Matthew 4:17 ESV
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
One of the main themes of Jesus’ message was the message of repentance. The reason why Jesus preached about repenting was because He knew that if people are to have a true relationship with God and if people are to be true followers of God, then repentance is very important. A person cannot be a true follower of Christ or of God’s Kingdom unless he/she sincerely repents.
Therefore – what is repentance? What should we repent from? How do I know if I have repented? Why should I repent?
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
- Biblical repentance is sincere change. Repentance involves is a complete and sincere change from thinking, believing and doing that which was wrong and sinful in God’s eyes – to thinking, believing and doing that which is righteous and good to God.
- Biblical repentance is not just intellectual or of the mind. It is also a change of attitude, a change of the perception, a change of direction – so that a person no longer walks in an ungodly direction but they walk in God’s direction pertaining to a given area in his/her life
- Biblical repentance turns from the devil to Christ; from sin to good; from darkness to light; from deception to truth; from condemnation to salvation.
- The fruit of sincere repentance are evident in the true believer’s behaviour or actions. Biblical repentance leads to a changed life or lifestyle.
Acts 26:20 ESV
But 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.
2 Peter 3:9 ESV
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Matthew 3:8 ESV
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Luke 5:32 ESV
I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
JUDAS versus PETER on REPENTANCE
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Biblical repentance is more than just saying “I’m sorry”. Biblical repentance goes further than feeling remorse, but it requires deliberate change to not do the thing that you are sorry for doing.
Judas knew that he had sinned and felt remorse or sorry for having betrayed Jesus. However, Judas did not repent. If he had repented, he would not have tried to resolve his issue by committing another sin in the process; he would not have hung himself but would have found a way to return to Christ and thereafter follow Christ sincerely. Biblical repentance must lead you to reconcile with God.
In contrast, Peter who denied Jesus 3 times out of fear of persecution (read Mark 14:66-72), later felt sorry for having denied Christ, then Peter repented and later boldly and courageously spoke the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through out the book of Acts, Peter spoke boldly about Christ without fear of persecution. Therefore Peter’s repentance changed his behaviour from one of fear to that of courage. (Acts 4:13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus)
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE REPENT FROM?
2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Biblical repentance requires that people repent from anything that displeases God. This for example includes the following:
- All kinds of sin and sinful habits
- All kinds of wickedness
- Any type of poor or bad attitude
- Anything that rejects God and rejects the nature of God
Galatians 5:19-24 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
WHY SHOULD I REPENT?
1. Repentance leads to salvation. Let us remember that salvation is by grace and not by our own works. However we must understand that our decision to repent is evidence that we desire to receive God’s free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus. (Acts 2:36-39 – Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “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.)
When Peter preached his sermon at Pentecost, he wanted the people to change their mind about Jesus whom they had crucified. In other words, he wanted them to repent about their perception of Jesus and receive Him and accept Jesus as Lord and Christ in their life.
John MacArthur stated the following : “It has often been said that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. That coin is called conversion. Repentance turns from sin to Christ, and faith embraces Him as the only hope of salvation and righteousness. That is what conversion means in simple terms. Faith and repentance are distinct concepts, but they cannot occur independently of each other. Genuine repentance is always the flip side of faith; and true faith accompanies repentance”
(2 Peter 3:9 ESV – The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.)
2. Biblical Repentance leads to change in behavior & obedience to God. It is impossible to repent in one’s mind and this repentance not be followed by a change in action. In Luke 3:8 and Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist called people to repent and that there must be evidence of their repentance. John mentioned that people must “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” – an indication that sincere repentance leads to obedience and that repentance is more than just a mental or intellectual change. (Acts 26:20 ESV – But 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.)
3. Repentance leads to seeing life from God’s perspective and not from our own perspective. When we repent, it reflects that we are ready to deny our personal opinions; our personal philosophies; our personal agenda in order to follow the values and principles of God. Repentance from sin acknowledges that we are wrong and that God is ALWAYS right. Biblical repentance acknowledges that only God’s perspective is true and that we must align our thoughts and actions to God’s will and not our own will. (Acts 3:19 ESV Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out)
Whenever we sin, God is just and faithful to forgive us. We too must through Christ be faithful to not return to our sin, by repenting from wrong doing and endeavor to sincerely follow way of the Lord.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.