Updated: Jun 27, 2020
"Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation ..." 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Repentance is an essential element for a lost sinner to appropriate salvation and for a Christian to maintain fellowship with Holy God. However, it is a subject that is not talked, taught, or preached about very much today. It may be mentioned slightly, but hardly ever elaborated on. There are very few people who really know what this word means and entails. And even fewer people who put this into practice. Yet, it is one of the great themes within the Bible.
The Old Testament prophets repeatedly called for the nation of Israel to repent. Ezekiel 14:6 says, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations." Again in Ezekiel 18:30 we read, “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin."
Repentance was the message of both John the Baptist and our Lord, Jesus Christ. They both preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" This was also included in the subject matter of the messages of the Lord's disciples. These words of Peter's were recorded in Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." The Apostle Paul is recorded in Acts 17:30 as preaching, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent . . . . "
In chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to the churches, Christians, and calls them to repentance for the restoration of their fellowship with Him and for the averting of God's discipline and judgment upon them. “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", Revelation 2:5. Again in Revelation 3:3 we read the words of our Lord, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you." And Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."
Pastor and author, James MacDonald, defines repentance in his book, "Downpour", as "a change in every way at every level, a recognition of sin for what it is, followed by heartfelt sorrow, culminating in a change of behavior." The reason behind my statement that very few people exercise repentance is the lack of behavior change! Most people feel sorrowful for the messed up circumstances of their lives and tell God they will do better if He will 'fix' things for them. That is not repentance. Some people feel guilty for the things they do because they got caught at it, but that is not repentance either. It is much more than 'turning over a new leaf.'
Biblical repentance is founded on a person's recognition and acknowledgment of the gravity and ugliness of their sin against Holy God! The death of Jesus upon the cross declares the ugliness and gravity of sin! The repentant person will acknowledge his sinfulness and ungodliness and God's sinless perfection and holiness. MacDonald points out that true repentance begins with 'grief over sin' which leads to 'repulsion over sin'. One of man's problems today is we enjoy sin instead of being repulsed by it! There has been a desensitization to and glorification of sin today. Everything that God identifies in the Scriptures as sin and abomination to Him, is accepted in today's society as appropriate. It has become a crime to call sin, sin! And people who call themselves Christians are just as guilty as those outside the church. Hence, the powerlessness and ineffectiveness of our churches today for influencing the world for Christ Jesus!
MacDonald also points out that true biblical repentance will move the repentant to 'restitution toward others' and 'revival toward God'. Taking responsibility for our rude, hurtful, and inappropriate actions is the beginning of reconciliation of relationships and the restitution of wrongs done to others. This world is full of hurt and hurting people. Relationships between close friends and family members have been severed because of our sinful actions and attitudes. Repentance is the key to the cure! Revival toward God will be evident within the life and attitude of the truly repentant. There will be a hunger and longing for the things of God, for the Word of God, and for the presence of God. Righteousness and holiness will become the rule of life. This does not mean the person will be perfect and sinless, but it does mean he will be different and will sin less.
Biblical repentance is acknowledgment of personal sin, the turning from sin, and the turning to God. Repentance is defined in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 as one who has "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." A lost sinner needs to acknowledge his sin and in faith repent of sin and trust Jesus Christ as his Savior for the forgiveness of sin.
As Christians, we need to obey the command found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land."
For God's glory and America's sake, let us heed the call to repent!