Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) What then is repentance? Why is it so important? What does it look like?
I will tell you first what repentance is not. Repentance is not just being sorry because you got caught. Although, being caught can be a motivation towards repentance. Sorrow for being caught and apologizing is not repentance in itself. In truth, repentance does not require an emotional response either. Yes emotions can be a factor in bringing someone to repentance.
What is required for repentance?
- Repentance requires an understanding of a wrong that was committed.
- Repentance requires an understanding of consequences that have a cause and effect from act committed. Repentance requires ownership of the act committed.
- Repentance requires a sincere commitment not to re-commit the wrong that was committed.
For Christian repentance it requires acceptance that Jesus paid the consequence for the wrong committed. Christian repentance requires that we commit our lives to God through Jesus. Acts 20:21 tell us that it is “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”. So then, repentance is a decision, a change of mind, resulting in an inward and outward action of turning from your old way of life to a better life in fellowship with God through Jesus the Savior.
Repentance is a gift that God has given us. We have all been hurt by someone in our past, by someone we really loved and trusted. We have all felt so betrayed that we didn’t see how we could ever trust anyone again. No one could make us love again. No one would ever be allowed to get that close to use again. We have all felt that loneliness that comes with the anger and isolation of mistrust. For those of us who have overcome and have someone in our lives we can trust again, how did we do that? Better yet for those who still struggle with trust issues, how do you overcome?
How do you trust someone again? Can anyone EARN your trust? I think the answer is no. No one can earn your trust. So then what? This is the way… you have to give someone your trust. You have to take a chance. You have to give it away. You have to forgive. This is what I mean by, repentance is a gift from God. We cannot earn Gods trust any more than someone can earn yours, if you have been hurt. God chooses to give us a way to come into His graces. God chose to make the sacrifice of blood that was necessary to bring us in to his fellowship again. Why? Because like you, God wants to be close to the ones that He loves. Because God knows that having a relationship with you as an individual is worth the sacrifice.
Repentance is a part of the foundation of Christianity. Acts 17:30 states, “…but [God] now commandeth all men [women] everywhere to repent.”, and again in Luke 13:13 we discover that unless we do repent, we will perish. So then the way to eternal life starts with repentance… a choice to change. Peter announced in Acts 2:38, “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 Ghost.”
Repentance is necessary for salvation. How can a husband who has wronged his wife expect to be forgiven and trusted if he is still committing the offences that lead to his separation from his wife? How can an employee make amends to an employer if they are still stealing from the employer? How can an addict be trusted if they are still using? It doesn’t make much sense does it? It is one thing to be sorry, it’s another to choose to change. Repentance is yet more than these, you have to put your faith in Jesus. You have to trust that He has the power and the will to deliver you.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the first few steps to recovery are to admit you have a problem. Know that you are powerless to stop it. You have to take a moral inventory of yourself. Know that you can be delivered from the behavior by a higher power. Then commit to that power, and continue in the way you are led. I can think of no better example of repentance.
When you repent, you have to put your faith in Jesus to deliver you from your moral bankruptcy. You have to commit to Jesus for life. The phrase “Let go and let God.” Does not mean to quit trying. It means to submit to Jesus.
“Know ye not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether to sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness: But God be thanked, that ye were servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18)
This is the doctrine of salvation – “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who know no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus stepped in and took blame for everything you ever did, or will do against God, and paid the price with His life. You say I didn’t do anything against God. Well the truth is you have. Every lie, everything you took that wasn’t yours. Every vile thought, every time you talked about someone behind their back. Every time you judged the homeless, or ignored a widows tears, or a child’s hunger. When you chose to use your pain to hold judgement against someone else, you did those and more against God. Just because you call yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you don’t need to repent either.
1John 1:8-9 was talking to followers when he said, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The church of Pergamos was warned, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16) Examine yourself today and confess aloud your sin to Jesus and recommit your way.
The Lord Himself commanded us to take up our crosses daily. This way you can be in fellowship with God today. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:3-4)
This is a gift from God toward us, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1)