The Bible describes repentance as a profound realisation of our sins, with the resulting sorrow leading us to change both our thoughts and our actions, with God’s help (2 Corinthians 7:10).
God ultimately wants everyone to repent and become His children (2 Peter 3:9). For this to happen God, in His great mercy, begins the process by leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
The first step in changing a bad habit or avoiding a wrong act is to recognise the problem and admit it exists. The next step is to determine to obey God. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
In Peter's first recorded sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he exhorts: "Repent and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Without this repentance, we remain cut off from God: "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).
We readily consider such acts as murder, theft and adultery to be sin. However, Christ made it clear we can sin by our very thoughts, not just our actions. He said hatred and lust violate God's commandments against murder and adultery, just as surely as the physical acts themselves (Matthew 5:22-28; 1 John 3:15).
Repentance is a gift from God, possible only when God draws us to Him. Jesus plainly stated, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44).
That's why God must grant us repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). But although God "desires all men to be saved," He doesn't force anyone to repent (1 Timothy 2:4). The decision is still ours.
God's mercy is so great He will forgive us, provided we forsake both our wrong behaviour and our thoughts: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7).
If you sincerely desire to commit your life to God ask Him for His gift of repentance and prayerfully seek His help. Don't rely on your own ability to perceive your sins and change them all by yourself. Jesus promised, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
Bible Study Guide - The Road to Eternal Life