From the Preacher’s Pen… There’s an old hymn that asks the question: Did you repent, fully repent? It is a most sobering question. Repentance, as described by God, is the U-turn that gets us on the right way to eternal life.
Like so many of God’s words, repentance has a very specific meaning in the Bible that is unlike the way it is used by the world. Consider that important ingredient that God commands us to use in our lives:
Repentance has often been called the forgotten command of God and for very good reasons. In recent years even the denominational world has begun to notice it as painfully missing from their “Sinner’s Prayer” method of “salvation.”
Sadly, too many Christians have begun to forget or willingly ignore repentance. As you will learn by reading either the New or the Old Testament, that loss will cost you your soul.
Isaiah warned that God had instructed His people to repent and let God take care of things (Isaiah 30:15), but they were unwilling. In that failure to repent and trust God would come their downfall.
As a matter of record, God always requires obedience even, or perhaps more accurately, especially of His people. John the Immerser preached a message of preparation for Jesus as the Kingdom was about to come (Matthew 3:1). Their proof of repentance was to be found in bearing fruit or deeds that showed evidence of that repentance (Matthew 3:8).
It is embarrassing when we miss the point of a story or joke. Something that just goes over our heads or, worse still, something that we misunderstand completely can be worse than awkward. One statement of Jesus that is often misunderstood (much like many in His audience often miss the point!) is found in Luke 5:32.
It is all too easy for us to feel like the audience evidently did when Jesus said, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. If we imagine for even a moment that we are so wonderful, so righteous in God’s eyes that we have no need of our Savior and of repentance, then we are horribly deluded!
Jesus came into the world to save sinners, Paul the Apostle would say (1 Timothy 1:15) years later, of whom I am foremost! Yet he could also claim (Acts 23:1) to have lived his entire life with a perfectly good conscience before God!
Evidently, since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (cf. Romans 3:23), we all need to repent as none of us are righteous without God!
This message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47) was the message the Apostles were to take to the whole world. Repentance was for or going toward the goal of forgiveness of sins. No, it is not the only step, but it is a vital one.
Just as baptism is for or going toward the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), so is repentance. That tells us two very important things: First, without repentance, you are NOT going the right direction for the forgiveness of sins. Second, in the same way, without baptism, you are NOT going the right direction for the forgiveness of sins.
In math the equation would be “a + b = c” and this is true, for example, of 2+3=5. But it is NEVER true that 2=5 nor does 3=5. In God’s mathematical equation neither repentance alone nor baptism alone will save you. Only the right combination!
It is, of course, the kindness, grace, and mercy of God that leads us to have the opportunity of repentance (see Romans 2:4). We have to be sorrowful for our wrongs, our sins, for our failure to properly follow God (2 Corinthians 7:9).
Just being sorry is not the same as repentance. Many people are sorry that they were caught but not sorry for the sin. We can be sorry for many things without having the sorrow that corrects and leads us in the right direction. Paul says it like this, For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Did you catch all that? God must break us of our sin. But Godly sorrow does not lead to ongoing brokenness. God’s way is all about life and the positive change that we are making.
As those who complete the equation of both repentance and baptism, we receive a new life. There is freedom from the old way of sin and death, and this new life is filled with the spirit of God (Acts 2:38 and repeatedly in 1 Corinthians).
Rejecting God’s way, even for those who have once been saved, is described as a life without repentance and thus without hope (Hebrews 6:6). Repentance is a treasure of God that forms a crucial ingredient of our salvation. It is more than just important, it is vital!
Have you made the U-turn that leads from living your life for Satan, sin, and death? Have you made the U-turn to obey and follow Jesus? Have you completed the equation for the forgiveness of your sins?
If you’ve done those things to begin that family relationship with God then have you continue the path of obedience to salvation? If not, is it time for your repentance to get you headed in the right direction?
— Lester P. Bagley