Question: Will you please discuss REPENTANCE; what is it, etc.?
Answer: This is a legitimate and good question and I am glad it has been presented because I fear there may be a number of others who do not know what genuine REPENTANCE is. Therefore I discuss it cheerfully and freely.
Repentance is very basic to salvation and to the gospel. In the preaching of John the Baptist, he said in Matthew 3:2, “…Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus preached this same exact message (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15). We see here that repentance is a basic requirement for entering into the kingdom of God; being saved. In Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “…Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” This scripture takes on strong emphasis in the light of another statement of Jesus in Matthew 21:32, “…ye,…repented not afterward, that ye might believe…” These scriptures teach us that a lack in our repentance is an obstacle to faith or believing the gospel for salvation. A defect and lack in repentance may account for the shallow experience that some have and their lack of ability to live victoriously and triumphantly in the severe situations of life and to exercise faith and trust God fully in life and death situations. I hold the position that a full and complete repentance will produce a saving faith. “When thy soul the perfect price hath paid, God will send the holy fire.” When God sees that a soul has genuinely, completely repented, totally renounced, rejected and forsaken all sin, and turned to Him with the whole heart, He will give him faith to “…believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:39.) Faith to believe the gospel and be save is not a of us but is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) and He withholds it until the repentance is complete and then He gives it. It would be easy, therefore, to discern the supreme importance of complete, genuine repentance to our salvation and to our relationship with God thereafter.
In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus referred to two groups who had miserably and violently perished. Then He said to those present “…Think ye that they were sinners above all men…?” He then told them His own judgment in the question: “…Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Ah, let us grasp the urgency of the situation here. It is repent or perish. Acts 17:30 says, He . ..now commandeth all men every where to repent.” The call of the gospel is to all men; rich, poor, high, low, Jews, Gentiles, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people. The only way that one can enter into the kingdom of God is to “Repent, and believe the gospel.”
Having discussed the importance of repentance, and it is supremely important to the extent of repenting or perishing, let us consider some of what it is. Cruden’s Concordance says of repent or repentance, that it is “used of regret and sorrow for having done some deed.” He further says, “Godly repentance, which means such sorrow as shall cause a complete change of action.” One definition says, “A turning away in heart and practice from that which is forbidden to that which is required.” One describes it as “An amendment of life.” Perhaps the best and simplest definition was given by a young boy in a class. The teacher asked if anyone in the class could tell her what repentance was. One boy held up his hand so she called on him to explain. He said that it was being sorry for your sins. The teacher thought that was an excellent answer but asked if anyone else wanted to say anything and another boy held up his hand. The teacher said surely he could not add anything to what the other boy had said and he said, “Yes, I can, too.” So the teacher called on him and he said, “It is being sorry enough for your sins to quit them.” Ah, there you have it folks. But let us see how the Scripture speaks in regard to all these definitions of repentance that men have given, because the Scriptures are the final authority.
Ezekiel 18:30 says, “…Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” Verse 31 says further, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Did you notice in these verses how all-encompassing repentance is? One of the key words here is “ALL.” “Turn yourselves from ALL your transgressions” and “Cast away from you ALL your transgressions.” Folks, it is all or nothing with God; no little pet sins, no secret corners in the heart we don’t want to let God into, no reservations, but a total, complete renunciation and forsaking of all sin out of our lives. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Repentance involves an open confession of sins and then a forsaking of them. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God has not promised us mercy and forgiveness of sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness of life, and we have no claim on Him for this, neither can we believe for it to bring peace to our souls until we have openly and freely confessed our sins to God and forsaken them and asked for His mercy and forgiveness.
Neither is confession of our sins to God sufficient if in our sinning we have wronged or injured other people. Confession and restitution must also be made to them. Repentance also requires our straightening up our lives with other people as far as is possible to do so. Ezekiel 33:14-15 says, “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked one restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.” In Luke 19:8, Zacchaeus stood before Jesus and confessed Him as “Lord” and said that if he had defrauded any man he would restore him fourfold and Jesus told him in verse nine that salvation was come to his house that day. In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus discussed the matter of our dealings with a wronged or offended brother. He said if you approach God’s altar to present an offering and remember that a brother has something against thee, leave and go in search of the offended or wronged brother and confess your wrong to your brother and go all out to make it right with him and be reconciled to him. Read II Corinthians 7:10-11 for a description of the fruits of repentance prompted by godly sorrow, a carefulness of life, a clearing of yourselves, an indignation against the enemy of your soul and all the wrong he has involved you in against God and men and a vehement desire to be right and at peace with God and your fellow men. This, I think, gives a pretty general coverage of what repentance is.
There is another thing which this lesson would not be complete without. That is the matter of our forgiving the wrongs of other people against ourselves. Many are limping around without power to live a successful, consistent Christian life on this account. In Matthew 6:12, Jesus taught us to pray, “…Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” An important part of a seeking sinner’s repentance is to forgive from his heart every person whom he is holding anything against. He will never find peace with God until he does. It is a very important part of obtaining salvation and after one has obtained salvation, it is a very important part of maintaining that salvation to keep a forgiving heart and attitude and never allow any malice, grudge, bitterness, resentment or hard feelings toward any person to get into your heart. It will disturb your peace with God and result in you having some more repenting to do. God bless you all.