True Repentance

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Do we emphasize true repentance? Do we understand that repentance requires a real sorrow, a godly sorrow? A child has no remorse about stealing cookies until he’s caught with his hand in the cookie jar and the mother comes with the paddle. There’s something suspicious about that kind of repentance. It’s the repentance to avoid punishment. True repentance goes beyond a mere fear of punishment to what we call contrition. David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). True repentance is an awareness that we have done wrong, and it brings us to a choice to turn from our wrong.

Why is repentance important in our lives? The reason it is of extreme importance, according to the New Testament, is that it is the indispensable requirement for entrance into the kingdom of God. If Jesus taught anything, he taught that it is absolutely essential for someone who has sinned against God to turn from that sin and repent. In fact, Jesus began his public ministry with these words,

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14).

There’s nothing more pressing and essential than repentance if one is going to escape the wrath of God. God calls every man to repent; it is not an option. Paul spoke of the “times of ignorance” but “now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Who does that include? Everybody. We all have that responsibility, and not all of us are doing it. God meant what he said. He requires repentance.

It is absolutely essential that the necessity of repentance be explained. Christianity is not just information or emotion; it is a lifestyle. It demands, not minor alterations, but a surrender of the will. It demands repentance.

Repentance means a correction of sin. It means “to turn or to change.” It is to make a U-turn. The word, metanoeo, contains the idea of “a change of mind” resulting in a “change of conduct.” Repentance is a decision to change the will and the proof of that change is actually the fruit of repentance. A change of mind that does not affect lifestyle is not true repentance. Repentance does not involve theological subtleties; it affects life (Luke 3:8-14).

We do a disservice to people to tell them they need to repent but fail also to tell them the cost of repentance. Christianity demands a lifestyle harmonious with God’s word. Many people would never have been baptized if the meaning of repentance had been fully explained. To not deal with what repentance means in a person’s life borders on compromise on the part of the one doing the teaching. People are willing to “get” a little religion but they don’t want to give up their drinking; their immorality; their adulterous marriage; their homosexual lifestyle, etc. (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Notice that the Thessalonians “turned from their idols” (1 Thess. 1:9); the Ephesians “burned their books” (Acts 19:19); the jailor “washed their stripes” (Acts 16:33); at Pentecost the 3000 “gladly received the word and were baptized” (Acts 2:41). How many more examples do we need?

True repentance is so vital because it marks an end to sinful behavior. We have changed our minds and we then live lives that demonstrate that change. We are told that when there is repentance, there is joy in heaven (Luke 15:7,10).

How are people brought to repentance? First, repentance is shown to be necessary in light of the judgment (Matt. 12:41; Acts 17:31; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Second, Paul appeals for men to repent on the basis of the kindness of God. “Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Also, “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Repentance is not a onetime act, it is an attitude, a heart condition. Repentance is having a broken, contrite heart. It is being poor in spirit. It involves mourning our sins. It is being meek, humble enough to acknowledge our sins and confess them. Repentance is agreeing with God.

The question is this: Do you need to repent of your sins and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins? As a Christian do you have sins that you need to repent of? If repentance is your need, do it NOW.

Ira Lynn