Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well” (Luke 13:3 & 5). Repentance is a change in behavior which stems from a change in thinking. Repentance is so closely linked with forgiveness that the terms are used almost interchangeably in 2 Peter 3:9 and Luke 17:4.
Repentance is a prerequisite for forgiveness and acceptance to God. Repentance may be a continued struggle with a particular activity, but it is the real determination to act in accordance with God’s will. When we are truly struggling to conform to God’s will, that is repentance.
However, if we merely want forgiveness without the struggle of repentance, then forgiveness will not be granted. Jesus told us to forgive our brother 70 times 7 if they come asking, but it does understand that the offender is struggling to adjust the behavior (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20). Luke 17:4 records the words of Jesus, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and come back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Repentance is necessary for the full restoration and enjoyment of relationship (2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 2:38; 3:19) . This does not mean that we must or can be sinless. This does not mean that we are not expected to struggle with the behavior (else why would the same person be forgiven 7 times in a day?). This does mean that a genuine change of heart must lead to a genuine attempted change in behavior before forgiveness can truly be had.
I remember an old song which asks the question of full repentance.
“Did you repent, fully repent of your past sins, friend,
When you confessed His name on high?
Did you believe, fully believe on His great name then,
Or was a doubt, treacherous doubt, lingering nigh?
Did you obey all of the way what He commanded,
Things in His word we’re told to do?
Did you confess, fully confess Jesus the Savior,
Did you repent, did you believe all the way through? “