Have I repented enough to be saved?

If I don't feel really bad, am I not saved?

The gospel says repentance is a necessary aspect of salvation (Acts 2:38; 11:18). For those experiencing false guilt, anxiety, or religious OCD, this concept can lead to some worrying thoughts like, "Am I sorry enough about my sin? Do I feel bad enough about sin? What if I didn't repent enough? Am I trusting in Christ or trusting in my repentance?"

Those fears come from treating repentance like it's a separate step, apart salvation. Some may feel we have to repent before we can be saved. Or that we should be really, really "sorry" while we're accepting Jesus. Or that we need to believe in Christ AND have certain emotions about sin. None of those are true. We don't need to change our hearts and minds in some certain way before we're saved, and we don't need to add repentance to salvation to make it "stick."

Salvation is not that complicated.

Sometimes, when people try to explain salvation, they make things more complicated than they need to be. A long, drawn-out definition can start to look like a list of tasks to perform. But saving faith isn't a process; it's just hard to describe in words. Not everyone has the same experience of God. Some people take longer to fully grasp what their faith means.

We need to also keep in mind that not everyone uses "religious" words in the same way. But when we start discussing what we really mean when we say specific terms, it turns out we usually agree! Everyone is just using different descriptions—like two people arguing because one says ice cream is "yummy" and the other says it's "delicious." Same thing, different words.

God isn't asking us to turn our "hate" for sin up to the max before we can be saved. He wants us to acknowledge the fact that we have sin (1 John 1:8) and for us to want to be free of it (1 John 1:9). Of course, not everyone will have the same emotional reaction to their sin. They may not even recognize all the sin in their lives. Not being "repentant enough" according to others' opinions or in comparison to someone else is not something we need to consider. The person who says, "Sin is bad" may be more concerned about their sin than the one who says, "Sin is so loathsome and wicked!" The words aren't what matter—only what is happening between us and God (1 Samuel 16:7).

Repentance is already part of the deal.

Can a person be truly sorry for something they don't think was wrong? Do we need to be sorry and then think it was wrong? Can we think something was wrong and then be sorry later? Are those things really separate? If they're not happening at the same time, are they happening at all?

Can we love someone when we don't think anything positive about them? Do we have to love them, then think positively? Or think positively and then love them? Are those completely different? Unless both grow together, do they mean anything?

The same is true with salvation. Salvation and repentance go hand-in-hand; there is no "first."

It's impossible for a person to believe in Jesus as their Savior when they don't believe their sin is sin or that they have any reason to even need a Savior. It's possible to struggle against temptations to do the things we know are wrong. But if someone believes their choices are NOT bad at all, they haven't even come to the belief that they need to be saved at all. Yes, repentance is "required" for saving faith, but repentance does not serve as a down payment or a condition. Repentance is part of what saving faith IS in the first place.

Grace, faith, and repentance are all aspects of ONE single thing: salvation. All come from God in the moment we respond to the Holy Spirit and accept Him.

The concept that repentance isn't necessary at all is wrong, because it means we don't need to agree with God about our sin. "Repentance first" is also wrong, because it means we think we can make changes about our sin without God. Salvation is when faith-repentance-submission come together as a single, fused response to the Holy Spirit, resulting in a permanent change.

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." —Titus 3:4-7

What counts is where you are NOW—not how you got here.

You may not remember exactly how you got wherever you are spiritually as you're reading this. But can you recall the exact time, to the second, when you stood up or sat down? Can you recall how many steps it took to get where your body is right now? Did you make a timeline in your journal that recorded every thought you had to lead you to this spot physically? Of course you didn't, yet here you are! It truly doesn't matter HOW you came to put your trusting faith in Christ. All that matters that you have trusting faith at all.

Lots of people start out their faith journey "knowing" sin is wrong but not "feeling" it as strongly as others. Over time, a Christian will become less tolerant of sin in their lives. But not everyone is on the exact same "schedule" or even going in the exact same direction, and it's not a race.

You don't need to worry whether you've "repented enough" or been "sorry enough" to be granted salvation. It's just a matter of where you are spiritually. Do you know you're a sinner? Do you believe that God came in the form of Jesus Christ to forgive you? Do you submit to Him in faith—with your imperfections and all? Then you're right where you need to be. All other details are secondary.

Spiritual self-checks are a good thing, but not if they cause paranoia.

While we don't need to constantly doubt and question our salvation, the Bible does tell us to regularly test and examine our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). That doesn't mean being paranoid though. It just means to do spiritual self-checks regularly, examining if our thoughts and actions are consistent with our beliefs.

A person might look at their lives and realize that they've never really expressed their faith in Christ. Or they might think everything is going fine. Or they may see places where they could do better. All those states of being are a part of how we follow truth to eventually find God (Matthew 7:7-8). God never rejects those who sincerely seek Him (John 6:37).

God isn't forcing you to untangle some incredibly difficult puzzle in order to be saved. He's not measuring your repentance on some scale to see if it's "enough." He simply wants you to do the best you can, with where you are, and to rely on Him to cover the rest.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." —Hebrews 4:15-16



Repenting, believing, trusting, submitting, etc. are all aspects of the same thing: a saving faith. We don't need to build on them one at a time; they happen at once. Faith, repentance, and submission are all different sides to the same, singular expression of belief in Jesus Christ. You don't need to scrape together "enough" repentance. If you truly WANT to be saved, you WILL be.

Writer: Jeff Laird

Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.

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