Repentance is simple and complicated at the same time. It's simple because all it involves is a mental activity by the individual, a thought. It's complicated because, as simple as "thinking" sounds, God is interested in the purity and honesty of that thought. The purity of one's repentance is tainted with self-will and denial of even the need to repent.
These sayings aren't going to make sense to you unless you have already accepted the righteousness of obeying God's law. Or, if you at least have inclinations to concede to God's will and accept his law (don't worry about the details of what that law is, even I don't know it all), then you can certainly benefit from the advice below.
The most important thing on this whole page is to get across the idea that one's mindset has to be focused on compunction (regret, sorrow, guilt) for one's sins. Even if you remain a sinner (and everyone is a sinner), you still have hope if you can feel true regret for your sins, which means that you acknowledge God's will and law as superior to your will, which is a sign of relationship. If you can at least acknowledge that, then you have hope.
If you're already familiar with the Old and New Testament quotes here, skip down to the Talmud and Desert Fathers--the selections are particularly good.
"Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men), so that they will fear you and walk in your ways all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers." 2 Chron. 6: 30
A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed--without remedy. Prov. 29: 1
"On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. Yet in spite of this you say, "I am innocent; he is not angry with me.' But I will pass judgment on you because you say, 'I have not sinned.' " Jer. 2: 34-35
"I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning: 'You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth." Jer. 31: 18-19
"But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" Ezek. 18: 21-23
"And if I say to the wicked man, 'You will surely die,' but he then turns away from his sin and does what is right--if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die." Ezek. 33: 14-15
[Jonah] proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. [The king of Nineveh] issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." Jonah 3: 4-5, 7-9
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up soil?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' " Luke 13: 6-9 The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
"Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2: 37-38
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17: 30-31
"I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." Acts 26: 20
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Cor. 7: 10
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 1 Tim. 1: 15-16
ONE HOUR OF REPENTANCE AND GOOD WORKS: One hour in which to repent and do good works in this world is richer than (when done in) all the life in the world to come, for in the world to come it is impossible to repent or to do good works. That world exists only for the receiving of reward for what a person has carried out in this world (Vitry). The saints of the world were eager for life so that they might continue doing good works in this world--something which they will be unable to do in the world to come (Nahmias).
Note: Compunction is remorse, a sense of guilt or regret; a sting of conscience; sorrow for one's sins; compunction leads one to repentance.
Abba Elias said, "[o]bserve your thoughts, and beware of what you have in your heart and your spirit, knowing that the demons put ideas into you so as to corrupt your soul by making it think of that which is not right, in order to turn your spirit from the consideration of your sins and of God." Elias, No. 4
Abba Matoes said, "A brother came to me and said, 'Slander is worse than fornication.' I said to him, 'That is a hard saying.' He said to me, 'What do you mean?' I said to him, 'Slander is bad, but it is soon healed, for he who slanders often repents, saying that he has spoken unkindly; but fornication is physical death.' " Matoes, No. 8
A brother questioned Abba Poemen saying, "Give me a word." And he said to him, "The Fathers put compunction as the beginning of every action." The brother said again, "Give me another word." The old man replied, "As far as you can, do some manual work so as to be able to give alms, for it is written that alms and faith purify from sin." The brother said, "What is faith?" The old man said, "Faith is to live humbly and to give alms." Poemen, No. 69
One day Abba Poemen went with Abba Anoub to the district of Diolcos. Arriving at the cemetery, they saw a woman in great sorrow, weeping bitterly. Standing there they watched her. Going a little further they met someone and Abba Poemen asked him, "What is this woman weeping so bitterly for?" He said, "Because her husband is dead and her son and her brother." Abba Poemen said to the brother, "I tell you, if a man does not mortify all his carnal desires and acquire compunction like this, he cannot become a monk. Truly the whole of this woman's life and soul are turned to compunction." Poemen, No. 72
Abba Poemen said this about the son of Shemai, "His mistake was to justify himself; whoever does that destroys himself." Poemen, No. 207
A brother asked Abba Poemen, "What can I do about my sins?" and the old man said to him, "Weep interiorly, for both deliverance from faults and the acquisition of virtues are gained through compunction." Poemen, No. 208
(Abba Peter) said, "Compunction is absolute master. One cannot protect oneself where there is no compunction." The brother said, "When I am in my cell, compunction is with me, but if someone comes to see me or I go out of my cell, I do not have it any more." The old man said, "That means that you do not really have compunction at all yet. It is merely that you practice it sometimes." Peter the Pionite, No. 2
A brother asked Abba Sisoes, "What shall I do, abba, for I have fallen?" The old man said to him, "Get up again." The brother said, "I have got up again, but I have fallen again." The old man said, "Get up again and again." So the brother said, "How many times?" The old man said, "Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in the state in which he is found." Sisoes, No. 38
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