When do I need to repent?
“We all stumble in many things” (Jm 3:2). We don’t intend to stumble. It is not planned but it happens. My wife fell down the stairs, but she didn’t plan to do it. Repentance means to change one’s mind (specifically one’s will). Since she didn’t will to fall down the stairs, repentance would be out of order. Repentance is often connected to conversion because both involve a turning from something to something. In regard to repentance it is turning from self-will to God’s will. Once I have chosen to follow Christ, the next time I repent, I choose to no longer follow Christ. Thus in Heb 6:6 they had fallen completely away.
But “be not deceived”, one can drift away from his original intent and will to serve the Lord. He may not even realize that it has taken place and thus be self-deceived. This was evidently the case with some of the churches in Asia to whom Jesus spoke in Revelation. The church at Ephesus was told they had fallen and needed to repent. They no longer loved Jesus. The churches at Pergamos and Thyatira were told to repent, although Jesus said to both, “I have a few things against you”. They must not have fallen away entirely. Their problem involved putting up with some heresy that could destroy the faithful given time. They needed to change their minds in regard to that. No one questions that Sardis and Laodicea were both churches in trouble and in need of a change of mind and renewed will to serve Jesus.