“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21)
As will be demonstrated in this blog, true repentance involves a turning to God from sin, resulting in our sins being blotted out, just as we see stated here in Acts by the apostle Peter. However, as with many other biblical terms such as sin, separation, propitiation and regeneration, there is a new wave of spiritual deconstructionists who are seeking to redefine repentance in a manner antonymous with its obvious contextual meaning throughout Scripture. One metaphysical New Age Christian website presents a redefinition of “repentance” which is frequently reflected in the writings of Progressive/New Age authors. It says:
“Repentance: ‘A turning from a belief in sin and error to a belief in God and righteousness; a reversal of mind and heart in the direction of All-Good. When we repent, we break with mortal thought and ascend into a spiritual thought realm, the kingdom of God.’” 
This definition is actually the antithesis to true biblical repentance. Biblical repentance is an acknowledgment of one’s sin and a turning away from it, whereas “a turning from a belief in sin” constitutes a denial of sin’s reality. Also, turning “to a belief in God” is not the same as turning to and serving the only living and true God (1Thess 1:9). Many believe in God in the sense that they acknowledge His existence. Even demons believe in God and tremble, but mere intellectual assent does not result in salvation (James 2:19).
This blurring of biblical distinctions, subtly nuancing the plain contextual meaning of words in order to accommodate a form of Christianized New Age metaphysical spirituality, is a very disturbing trend within the Church today.
Particularly disturbing to me is seeing Bethel Church in Redding California deconstructing into this form of New Age spirituality. In the book “The Physics of Heaven” co-authored by pastor Bill Johnson, Ellyn Davis says of their paradigm shift from biblical Christianity towards New Age spirituality:
“Now we are beginning to hear more and more revelation that is in line with what New Agers have been saying all along and we are hearing more and more teaching about Christians ‘taking back truths’ from the New Age that really belong to citizens of the Kingdom of God.” 
The revelation she refers to is not a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, but rather additional subjective revelations received through dreams, visions, prophesies and communication with angels. The Scriptures are then nuanced in an attempt to make them appear to support their new revelations. This is done by various methods, such as spiritualizing texts or creatively redefining biblical terms without due regard to their actual meaning in context.
This unjustifiable practice of redefining biblical terms is employed by pastor Bill Johnson in order to redefine the term “repentance” in a manner more consistent with the New Age concept of repentance as being merely an elevation of the mind from the mortal thought-realm to the spiritual thought-realm. Notice his creative attempt at redefining repentance:
“Renewing the mind begins with repentance. That is the gateway to return to our original assignment on earth. Jesus said, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ To many Christians, repent refers to having an altar call where people come forward and weep at the altar to get right with God. This is a legitimate expression of repentance, but it’s not what the word repentance means. ‘Re’ means to go back. ‘Pent’ is like the penthouse, the top floor of the building. Repent, then, means to go back to God’s perspective on reality. And in that perspective there is a renewal, a reformation that affects our emotions, and every part of our lives…” (emphasis mine).
This is a classic example of a Deconstructionist’s creative attempts to attach a New Age meaning to the biblical word “repentance.” Rather than considering the definitions of the words as they appear in the original, he draws his definition from our English word. In English, the word “repentance” is composed of the prefix re-, meaning “again,” which he erroneously renders as “to go back.” “Pent” is from the Latin peh, meaning “to hurt or feel pain.”  However, in order to redefine the word “repentance” so as to have a metaphysical meaning, he creatively associates pent with the word “penthouse.” From there he argues that repentance is a going back to the top floor, spiritually speaking. As we shall see, this new definition is more in alignment with the New Age concept of repentance which they see as an ascending into the Higher Mind, a reawakening to the divine within us. It has little or no relationship with true biblical repentance.
Repentance Biblically Defined
The Hebrew word often translated as “repent or repentance” in the Old Testament is nacham which literally means “to pant, to sigh or to groan.”  In actual usage, nacham expresses the emotion of sorrow or regret, accompanied by a corresponding change of mind. God is said to relent or repent 30 times in the Old Testament. However, in many of those instances what is primarily being expressed is sorrow or regret. Even when God appears to have a change of mind, it must be understood as an anthropomorphism, since it is impossible for God to literally repent in the sense of changing His mind (1Sam 15:29). I consider the subject of God’s repentance in relation to His immutability in my blog: Open Theism - Does God know my Tomorrow 2 of 2 .
Throughout the Old Testament, nacham has the same two-fold meaning of sorrow which results in a change of mind. Even when repentance is not specifically of sin, as we see with the Children of Israel repenting and returning to Egypt upon seeing war (Ex 13:17), their repentance included sorrow or regret accompanied by a change of mind and a corresponding action.
These three elements: 1) sorrow, 2) change of mind, and 3) a corresponding change of action, are essential to true biblical repentance. Some argue that sorrow for sin is not necessary since the Greek word used in the New Testament is metanoia, which is composed of meta, “change” and nous, “mind,” literally meaning “a change of mind.” However, words are defined by their meaning in context and not simply according to their morphology. In the Old Testament nacham literally means “to groan” but in context means “sorrow with a change of mind.” In the New Testament metanoia literally means “a change of mind,” but in context means “a change of mind with sorrow.”
True repentance of sin, both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels, was often demonstrated by repenting in dust and ashes as an expression of contrition (Job 42:6; 1Kings 21:27; Jonah 3:6-10; Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13; Jer 31:19). In the context of repentance concerning fornication and boasting in tolerance of such conduct, Paul indicates that true godly repentance includes sorrow for one’s sin. He said:
“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2Cor 7:9-10).
It is important to note here that sorrow, in and of itself, without a change of heart and mind, turning from sin towards God, is not true repentance. Neither is biblical repentance a change of mind without a corresponding change of direction.
Repentance from Sin
Some argue that repentance does not have to do with repenting of sin but merely a change of mind towards God. However, one cannot rightly change their mind towards God without repenting of sin. Throughout Scripture repentance is consistently seen to involve a turning from one’s sinful lifestyle. In 2Chronicles 7:14 God promises that if His people turn from their wicked ways He will forgive. In Jeremiah 25:5-6 He calls upon them to repent each one of his evil way and his evil doings. In Jeremiah 8:6 He laments that no man repented of his wickedness. In Ezekiel 14:6 He calls upon them to repent, turning away from their idolatry and abominations. In Ezekiel 18:30-31 they are called upon to repent, turning from all their transgressions, casting them away from themselves. In Acts 8:22 Peter rebukes Simon the magician saying: “Repent therefore of this your wickedness.” In Revelation 2:14-16 Jesus warned those within the church who were practicing idolatry and sexual immorality, saying: “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”
In verses 21-22 He said of a woman within the church called Jezebel:
“And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.”
It is further said that, in spite of the final severe bowl judgments, the wicked will not repent of their idolatries, murders, sorceries, sexual immorality and thefts (Rev 9:20-21; 16:11).
Throughout Scripture both believers and nonbelievers are called upon to repent of their sinful lifestyles and turn to God. Some Calvinists would say that the lost are not called upon to repent of sin, but simply to repent in the sense of changing their mind about the Gospel, putting their faith in Christ. Some within the grace movement would say that the lost are to repent of sin, but not Christians, since their sins are no longer an issue with God. However, without going into more detail, we can see in the Scriptures cited above and elsewhere, that both the lost and the saved are called upon to repent of sin. Anyone who is living in sin must repent for forgiveness of sins, whether they be believers or nonbelievers. As Paul said to the men of Athens:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because…He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” (Acts 17:30-31).
What Paul is saying is that God has appointed a day of judgment in which He will judge all men. Repentance is seen to be prerequisite to one having their sins remitted or blotted out (Acts 2:38; 3:19). Paul is calling upon the men of Athens to repent in order to be free of sin and its resulting condemnation on the day of judgment. While there is no condemnation for the believer, Jesus warns of severe disciplinary judgments towards believers who obstinately persist in sin and do not repent (Rev 2:5,15-16,21-23).
Is Repentance a Prerequisite to Salvation?
Some Calvinists point out that when the Philippian jailer asked: “What must I do to be saved,” the only prerequisite to salvation given by Paul was to believe. He said: “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). However, the jailer’s very question indicates that he was already repentant. One does not seek salvation from sin unless they are repentant of it. Placing one’s faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior from sin logically requires that the Holy Spirit had already convicted that individual of their sin, resulting in repentance and placing faith in Jesus as Savior. An individual who simply prayed the prayer of faith in order to avoid judgment and hell without ever having repented from his sins has not believed unto salvation.
Repentance and true saving faith are as inseparable as two sides of the same coin. Jesus preached saying: “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). He said, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Matt 9:13). Jesus has promised that He will draw all unto Himself (Jn 12:32). However, He waits until the Holy Spirit has convinced each individual of their sin before calling them to repentance and faith. Ultimately the Spirit will have convinced the whole world of sin and of their need of God’s free gift of righteousness in Christ (Jn 16:8).
However, those who are righteous in their own eyes are more resistant to the Spirit’s conviction of sin. For this reason, Jesus said to the religiously self-righteous: “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you” (Matt 21:31). Eventually even they will be convinced of their sin and repent, believing the Gospel, but those who are more conscious of their sinful condition, like the tax collectors and harlots, are more readily convinced of their sin and need of the Savior, and therefore repent and believe before the Pharisees. This is graphically illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
Here Jesus shows us why the sinners and tax collectors enter the kingdom before the self-righteous. The Pharisee had yet to be convinced of his own sin. One does not repent and believe the Gospel until the convicting work of the Spirit has been fully accomplished, resulting of one repenting of their sins and believing the Gospel. This is what Jesus teaches us in this parable. All will eventually bow the knee, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord in the day of their visitation, but that day will not come until the Holy Spirit has completed His work of convincing all sinners of their sin (Php 2:10-11; 1Peter 2:12).
Isn’t Repentance a Work?
Some Calvinists object to repentance being required for salvation since salvation is entirely by grace, apart from works. However, repentance is not a work that the sinner must perform in order to be saved. Just as conviction of sin is entirely a work of the Spirit, so also the Spirit is the one who produces repentance and faith in the convicted sinner. The church in Jerusalem recognized that repentance is a gift of grace, saying: “Then God has also GRANTED to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18). Peter said, speaking before the Sanhedrin: “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to GIVE repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31). Paul speaks of God as GRANTING repentance so that those who oppose themselves may know the truth and escape the snare of the devil (2Tim 2:25-26). So, the Early Church understood that both repentance and the resulting forgiveness of sins is given to man by grace alone. Just as the faith necessary for salvation is granted by grace (Php 1:29; Eph 2:8-9; Acts 16:14), so also conviction of sin and the resultant repentance are gifts of God’s grace.
So, we must insist upon the biblical definition of repentance as being a repentance from sin and a turning towards God, resulting in the remission of our sins. We must reject any nuanced New Age definition which minimizes or denies the reality of sin and the need to repent of it, regarding repentance as being nothing more than a change of mind without any corresponding change in conduct. John the Baptist confronted the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees, saying: “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt 3:7-8). Paul preached to men everywhere that they should “repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). Rather than succumbing to a false repentance we must preach repentance of sins and a turning back to God.
 Franklin, Judy; Davis, Ellyn. The Physics of Heaven (p. 15). Destiny Image, Inc.
 Johnson, Bill. The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles. p 44
 International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Repentance.