Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Luke 24:46-47 says, “And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” We see in these verses that Jesus began and finished His ministry here on earth with the command to repent. The word repent has taken on a negative meaning, surprisingly, even in the church - but this should not be so. There are many benefits to repentance, and blessings abound where repentance is practiced. Let’s get into God’s Word.
Repentance from dead works and faith towards God are first and foremost among the foundational doctrines (Heb 6:1). Repentance is principle, foundational, and basic Christianity 101. Repentance is turning towards God and putting faith in Jesus Christ, and doing works that demonstrate that change of heart, mind, and direction (Act 20:21, 26:20). “Repent and be baptized” (Act 2:38). “Repent and be converted” (Act 3:19). Are you a candidate? God commands all men everywhere to repent (Act 17:30). That includes you, reader. Repentance is different for the Christian and the non-Christian, but is necessary for both. I will explain, but first let’s look and the definition of repent. After all, if this was our Lord’s constant command, then we should definitely know what it means!
Repent means to: change one’s heart; change one’s mind; to think and act differently; to do a “180”, so to speak; to be genuinely sorrowful for sinning against God, to acknowledge and confess that sin, and to turn away from it through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word. Repentance is not just confessing your sin. Repentance is not just feeling bad that you sinned. Repentance, by definition, requires action. It requires change. If there is no change, then there is no repentance. If you claim to be a Christian, and there is no sorrow of heart when you sin against God, then have you really repented?
I’m not saying we should walk around in a depressed state of non-stop self examination. That dishonors Jesus and the freedom He purchased for us. However, I am saying, that if you are genuinely saved, then there will be fruit of that salvation in your life. One of those fruits will be that sin will disgust you and grieve you when you have committed it. Repentance is not perfection, but a change of direction. You will still sin after you are saved; but you will not boast in it. It will give you sorrow of heart to see it in yourself, and you will make every effort to turn away from it. That’s genuine repentance. That’s genuine salvation.
For the unbeliever, repentance is absolutely necessary to be saved. You must humble yourself. You must turn from your ways to God’s ways. You must turn from darkness to light. You must turn from evil to righteousness. You must repent. A conviction of heart that leads to a change of mind, that results in a change of direction - a change of life. No turning to Christ = no salvation. You must put total confidence and trust in Jesus Christ.
For the believer, repentance is necessary for unhindered fellowship with God. The Christian should stay sensitive to God’s voice by reading His Word , praying, and being quick to obey His commands. The believer walks in God’s righteousness, peace, and joy - his fellowship intact. Should the believer sin, his conscience will convict him, and he must repent (sorrow, acknowledge, confess, turn). If he does not, although he is still in covenant relationship God, his fellowship is now broken. He sears his conscience, and on his end, he puts up a wall. Until he repents, this issue hangs over his relationship with God, and he does not enjoy the fellowship he should have with his Father. His peace and joy depart from him, and his faith becomes ship wrecked. If he persists in not repenting, his heart becomes hardened, and he opens himself up for deception and destruction at the hands of Satan (Rom 1). Why not avoid all of this, and just repent? Be open, transparent, and honest before God and man. It’s a lot healthier, peaceful, and blessed way to live.
Four steps to genuine repentance are: 1. There must be conviction of sinning against God (Act 7:54, 1Sam 24:5). 2. Your sin must grieve you (Lk 18:13, Psa 6:6, Ezr 9:3) 3. Your sin must be acknowledged and confessed before God (Psa 51:3-4, 2Sam 12:13) 4. Your sin must be forsaken (Jdg 10:13-16, Jn 5:14, 8:11, 2Cor 6:17). Benefits of repentance include: salvation, justification, forgiveness of sins, receiving the Holy Spirit (and His fruit, including: Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, patience, faith, meekness, self control) and eternal life.
Repentance is not a dirty word, it’s a blessed word. It’s good, it’s honest, it’s healthy. Embrace repentance. Live repentance. Rejoice in repentance! Be free! Be clean! Be at peace! It’s God’s best, and He wants it for you. Therefore, as Jesus says, repent. Until next time, rejoice in the Lord!