If repentance were simply a matter of conviction of sin and nothing more than this then we would none of us have found peace even by now, no matter when we first came under conviction of sin. Why is it not possible for us to believe the testimony of scripture?
For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. Romans 2:12-16
The Law was given to Israel not the gentiles. So how could a gentile in the days of Israel ever experience or comprehend the offence of sin. According to this passage from Romans is has to do with a "work of the law written in their own hearts". A friend of mine who is a pastor spent seven days in travail and agonies when he came under a conviction of sin, before he was born again. His children were the instrument of God to witness to him. For seven days he knew without doubt that he stood in a perilous condition before God and it broke him completely. At what point did repentance come in for this man? It came at the point at which God showed him the way of escape. He took it and fled into the arms of God. As I said earlier when I first comprehended the Father, was born again, and knew it without any shadow of doubt, I wept for joy and gladness and spoke over and over again, the word, thank you Father, thank you Father. What was the difference between myself and this pastor friend?
I knew I was a sinner because I had no reason to boast at all. He did not comprehend his sin before the Spirit brought him into conviction, because he had every reason to boast. Repentance is not the conviction of sin. It is the power to turn away from sin and unto Christ Who paid the price.
If all we ever knew was the conviction of sin and nothing of turning away from sin, we would all be completely exhausted and throw ourselves into Hell voluntarily in order to find relief. What happens after we have been born again will in the end be a matter of the heart and the calling of God in our lives. Otherwise we are saving ourselves and will soon stumble and become fools at best and hypocrites at worst. Ongoing repentance need not be a matter of conviction alone, it seems to me to be a deliberate and conscious process of confessing our sins in the continued knowledge that Christ died for us because of our sin. Knowing that alone ought to make us ever willing to confess, and by faith turn away from sinful practises, no matter how many times we have to do do it. If some have taught that we can live fleshy lives and need not repent of those things which are carnal and contrary to the Spirit who indwells us, then they have become the agents of lawlessness. Yet neither can we go back to trying to live by the Law. Neither can we be renewed again unto repentance, as though to be born again a second time. Yet we can hold an attitude of a repentant heart and in that we can learn to serve God. Without hypocrisy that is my ambition and I know very well that even to this hour I sin.