At the end of his collection of sermons, Hosea pleaded with the people of God’s beloved Israel,

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take words with you
and return to the Lord;
say to him,
“Take away all guilt;
accept that which is good,
and we will offer
the fruit of our lips.
Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride upon horses;
we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”

Hosea 14:1-3

They were certainly not fooling Hosea, let alone God, with their lip service, religiosity, and half-hearted attempts without any real commitment. Hosea had been through all that plenty of times with his own wife. No, if they wanted forgiveness, then they were going to have to mean it.

What God really wanted from His people was a heart transformation, and a heart engagement that would radiate outwards from their inner beings. God wanted them to truly repent, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

In scripture, repentance means to “undergo a change of one’s mind” which results in a change of the entire direction of a person’s life.  Biblical repentance is a radical turning away from sin and to Christ, it is a key element of saving faith

According to the Bible, repentance and faith go together. There can be no genuine turning to Christ in faith without an accompanying repudiation of sin.

True repentance involves three important steps:

Conviction: Becoming convinced, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that what you have done – or not done – constitutes sin, it was wrong and you now hate it as God hates it.

The Bible says that sometimes a person will “quench” the Holy Spirit’s work, at this point by hardening their hearts to the Holy Spirit’s convicting. This is means becoming calloused in a particular area of our life, so that we are no longer sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. 

  • We end up rationalizing it to ourselves (and others) by explaining why the sin was not sin, or why the sin was defensible.
  • We end up minimizing it to ourselves (and others) by claiming the sin is really not as bad as it seems.
  • We end up normalizing it to ourselves (and to others) by pointing out how mainstream such things are nowadays. How can it be a sin if the general community approves? Or, at least, if the general community seems unperturbed?

Believers and nonbelievers alike are equally susceptible to becoming hard-hearted towards conviction.

Contrition: Confessing sin with no attempt to excuse it or justify it, and experiencing sorrow that we have offended God and broken fellowship with Him.

Sometimes the work of the Spirit can be quenched at this point, as well: 

  • Remorse: We get stuck in that awful feeling of knowing that we are sinning, or that we had sinned. We are disgusted and discouraged with ourselves.

But! And this is the key, we make no decision to change or turn back. In fact, the apostle Paul said this kind of remorse actually leads to despair and death, just as this was Judas’ undoing, after he betrayed Jesus.

  • Regret: We are sorry about the consequences of our sin, but there is no decision to change.  This will harden you and me to the process of conviction, as ywe grow accustomed to the consequences, or tell ourselves that “I’m just that way.”

Conversion: Resolving, deeply, to turn away from sin and turn towards Christ, coupled with a willingness to make restitution whenever possible.

The Holy Spirit’s work can even be quenched here,

Our hearts become calloused when we don’t follow through with our good intentions. We get those good feelings just from the good intentions, and maybe some half-hearted attempts at change, without paying any of the cost of real change .     

Repentance is a prerequisite, a necessary condition for salvation. But even after you and I are saved, we continue to sin. The Bible calls us to repent again and again as we are convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit.

Hosea followed his plea with God’s reassurance,

I will heal their disloyalty;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily,
he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.[b]
His shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive tree,
and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
They shall again live beneath my shadow,
they shall flourish as a garden;
they shall blossom like the vine,
their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Hosea 14:4-7

This has always been God’s heart, from the first moment Adam and Eve fell from grace to the last moment a person draws breath.

“I will love them freely,” says the Lord.

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