What does it mean to repent?
Bible repentance is a change of mind, prompted by a change of heart, resulting in a change of life. Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. He said to the first, "Go, work today in my vineyard." The first son said he would not work in his dads vineyard, but Jesus said he later repented and went. What did this boy do when he repented? He simply changed his mind. God wants us to change our minds about sin and our participation in it. Thats what the Bible is talking about in commanding all men to repent.
Repentance is a necessary part in becoming a Christian and in living the Christian life. Jesus said in Luke 13:3, "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." God wants all who have sinned to repent. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9.)
All Christians have repented of their sins. However, not all who have repented are Christians. Saul of Tarsus is a Bible example of one who believed on Jesus and was a penitent (Acts chapters 9, 22 and 26). God sent Ananias to instruct Saul. Ananias said, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16.) Although Saul had repented of his sins, he needed to be baptized into the death of Christ where the cleansing blood was shed and in this God-ordained way wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
What does forgiveness mean?
There is a penalty for wrongdoing. Forgiveness means the penalty has been removed, the wrong has been pardoned. God offers full and complete forgiveness. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12.)
The apostle Peter preached the forgiveness of God when he said to sinners " Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins " (Acts 2:38.) The alien sinner has divine forgiveness, pardon of sin, when he becomes obedient to the divine conditions of the gospel. Those conditions are faith in Christ as our sacrifice for sin, repentance or turning from sin, confession of faith in Christ, and immersion in water or baptism in the name of Christ.
The Christian has the continual forgiveness or cleansing of sin as a disciple of Christ. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7.)
How many times can you be forgiven?
Forgiveness is a divine act made possible by the redemptive work of Christ is Savior and great High Priest. As our high priest, he ever lives, and ever intercedes; he has power to save. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25.)
He will aid us as long as we need anything done for our salvation.
The apostle John wrote concerning the forgiveness of children of God. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2.)
The fact that we have unlimited access to the grace of God that is able to save does not mean that sin is not serious. The continual practice of sin can harden the heart and cause one to turn away from God in unbelief. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:12-13.)
Is repentance an internal or external act?
Repentance, by definition, means literally to think differently. Thus when I say I am going to repent of my sins, I mean that I am going to think differently in regard to my sins. My new thinking is that I am sorry that I committed that sin, and I do not want to commit it again. This new way of thinking will then lead to a new kind of action. So, repentance is both internal and external. Internally I change my way of thinking; externally I change my way of acting. The one, thinking, leads to the other, acting. The parable of the two sons in Matt. 21:28-30 is an excellent example of this.