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Repentance is Absolutely Necessary

In our last article we examined the born again experience. In this study we will take a closer look at a most necessary ingredient to becoming born again, biblical repentance. Most churches and preachers today amazingly have removed repentance as a prerequisite to having your sins forgiven and becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ while others have watered the concept down so much that it no longer even resembles the biblical presentation of it. John the Baptist came preaching repentance. Jesus’ first words to begin His ministry were, ”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17) and just before He ascended back to His Father at the very end of His earthly ministry He said this to His disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 46-47) The apostles continued this tradition throughout the book of Acts, proclaiming the necessity of repentance every where they went. Those who had killed Jesus came to Peter asking what they should do and Peter proclaimed, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.“ (Acts 2:37-38) Again in Acts 3:19 he advises, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” Paul while summarizing his Christian experience to King Agrippa in Acts 26:20 says that he “declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” But what does this word “repentance” actually mean? How does the New Testament define this word? What is true repentance? Let’s examine and see just what Jesus was expecting us to proclaim.

First, let’s quickly take a look at what repentance is not. Repentance is not merely a confession that one is a sinner and then asking for forgiveness for those sins. Those who still will mention repentance will usually present repentance in this manner. As we will see this presentation is nowhere near expressing the true depth of actual biblical repentance. Repentance also is not merely a change of mind about some randomly chosen aspect of the gospel. Some others have watered down repentance to this level, claiming that if you simply change your mind about some aspect of God or the gospel, that they themselves have chosen, then you have repented. Ex.- if you mentally assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose for your sins then you have repented. This is deceitful and clearly not biblical. Repentance also is not a religious work or duty performed to gain forgiveness from God as some other churches would advocate.

True biblical repentance in its relation to salvation is primarily presented with a two-fold meaning. It is true that repentance involves a change of one’s mind, but the depth of this change of mind totally affects one’s entire inner being to the point that they have a complete change of purpose and direction in every area of their life. The two-fold meaning is presented thusly: there is a call to repent of one’s sins or wickedness (Acts 3:19) and there is also a call to repent in one’s attitude toward God. (Acts 20:21)

To repent of one’s sins, one must first recognize their condition and predicament. One must come to some sort of realization that their sins are various and many and are abhorred and hated by a holy God so much so that God’s Son had to die on a cross for them. They must also see that ultimately these acts of rebellion towards God and His ways will lead them to hell. These realizations are needed before someone can truly repent. Jesus said that He came, not for the righteous (or for the ones who basically believe that they‘re good people) but to lead sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:31-32) THE PREREQUISITE TO REPENTING IS TO SEE YOUR TRUE WRETCHED CONDITION! Acknowledging that you have made some mistakes in your life is not what we’re talking about here. You must know that you desperately need to be saved and you must know what it is that you need to be saved from. Can you list the sins that you know were, or are, destroying your life? Many people can’t, so obviously they do not really see what they need to be saved from. Once again, this you must see to be able to truly repent. When you do finally realize that your sins are evil and hated by a holy God and when you do finally see that YOUR sins caused the Son of God to suffer and die in your place, you will then be able to experience true godly sorrow for the sinful things that you have done. At this point you will then turn from, hate and desire to be rid of all your sin. (2Corinthians 7:8-11) This is repenting of one’s sins or wickedness. Finally, but just as critically important, is that you will freely offer up your life to serve the One who has died for you. (2Corinthians 5:14-15)

The offering up of your life is the second aspect of repentance. This is repenting in one’s attitude towards God. One must surrender their life to Jesus Christ. The change of mind and direction go this way, Jesus Christ is recognized for who He is, “Lord,” (Romans 10:9) so one will no longer seek their own will but will now seek the will of God in every area of their life. They are no longer the boss, so to speak, of their life, Jesus as Lord, is. This is the totality of what biblical repentance looks like. This type of repentance in conjunction with one’s faith in the Son Of God and the work He accomplished results in the forgiveness of one’s sins, the receiving of God’s Holy Spirit, being born again and given a new heart and a new life. So yes, repentance is absolutely necessary if one is to become a child of God. It is as primary as is faith and it needs to be presented as part of the gospel as Jesus commanded.

Now the question needs to be asked. Have you ever truly repented? Have you ever come before God knowing your true wicked condition, knowing you’re headed to hell? Have you ever experienced that godly sorrow for the sins you committed throughout your life, knowing that your sins put God’s Son on the cross? Have you ever come to the place where you turned from and hated those sins and desired to be rid of them forever? And finally, have you ever come to the place where you were willing to offer your life completely to the One who died for you? If you haven’t, then God calls you to repent. Jesus died for your sins, because God hates and abhors them. He loves you immensely but He hates your sins because they are against His nature and because they separate you from Him. Jesus didn’t die for you so that you could continue to live in your sins, He died so that you could turn from them, live apart from them, and be reconciled to God.

Sadly, most churches today no longer believe that it is absolutely necessary for one to turn from their sins and forsake their old way of life. They show this clearly through their methods of evangelism. How many churches are using things like music, entertainment, and soft, so-called relevant messages to try to lead people to a worldly-friendly, all-accepting Christ? This they do, even though the Bible emphatically claims that any Christian who is a friend of this world is to be called an adulterer! (James 4:4) These churches are trying to use the things of this world to lure people in, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit of God, who was sent to bring conviction to lost sinners to lead them away from this world and to repentance. (John 16:8) These churches are spiritual harlots who would have you believe that as long as you simply believe in Jesus and say a prayer, that you can live as you always have and still be saved. Hogwash! Repentance is a total life turnaround and without it you will die in your sins. Don’t believe the modern lies, one’s true Christian faith is born in repentance. Make sure YOU haven’t missed this important step!

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