false repentance. True repentance is recognizing and understanding the consequence of your error (Luke 15:18-19) and turning away from your past life (Luke 15:20).
What happens if I backslide?
To return to the example of the little child, the remorse he feels the first time he does something wrong, is the same guilt he feels the 10th time. As far as the child is concerned, he did something wrong. He does not know how wrong until he grows up and learns the ways of the world. We all have to have an honest conversation with God about forsaking him at some point. Forsaking speaks to any time you don’t live your life loving Him and your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Turning from the world is not an easy thing to do but it is what God requires of us (Luke 9:62).
Why do I need to repent if Jesus died for my sins?
John 8:11 teaches us that we are indeed forgiven but it also says sin no more. That's not to be glossed over, it's an instruction. He's done his part in forgiving us, now we must do ours. The work doesn't stop once we're forgiven. That's when our new job begins. To honor him by living the way he desired us to.
True repentance is not a magical spell that makes us immune to sin. True repentance is a confession and genuine effort to do right by God moving forward. If you said a “sinners’ prayer” and went back to riotous living, then I’ve got some bad news for you. That prayer is not going to save you. Jesus Christ saves. Not saved but saves. He saves every time you humble yourself and confess, as is laid out in Matthew 18. Pride barely allows a man to confess one time. Just imagine having to confess 490 times (Matthew 18:22). We are living in riotous times right now. It might be time to come back home...