Doctrine of Repentance
“God loves you just as you are, come as you are and give your heart to the Lord.” This is a common refrain among many evangelicals. The problem is this: Our Savior taught exactly the opposite. Jesus said that “just as you are” is the way that leads to death (Proverbs 14:12). He said that our hearts are dreadfully deceitful, and He certainly does not want that. God says that the innermost thoughts of our hearts are not to be trusted. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “The human mind is in opposition against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.” (Romans 8:7)
What Jesus actually said was, “Repent, or perish” (Luke 13:5). He meant that we are to turn around, change our ways and think differently, and not remain “just as you are.” The only way to be acceptable to Jesus Christ is to leave our past sinful conduct behind us and separate ourselves from this world’s impure ways. Then and only then will Jesus receive us (2Corinthians 6:17). Satan’s desire is that we remain “just as we are,” but Jesus requires that we be repenting and changing. “Become ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Here is what we have to understand. All men are sinners, and it is not God’s intent that we remain sinful. Jesus died to eradicate sin and its consequences. He in no way approves of sinful behavior. “Everyone has sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8) What is sin? God has a perfect system in place, but “sin” is wrongdoing against that perfect order. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Whoever violates God’s right way of living is a sinner who will die (1John 3:4).
God does not wish for us to choose eternal death. His intention is that we choose eternal life: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life.” God then asks, “Cast away from you all your transgressions [sins], whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die?” (Ezekiel 18:31)
That is the sure fate of sinners – they will die the eternal death. That is, unless somehow they are saved from that fateful death. That is why Jesus is called, “The Savior;” He saves sinners from death. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) How can we receive His gift? Jesus has definite conditions that are to be met before He saves anyone. The very first requirement is repentance towards God for sinning against Him, then faith towards Jesus as our personal Savior (Acts 20:21).
The sinner must repent – there is no other way. He must stop lying, stealing, fighting, dishonoring parents or breaking any of God’s commandments, because sin leads to death. We change our lives by repenting from dead works, and having faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1). Through repentance and baptism sin can be forgiven and pardoned, and the penalty of sin can be removed. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38)
When we sin, we cause a rift between God and ourselves (Isaiah 59:2). As enemies of God, we bring an extreme penalty on our heads - “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) That sentence and penalty for our sins has to be paid, and retribution made. But, we are totally incapable of repairing the damage our sins have caused. However, with genuine repentance toward God, our sins can be forgiven by faith in Jesus.
Instead of having to pay our own death penalty, as we deserve to do, faith in Jesus means we believe that He paid our debt for us with the sacrifice of His life. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled [made to be at peace with] God by the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) God the Father, in His mercy for us, accepts Jesus’ death in place of our own death.
The first thing that we must do to repair the breech between God and us is to repent. There must be Godly sorrow for the harm that we have caused. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation.” (2Corinthians 7:10) A sinner must admit to himself, “I killed Jesus Christ.” You may wish to lessen your part in Jesus’ death by saying to yourself, “No, Jesus died for the whole world – I’m only one of many.” If you alone had sinned – Jesus would have gone through His torment and death just for you alone!
Repentance takes place when the sinner turns his thought process around and reconsiders how his life has been spent. He then turns his entire life around and leaves his past ungodly thoughts and actions behind. He chooses Godly conduct, and begins to live a life of Christian principles and service. He comes to hate the “old man of sin,” and even wants to bury him. “We are buried with [Jesus] by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Therefore, repentance leads the believer to seek baptism and receive God’s Holy Spirit. The lifelong repentance process brings about a moral revolution and complete conversion of the sinner thru the guidance and indwelling of God’s Spirit. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
You may ask, “How do I work-up the motivation to repent and ask God’s forgiveness?” The answer is: You don’t. It is impossible to bring about Godly repentance on our own. Sure, we can work up some worldly sorrow when we get caught in sin, or when we fear punishment, but Scripture says that is a deadly sorrow (2Corinthians 7:10). It is God the Father who grants repentance to sinners when He begins to call them (2Timothy 2:25). “Do you despise the riches of God’s goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) It is God who opens the eyes so that a sinner can see the error of his ways.
Sin separates us from God, but righteousness makes fellowship with God attainable. (Isaiah 59:2). “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) Our own righteousness is nothing. Of our own accord, we could never work our way back into God’s good graces. God the Father, in His love for us, imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us – making our relationship with Him possible (Romans 3:22).
However, repentance causes us to change the way we think and to put God’s will before our own. We thought Sunday and Easter were right days to worship God – now we know better than that. God calls us to His truth. In true repentance, we surrender our wills in total obedience to the will of God. In living according to His will, we begin to put on God’s character, and to think like He thinks (1Corinthians 2:16). Without God’s Spirit working in us, it is not possible to put God’s way first.
If God has touched your heart (Acts 2:37), hear the instructions that Peter gave to those brethren who made up the New Testament congregations. “Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Then with the very life of God’s Spirit empowering you to grow in grace and knowledge, change your life to be useful to God. Notice what Jesus says we must do to demonstrate Godly repentance: “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
We are called the people of God, the children of God, the Church of God. Notice God’s words to us. “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and repent from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin.” (2Chronicles 7:14) Jesus said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
The first step in becoming a true Christian is to respond to God’s call to repentance. Everyone who truly repents of their sins, yields to God in total compliance with His laws, accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, and receives forgiveness of their sins. Then, in baptism, the new convert symbolically buries the old sinner in a watery grave and is raised with Jesus Christ, walking in the newness of life, justified. Justification means that past sins are forgiven, making the convert righteous, guiltless and innocent before God. This pardoned and sinless state makes possible, for the first time, a personal relationship with God (Romans 5:9-11). We are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16). After baptism, the new convert is made an essential part of the Body of Christ with the laying on of hands, in which God the Father imparts His Spirit to the new Christian, making him or her literally a child of God (1John 3:2). Only through the empowerment of God’s Spirit can we remain justified and in personal contact with God (Romans 8:5).
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