Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it. Though your confession may be honest and emotional, it is not enough unless it expresses a true change of heart.
What are the Substitutes for true Repentance?
1. You may reform in the actions without repenting in the heart (Ps. 51:16-17; Joel 2:13).
2. You may experience the emotion of repentance without the effect of it.
3. You may confess the words of a true repenter and never repent (Mt. 21:28-32; 1 Jn. 2:4, 4:20).
4. You may repent for the fear of reprisal alone and not for the hatred of sin.
5. You may talk against sin in public like a true repenter but never repent in private (Mt. 23:1-3).
6. You may repent primarily for temporal gains rather than the glory of God.
7. You may repent of lesser sins for the purpose of avoiding the greater sins (Lk. 11:42).
8. You may repent so generally that you never repent of any specific sin at all.
9. You may repent for the love of friends and religious leaders and not repent for the love of God (Isa. 1: 10-17).
10. You may confess the finished action of sin and not repent from the continuing habit of sin.
11. You may attempt repentance of your sin while consciously leaving open the door of its opportunity.
12. You may make an effort to repent of some sins without repenting of all the sin you know.
It is true, repentance includes sincere emotion, an affection for God and a disaffection for sin. Torrents of sorrow may flood the repenter’s heart, and properly so (Jas. 4:8-10). But there is such a thing as a temporary emotion in the mere semblance of repentance; this emotion has very weak legs and cannot carry the behavior in the long walk of obedience. Your sorrow may even be prolonged. Yet if it does not arrive at repentance, it is of the world and is a living death – and maybe more (2 Cor. 7: 10). It is an old deceiver. Judas had such remorse but “went and hanged himself.” (Mt. 27:3-5)
False repentance is grounded in selfishness, rather than the honor of God, because it has nothing to do with the honor of God, and only has to do with the regret that a person has because of the consequence of sin. It’s not built on the fear of hell, or the fear of dishonoring God. False repentance also leaves the feelings unchanged. The love of sin is not subdued and the passion for holiness is not initiated. False repentance leads men to hypocritical concealment. Once you’ve falsely repented, now you’ve got to keep it up. And so you just lay on one more level of hypocrisy after another to keep up the deception. That leads eventually to self-deception and to a deadly false security where you begin to believe the lie you’re living that you wanted originally others to believe and now you’ve come to believe it, and that is that you really are God’s when in fact you’re not. And that hardens your heart. Each time shallow sorrow washes over the emotions of the heart, and doesn’t truly break that heart, the fountains of feeling are more and more dried up. And then the conscience is seared and then you’re irretrievable.
There is not one biblical text that says you should pray over your repentance. There is not one biblical text that says you can repent when you personally feel like it. There is not one biblical text that advocates partial repentance. The command is simple. When you are confronted with wrongdoing, the immediate response is to repent!
Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have know their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father’s house, and never making him say, “Father, I have sinned”