Repentance is the act of changing one's mind. Webster defines the word as "to feel sorry for or reproachful for what one has done or has not done". Webster also gives the definition as to feel such regret and dissatisfaction over some past action or intention as to change one's mind about it or to change one's way.
Repentance involves changing one's affections - from earthly things to heavenly things. It involves turning to the living God from a god of self. It is looking unto Christ instead of looking unto another.
Repentance requires the right attitude towards sin. This is Godly sorrow. Repentance is the right attitude toward God, it is a return to God. Repentance is the right attitude toward self. The Prodigal Son came to himself. Repentance is the right attitude toward others. The Phillipian jailer took Paul and Silas the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.
Repentance is not just Godly sorrow. Paul told the Corinthians in II Cornithians, Chapter 7, verse 10, that Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. Repentance is not gloomy despair. When Judas sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, he was filled with gloom and despair, so much that he committed suicide, but he did not repent. Repentance is not quitting a sin for a season, it is totally turning from that act of sin. It is a complete one hundred-eighty degree turn. Repentance is not concealing sin. David tried to conceal his sin, but God exposed it. The story is told in Numbers Chapter 32, verse 23. We even know about David's sin today. Concealing sin is like trying to cover up spilled seed in order to hide it. The seed comes up and is exposed.
Repentance must be followed by works proving that change. In Acts Chapter 19, verse 19, the repentance was evidenced in the bringing of books valued at fifty thousand pieces of silver and burning them before all men. This let all men know of the change. The Thessalonians showed their sincerity by turning from idols to serve the one true God, First Thessalonians, Chapter 1, verse 9. Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians and included a scathing denunciation of their sinful deeds. However, part of the second letter to them was written commending them for turning from their vile way of living. A certain man had two sons, and he said unto one, "Go work today in my vineyard", and he answered, 'I will not': but afterward he repented and went". This story is told in Matthew Chapter 21, verses 28 and 29. Whatever this young man did, Jesus said he repented. Jesus called his actions repentance. The young man reflected over the matter, he came to know that he was wrong, realizing that he had sinned against his father. Having arrived at this conclusion, the young man faced about in an opposite direction and did according to his father's request.
All men need to repent. All men sin and as a result, all men need to turn from sin and turn to righteousness. When Paul was speaking from Mars Hill to the Athenians and reasoning with them concerning the living God, he told them that in times past God had winked at such ignorance as the Athenians were then involved in, but now commanded all men everywhere to repent. This story is told in Acts Chapter 17, and reference here is made to verse 30 of that Chapter.
Unrighteous people need to repent. In Acts Chapter 8, the story is told of a man who obeyed the gospel, he was baptized, but later for the love of gold and popularity, he wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. At this time it seems apparent that Simon's heart was not sincere and pure. God, knowing the hearts of all men and certainly knowing the heart of Simon on this occasion, directed Peter by the Holy Spirit to tell Simon to "repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee". Acts 8: 22. Simon was not even directed to pray first. The thing that was first and that was indispensable was to repent or change his attitude and desire. Simon was commanded to exercise proper sorrow for this act and to abandon his plan or principle or action. This lets us know today that all unrighteous men are exhorted to repent. This is their first work. They are not told to wait, to read, to pray, to receive an experience, to relate a revelation in the expectation that repentance will be given to them. Such unrighteous beings are to repent, to change their affection, and to turn to the living God. Then prayer will be acceptable. Then, and only when man repents, will God hear and answer. When man comes loving his sins and resolving to continue practicing them, God will not hear him.(John 9: 31, I Peter 3: 12).
There is a blessing in repentance. For the one who has never been baptized into Christ, turning to the living God is the initial step of his response to the love of God which he has heard, and believed, by hearing the life of Jesus Christ, the Savior of man. For those who have, like Simon, been directed by the love of power and the love of the world, it is that initial act that leads one to be restored to his former relationship with the Father.
When man sins, he must either repent or perish. It is just that simple. It is as either, or proposition. Man must face judgement and that is the reason God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. "God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained whereof he has given assurance to all men in that he has raised Him from the dead" Acts 17: 31. The goodness of God should lead any man to repentance. Peter in writing his second epistle, in Chapter 3, and verse 9, stated that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is the goodness of God, This is the love of God.
Repentance is a change in our affection, a turning to God. Leaving Satan and serving the Savior causes one to avoid destruction. Christ said and Luke wrote it down in Chapter 13, verse 3 of his account of the gospel of Christ, "I tell you nay, unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish". It is bad to sin, but it is worse to sin and not repent.
One of the hardest things for men and women to do is to repent of their sins. Repentance is a direct challenge to man's will power. It demands that he humble himself before God, and give up everything that is contrary to his will. The holy demands of repentance have kept many of the highminded out of the kingdom of God.
Repentance is a duty imposed upon all mankind. It is a plain command of God, and no man can refuse to repent without bearing the responsibility that must come upon him. When Jesus gave the world-wide commission, He said, "That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations . . . (Luke 24:47). Paul said that, "God now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30). Can anyone read these scriptures and conclude that he can be saved without repentance? Surely not!
Let us clear away some of the misunderstanding about repentance by learning what it is NOT. In the first place, repentance is not simply being afraid. Paul convicted Felix of his sins, Felix trembled with fear but he did not repent and turn (Acts 24:25). There are many people today who are afraid when they think of their sinfulness, but they, like Felix, refuse to repent, and die without hope.
In the second place, repentance is not simply being sorry that one has sinned. The murderers of Jesus sorrowed on Pentecost at Peter's preaching. They were pierced in their hearts by godly sorrow. Yet they were told to repent (Acts 2:38). Their sorrow was godly because it was produced by their faith in gospel preaching; but it was not repentance. In the third place, repentance is not simply and solely a reformation of life, A man may quit sin and yet not repent toward God. He may quit because that particular sin renders him unpopular in his business or among his associates. Thus, he may reform his life for selfish reasons, but such reformation is not repentance. Simply stated, repentance is a change of mind, or will, based upon godly sorrow (II Corinthians 7:10), and resulting in a manner of life directed by Christ (Acts 26:20).
Our Lord gave us an example of repentance which we can all understand, He said, "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard, He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went" (Matthew 21-28-29). This boy began to reflect on what he had done, and he realized that he had disobeyed his father, He became conscious of the fact that he sinned against his father, who was responsible for his very existence, and when he came to himself, he acknowledge that wrong, and then corrected it. He changed HIS MIND (repented) and did that which he said he would not do. Jesus said that was repentance.
Christ said to the Pharisees that, "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here" (Matthew 12:41). Jesus here says that the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas. The Bible says: "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way (Jonah 3:10). The preaching of the prophet of God changed the mind of the Ninevites, and this change led them to turn from their evil way. This change of mind was repentance.
The Lord has given men two motives as the means of bringing them to repentance. The first motive is fear. The Bible writers say, "We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (II Corinthians 5:10-11). This statement, and all the warnings in the Bible are intended to move us to repent of our sins.
The second motive God uses to bring about repentance is love. The Bible says, ". . . not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Romans 2:4). The goodness of God is revealed in the life and death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. As we study the life of our Lord, and see the beauty of holiness manifested through His earthly pilgrimage, then follow Him to Calvary and watch Him suffer there, dying for our sins, making it possible for poor sinners to be saved, and to become children of God, we ask why all this flow of love, why all this display of goodness? What wondrous love, 0 my soul! And the answer comes back in the Bible, "The goodness of God leadeth these to repentance."
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