“God…now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)
THE FIRST MESSAGE OF JESUS
The very first experience upon which a Christian life can be built is Repentance. Jesus’ very first preaching of the Gospel – this wonderful Good News of salvation in Christ – is “Repent”. The second is “Believe”:
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel”‘ (Mark 1:14,15).
John the Baptist’s first message was “Repent “(Matt 3:2). The first message of Jesus Christ was “Repent” (Matt 4:17). The Risen Lord Jesus commanded His disciples that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His Name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Thus repentance was Peter’s first message (Acts 2:38). The Apostle Paul preached, ”God… now commands all men everywhere to repent ” (Acts 17:30). Thus we see the extreme urgency of God’s command to all men everywhere – ”Repent’ ”
WHAT REPENTANCE IS NOT
Repentance is not conviction of sin – the feeling of guilt and shame for sin. The conviction that we have sinned against the Holy God of the Bible and broken His commandments will always come before repentance, but it is not repentance. No one repents until he sees his sins; but not all who see their sins go on to repent.
Repentance is not being sorry when we are caught doing wrong. Repentance is not reforming our lives, or trying to make it fresh start. Repentance is not being religious.
Repentance is not holding an opinion. Multitudes of people are deceived because they believe with their minds some creeds, or doctrines. They have “head faith.” Having accepted some teachings and traditions, they believe they are in good standing with God – but they have never repented of sin, asked the Lord Jesus to come in to their hearts, and exercised “heart faith” which; alone gives salvation. The Bible says you must accept and “Believe in your heart” (Rom 10:9).
WHAT TRUE REPENTANCE IS
Repentance involves the total personality, the whole man. It is a complete change of mind, heart and will, particularly concerning sin, and our relationship to God and His Son Jesus Christ.
In the change of mind, our intellect is involved. The way we think about sin, and about the Lord Jesus Christ, changes.
ln the change of heart, our emotions are involved. The way we feel about sin, and about the Lord Jesus Christ, changes.
ln the change of will, we want to turn from sin to God, and receive His salvation.
Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, changed his mind, but not his will. He hanged himself, and went out into eternal night.
ln the beginning, man was perfect. His mind was always towards God’s Word, God’s will, God’s way. But man chose to disobey God; and through disobedience to the Word and will of God, man’s mind, heart and will turned against God. Thus the need today to “Repent” – to change. To turn from our own way. To turn from our own will. To tum about, and return to God.
There are some reading these lines who have never repented. Just now, as you sit in the presence of God, you feel guilty and ashamed of your sin. But be encouraged. God loves you just as you are. If you will repent -if you will change the attitude of your mind, heart and will to God -He will come into your life and save you from your sin.
KNOWING JESUS PERSONALLY
The second word of this Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ is “Believe” (Mark 1:15). Now you must repent, and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” will make you a child of God (Acts 20:21). This is not believing about Jesus Christ in your mind. You may know about Jesus. But do you know Him personally? I know about many famous people in this world. But I do not know them personally. Do you know Jesus personally?
Turn to God now, with your whole mind, heart and will, and be truly sorry for your sins. Accept Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior. He will wash your sins away by the power of His blood, which flowed from His body when He died on the cross. No matter who you are, Jesus loves you. He is knocking at the door of your heart. Repent, open your life to Him, and let Him in today!
NO “BORN” CHRISTIANS
I have traveled extensively in many countries of the world. Whenever I meet someone who calls himself a Christian, I often ask: “When did you become a Christian?” I always get one of two answers: Either a joyful testimony of salvation or a look of surprise, as if to say: “What on earth are you talking about?”
More often than not, I am told: “What do you mean, when did I become a Christian? I was born a Christian! My mother was a Christian. My father was a Christian. My uncle was a pastor! I’ve always been a Christian.”
Being born in a Christian home does not make you a Christian any more than being born in a motor garage makes you a motorcar! I was born in a hospital, but that does not make me a doctor!
The Bible does not say one word about “born” Christians. On the contrary, Jesus said: “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
How many are christened, confirmed, or join a church – and then, feeling that on Judgment Day their good deeds will be weighed against their bad ones, somehow hope that the good deeds will outweigh the bad ones. But Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again [or from above], he cannot see the Kingdom of God,” let alone enter into it! (John 3:3).
HOW TO REPENT
“How can I take the first step?
How can I repent?”
- Repentance Is A Gift From God
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus Whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance . . . and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30,31).
Repentance and forgiveness of sins are gifts of God. They are in a Person, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. To receive the gifts of repentance and forgiveness of sins, you must receive the Person in Whom are the gifts. Receive Jesus into your heart and life, as a conscious act.
- Godly Grief for Sin
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:10).
As you think of your sin, you feel guilty and ashamed. You feel sorrow and grief for your sin. It is this godly grief alone which produces repentance.
- Confess Your Sin To God
“God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
If you will confess your sins to God, He will forgive and cleanse you -right now! What wonderful love and mercy this is.
- Forsake Sin
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but he who ever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov 28:13).
After you have confessed your sins and transgressions to God, forsake them – give them up, turn away from them, and never come back to them.
- Make Restitution
After we have confessed our sin, experienced God’s forgiveness, received Christ as Savior and Lord, and forsaken our sin, there is one thing left to be done; To make restitution – to restore money or goods that are not ours to their rightful owners; to write and apologize to people we have hurt because of our sin. Read the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and see how he made restitution after meeting the Lord Jesus.
Friend, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Accept Jesus into your heart as your Savior, and trust Him to blot out your sins by the power of His blood. The Holy Spirit will do a miracle in your heart – and you will be born anew. Only then will you have “faith with a pure conscience “(1 Tim 3:9).
THE FRUIT OF REPENTANCE
The Bible commands us to “Therefore bear fruits worthy of [consistent with] repentance” (Matt 3:8).
“A tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 7:15-20; 12:33-37). The fruit of a tree will only be according to the root of the tree, which is not seen, being hidden under the earth. So is true repentance. Fruit that is consistent with repentance is continual outward evidence that demonstrates your change of heart. Because our hearts and minds and wills have been changed, so our words and way of living change. Bad habits stop. The beautiful fruit of the Holy Spirit, Who has given us new birth, show forth – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22,23). The whole character is changed, and the life starts to become Christ-like. For “Christ-like” is the real meaning of the word “Christian.”
Also, the Bible commands that those who would give their lives to Christ “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). While fruit speaks of the manifestation of inward, unseen growth, works speak of what we do. Works are the outward manifestation. If there is true inward repentance, it is demonstrated in the life by works performed.
True repentance produces a complete change in the whole life, and way of living. Not a sad, strict set of rules and regulations – “I must do this, I must not do that” type of life -but rather a joyous expression of the life of Jesus Christ within us. Before, we pleased ourselves. We followed our own minds. We went our own way. But now we have repented. We have turned around. We have believed in Jesus Christ and received Him as Savior and Lord. Now “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). He lives His life in us. So, then, we do only the things Christ does. We think His thoughts. We speak His words. These fruit and works are visible in the life of the person who has truly repented.
FOR BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS TOO
The command to repent is not only for those who have never personally received Christ as their Savior. Many born-again Christians need to repent also.
Surely, the weakness of our love for Christ demands repentance. Our lack of compassion for those who yet do not know Christ, our making idols of possessions, titles, position -all need to be repented of. We need to repent of our stealing. We do not break a shop window and steal goods from the shopkeeper, true -but we rob God without feeling sorry at all! One tenth of all we earn is God’s. How dare we use it for ourselves! Any offerings we may give to the Lord are over and above the first tenth of our income that belongs to Him (Mal 3:8,9).
To the Ephesian church, the Lord said: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left [abandoned] your first love” (Rev 2:4). This is possibly the most prevalent sin among those who have truly turned to Christ for His salvation. The thrill and glow of that love we had for the Savior when we first accepted Him in to our lives is there no longer. If I love my Lord any less today than I did yesterday, then I too must hear the Lord’s command: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent” (Rev 2:5).
May God help us to obey His command today! May our hearts be gripped with the urgency of our need to repent!
THE FOUNDATION DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE
Repentance is a foundational doctrine. In Hebrews 6:1 we are commanded: “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…” Of course, this does not mean we stop teaching and experiencing these blessed elementary doctrines. The writer to the Hebrews is simply saying that they should be studying deeper truths from the Word of God. But, he says: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk, and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age [mature], that is, those who by reason of use (habitual practice] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil ” (Heb 5:12-14).
If the writer to the Hebrews were living today, I wonder what he would write to most of our churches. So few of us know anything about the first principles, let alone the solid food of God’s Word! The first principles are listed for us in Hebrews 6:1, 2:
- The foundation of Repentance from dead works
- Faith towards God
- Doctrine of baptisms
- Laying on of hands
- Resurrection of the dead
- Eternal judgment
From these we are exhorted to go on unto:
- “Perfection” (maturity)
(This list is taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.)
Do you know about these fundamental principles of the doctrine of Christ? We must leave this blessed study for another time and place. However, notice particularly what is written about repentance “Laying … the foundation of repentance” (Heb 6:1). It is established that repentance is the first part of the foundation for the Christian life.
REPENT – OR PERISH
We are living in the last of the Last Days. The signs of the end times given us in the Bible are being fulfilled at an alarming rate.
Jesus is coming again in power and great glory “to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet 4:5). No one will escape that judgment. Every one of us will be there. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom 14:10). By what standard shall we be judged? By whether we have repented or not, and by the standard of Jesus Christ. Our lives will be compared to His life, and we will be judged according to the measure we have allowed Him to live His life in us. The Bible warns us: “God… now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man [Jesus] Whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead “(Acts 17:30, 31).
Do you have that assurance that you are ready to stand before Him on Judgment Day? If not, then now is the time for you to repent from your sins, and accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your life. The Bible commandment is “now”‘
There is only one alternative to repentance – the awful judgment of God. For Jesus warns us, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).