The Bible teaches that those who want to be Christian need to repent (cf. Acts 2:38). A related sermon is also available titled: Real Christian Repentance.
Do you understand repentance?
(This article was heavily influenced by the old WCG doctrinal outline from 1986 titled "Have You Really Repented?" and the booklet Just What Do You Mean -- Repentance? This article contains more scriptures, comments, and other materials that were not in those relatively short documents.)
The dictionary definition, from The American College Dictionary, of repentance is: "To feel self-reproach, compunction, or contrition for past conduct, to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better."
The Bible definition means all of that AND MUCH MORE!
Jesus' message was that of REPENTANCE. But Christ really meant it. He meant to really repent--not just experience an emotional upset or disturbance. There is a "sorrow of this world" which is sheerly human and physical--it is EMOTIONAL--but it leads to death. Do YOU know the difference between sheer human emotion, which would even lead some to sob and SHED TEARS as they "go down the aisle," and GODLY SORROW which leads to real repentance? Jesus said, "Except you REPENT you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). In His parable of the one lost sheep, and the "ninety and nine," Jesus said, "I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that REPENTS more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance!" (Luke 15:7).
There is an old story about a basketball coach who was astounded. A player from his team had stolen the ball, but in his excitement he was headed toward the wrong basket! "You're going the wrong direction!" the coach shouted. "Stop! Turn around! Go the other way!" But to no avail. The player didn't listen. He scored a goal, yet for the wrong team!
Just as this player was told to stop and turn around, God has told humans to stop and turn around spiritually, in the Bible doctrine of repentance.
There is another old story about a group of workers clearing trees in a forest for a building project. They were are working diligently, and then a leader arrived and yelled out, "Stop! Wrong forest!" Whereafter someone responded with, "We cannot stop now, we are almost done."
Many in the world feel that they cannot change because of tradition, family ties, work, etc.
What is repentance?
To a Christian, repentance is changing from going Satan's way of the world (the 'get' way) to the way of God (the 'give' way).
Notice the following from Bible Hub (http://biblehub.com/greek/3340.htm accessed 11/03/2016):
The Original Word: μετανοέω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (met-an-o-eh'-o)
Short Definition: I repent, change my mind
Definition: I repent, change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God), repent.
Very few understand what real repentance is. Many think it is just being sorry for something. Yet, it is more than that. Repentance involves real change, not just sorrow.
Those who do not understand repentance tend to be doomed to continue in the wrong direction spiritually, and to ignore God's plain commands that we should repent. Ignorance does need not to plague those willing to learn.
Jesus taught repentance:
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15, NKJV throughout unless otherwise indicated)
Jesus was telling people to change and devote their lives to the Kingdom of God.
After Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:4-10), the Apostle Peter taught repentance:
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)
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, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21)
To repent means to change from living our way to living God's way. Repentance comes when we see our sins, are deeply remorseful of them, stop sinning, resolve to obey God and, with His help, actually do obey Him.
Most people hold impressions about repentance that are far away from the simple Bible truth. Some see no need for repentance because they feel they have not sinned. Or if they feel they did sin, they do not seem to believe that God needs to be involved.
Some do not repent because they think all one must do is believe or accept the truth academically. Clearly, such false beliefs cannot fulfill God's command.
The English word repent is, of course, merely a translation from the original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek. The words from which "repent" is translated means to turn, to change direction.
Such a change in direction requires one to first see that he is going the wrong direction, stop going the wrong way and finally to resolve to go God's way and obey God, with God's help.
But a person cannot even see that he or she is going the wrong direction until God opens the person's mind to see it.
This truth--that one cannot truly repent until God grants repentance--so strongly flies in the face of the teachings of the Protestant world that many simply cannot accept it.
Nonetheless, the Bible clearly states that it is not our own will, but the "goodness of God" that "leads" us to repentance. Many judge otherwise, but notice what the Bible teaches:
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4).
The Bible further states that repentance is something God must grant, as He did when He "granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18). The Apostle Paul also understood this when he instructed Timothy:
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Notice also the following from the late Dennis Luker, who was an evangelist in the old Worldwide Church of God:
THERE are two kinds of repentance. One is of God and leads to eternal life. The other is of this world and leads only to death.
Many people have had what they would call "a religious experience." It is usually associated with "giving their heart to the Lord" or "making a decision for Christ." But does this represent genuine repentance in the Biblical sense?
A true, Godly repentance is not something worked up from within a person as the result of a moving church service. Neither the strains of "Almost Persuaded" — the old favorite hymn — nor the stained-glass voice of an emotional preacher can generate Godly repentance in an individual.
Real repentance — the kind God requires — is a gift of God. It is something that God must inspire in an individual. Both 2 Timothy 2:24-25 and Acts 11:18 make it clear that God must grant repentance.
True repentance is more than a mere emotional experience. To illustrate let's take the case of Joe Bloak (a fictional name).
Joe ... believed in God (so he said) and attended church pretty regularly. But he also liked to drink and have fun with the college coeds. During the week he would work hard and discipline himself pretty well, but when Saturday night came he would "celebrate" by getting drunk, which sometimes led to fornication. He knew this was wrong because he knew the Bible condemned both drunkenness and fornication.
After he sobered up Sunday morning, with a terrible hangover, he would feel very sorry for what he had done. He would shed tears and swear to himself that he would never do it again! He would go to church that day and "repent." This made him feel better, and he would be "good" for another week. But almost every Saturday night old Joe would get drunk, and "slip" again, and commit fornication. And the following morning he would "deeply" repent again.
If you could have seen old Joe, you would have thought for sure he had really repented! He was so sincere and he shed so many tears! He asked God to forgive him every time, and he would go to church to confess and "make up" for his sins.
What was Joe's real problem? His repentance was only superficial. It was not genuine! He was only feeling sorry for himself. He was experiencing "worldly sorrow." He was upset because of what his sins had done to him — not for what he had done against God or anyone else. His was a selfish repentance. He experienced only a temporary feeling of remorse, sorrow and guilt. He continued to repeat the same sins over and over again!
If Joe had known that real repentance comes from God, he would have cried out in prayer with all his heart and asked God to help him repent. God would have granted Godly repentance if Joe had really wanted to stop sinning — permanently.
A person who is seeking true repentance shall find it, because God is willing to give it! "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). (Luker D. What is Godly Repentance? Tomorrow's World, April 1972)
God offers to grant one repentance when He calls a person to His truth, and we cannot be called to the truth unless God--by His and not our own initiative--decides to call us:
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:43-45).
If you are reading this, understanding it and being convicted by it, and if you have not already done so, then God is calling you and leading you to repentance, if you will follow His lead. Some may find the article Are You Being Called by God? helpful.
Many, though, will not do what the Bible teaches. God calls, but many will not respond enough to be chosen. Notice the following:
8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' 13 But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20:8-16)
All should truly believe God:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
8 It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:5-12)
When God calls a person and begins to lead that person to repentance, He does so by showing the person that he or she has been living wrong--that is, by showing the person some of his or her sins. And since "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV), God shows the sins by opening one's mind to understand God's law, which defines His way of truth.
One who really understands God's law realizes that they have not truly been living in accord with it before repentance. And that they have been sinning and need to repent--change.
We all need to repent. Paul realized, "all sinned" (Romans 5:12), "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
The Apostle John was inspired to write:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
This presence of sin in us demands repentance, for God does not promise to forgive our sins unless we repent and are baptized. We have been slaves to sin and the wages (result) of unforgiven sin is death:
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
Nonetheless, many do not see the need to repent because, like some of the self-righteous Jews of Jesus' time (cf. John 8:31-47), they do not see their sins.
When one truly sees and understands their sins in sharp focus, they should be deeply broken up about them. Hence, repentance, while not simply sorrow, is accompanied by serious emotion and sorrow. King David was deeply remorseful at his sin with Bathsheba, and his state of mind is reflected in his psalm and prayer of repentance:
1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight —
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge. (Psalms 51:1-4)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart —
These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalms 51:10-17)
Job was remorseful also and said:
5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
6 Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6)
Notice what happened with Saul, the one who became the Apostle Paul:
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. (Acts 8:3)
Saul was what the teens might call a bad dude. But notice:
1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?"
Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?"
Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias."And he said, "Here I am, Lord."
11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight."
13 Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."
15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."
17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?"
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:1-22)
6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." (Acts 13:6-11)
Change. About-face. Total reversal. Redirection. Complete transformation. These are the essentials of real, biblical repentance. Saul changed. He gave up his old life and had to have realized that with his change, his new life was a major risk of death and persecution. He stood for the truth after he repented. Saul had been betraying Christians to death--your sins are not worse, if you repent (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?).
Repentance includes feeling sorry, of course, but goes much deeper than that. A convicted, hardened criminal feels sorry when he faces the gallows. Yet this is not real repentance, merely selfish depression, inner anxiety triggered by the cowering fear of an inescapable penalty.
Godly repentance means to stop sinning, to turn and go the other way -- TO CHANGE YOUR WAY OF LIFE! It s not always easy to say, "I'm sorry." But it s even harder to MEAN IT. Godly repentance has to come FROM THE HEART.
God wants all to repent:
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:22-31)
Paul was speaking mainly to Gentiles there in Athens. Notice that the Apostle Peter confirmed this:
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Christians are to have repentance from dead works:
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2)
Repentance is one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith (see also Elementary Doctrines of the Church: Hebrews 6 and/or watch the related sermon Basic Doctrines of Hebrew 6).
In speaking of God's people Ephraim--whom He's going to punish for their lack of repentance, God says: "And they have not cried unto me WITH THEIR HEART, when they howled upon their beds: ... they rebel against me. Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me. They return, BUT NOT TO THE MOST HIGH" (Hosea 7:14-16).
Without national repentance, the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are doomed.
The Anglo-nations need national repentance. Notice that lack of repentance is listed as a reason that the King of Assyria (the final King of the North) will become Ephraim’s king:
3 I taught Ephraim to walk…5…But the Assyrian shall be his king, Because they refused to repent. 6 And the sword shall slash in his cities, Devour his districts, And consume them, Because of their own counsels. 7 My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him. (Hosea 11:3a, 5b-7)
The prophesied shame is starting to come upon the Anglo-American powers. Without repentance, increased pride is occurring, and this will be followed by the prophesied destruction of the Anglo-nations. And yes, other nations have their sins, but they will be punished later--But you personally can and SHOULD repent.
Individually, and nationally, repentance is needed:
20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
21 "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord God, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:20-23)
30 "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. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord God. "Therefore turn and live!" (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
Your Bible says many people have made an OUTWARD show of returning to Him or repenting, but they haven't done it WITH THEIR HEARTS! Ephraim's repentance, and for that matter, that of the rest of the world, is the outward, superficial, WORLDLY REPENTANCE with no real sincerity or DEEP feeling.
Many repent like Esau:
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:14-17)
Esau was sorry for what happened, but did not truly repent towards God nor wish to switch from following the way of get to the way of give. His move towards repentance, like others in the world, was hollow.
After Jesus was executed, Judas "repented himself" (Matthew 27:3, KJV)--but it was TOO LATE. So, he "went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5), which demonstrated that Judas did not understand repentance.
DON'T take chances on it being TOO LATE for YOU! Probably it is NOT "too late" yet! Don't delay repenting and getting back to Christ!
Notice something that the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
Instead of fighting these problems in our own strength, we need to learn the lesson God is teaching us. We need to begin to SEEK Him. He doesn't need US. WE DO NEED HIM!
Daniel was inspired to record his own reactions in such a case as this for our instruction. "And I set my face unto the Eternal God, to seek by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes", (Dan. 9:3).
Nehemiah's example is also recorded for us. When he found that his nation which had returned to Palestine was in affliction and reproach, here's what he did. "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven" (Neh. 1:4). He immediately set out to draw close to God. He didn't do it in a half-hearted, lackadaisical, matter-of-fact way. He did it earnestly, sincerely and WITH ALL HIS HEART. He set himself to find God and His will by PRAYER and FASTING. These men EARNESTLY desired to find God's will. They were willing to do whatever was required to draw close to Him and receive His forgiveness. They were willing to do without food and water if necessary to demonstrate to God their sincere desire to know His way.
Do It With All Your Heart
Hard as it is to say, "I'm sorry," it is even MORE DIFFICULT TO MEAN IT WITH ALL YOUR HEART. The earnest supplication of God through prayer and fasting shows Him you mean business. He doesn't want a temporary, fleeting repentance which is brought about by an emotional appeal or due to the pressures of those around us. Salvation is a personal matter between you and your God. BUT IT HAS TO BE ON HIS TERMS.
In the days of ancient Israel, God told King Solomon exactly what steps to follow if he found God's displeasure on his nation. These same steps apply to us today. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). He doesn't change. So if we will apply these steps in our everyday lives, He will answer just as He told Solomon He would.
Read these steps, this formula for repentance, for yourself in II Chronicles 7:12-14. "And the Eternal appeared to Solomon by night and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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 will heal their land."
The steps are so simple, so clear and plain.
What does it mean to humble yourself? How do you go about it? Exactly the same way Daniel and Nehemiah did. David explains in Psalm 35:13 how you humble yourself. "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I HUMBLED my soul WITH FASTING; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom."
Fasting shows our earnestness and sincerity in seeking God and adds impetus to the prayers we raise to Him. If you need more information on fasting, write for additional articles on the subject. ...
Turn From Own Ways
The people of this world outwardly follow many of these steps and yet fall short in the final, most important of all the steps — TURNING FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS. That is why it is so hard to distinguish between the believer and the non-believer. That is why the "distance between our professed faith and our daily performance is astronomical." So many people of this day and age profess to be repentant — profess Christianity and yet still live in all the wretchedness of their sinful ways. So, finally, one of the most important of all the steps in coming to true repentance is to STOP SINNING! Millions CLAIM membership in a church. They loudly proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ. They testify for Christ, BUT THE FRUIT IS NOT THERE.
All too often our repentance is the worldly repentance spoken of in II Corinthians 7:10. What we really need to come to see and understand is the kind of repentance God speaks of. "Therefore also now, saith the Eternal, Turn ye even to me WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and REND YOUR HEART, and not your garments, and turn to the Eternal your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil". (Joel 2:12-13).
No, God doesn't want the worldly kind of repentance which is manifested by a trip down the sawdust trail. No, He doesn't just want your name on the membership rolls of some church. What God wants and what you should come to deeply desire is to SINCERELY acknowledge your sins and ask forgiveness. God wants you to say, "I'M SORRY" — and mean it! He wants you to repent of breaking and to begin obeying His LAW. (Armstrong HW. Just What Do You Mean -- Repentance?)
Although emotion usually accompanies repentance, bare emotion or sorrow unaccompanied by true change is not repentance! The Apostle Paul addressed this issue squarely in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, where he shows the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow:
8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)
Notice that Paul explains that worldly sorrow "produces death" because it is only the temporary sorrow of being caught, a type of self-pity, a fear of punishment or embarrassment. But the sorrow of God "produces repentance to salvation" because it causes a permanent change in behavior, and leads to a person's becoming totally "clear" from the reoccurrence of sin. In fact, the change of behavior that accompanies repentance is one the best proof of one's repentance.
Consider that James wrote:
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20)
Actions can show that you are sincere in seeking God.
Consider that the Apostle John wrote:
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
Notice what the Bible says about righteousness:
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness. (Psalms 119:172)
Consider also that John the Baptist refused to baptize those who had not shown by their changed behavior that they had brought forth the true "fruits" of repentance:
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:7-12).
Jesus dogmatically stated that mere lip service-- misnamed "belief" by some -- is not sufficient for salvation -- even if accompanied by works that the world could marvel at:
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matthew 7:21-23)
Lawlessness is breaking God's laws and/or reasoning around around them (see Mystery of Iniquity). People need to seek God and live in accordance with His ways.
When Jesus was walking the earth, notice something that happened:
1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
Consider that the people Jesus was talking to considered themselves as God's people.
Notice also what is recorded right after this:
6 He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' 8 But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'" (Luke 13:6-9)
Jesus expects His people to bear fruit. John the Baptist taught:
7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
10 So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?"
11 He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."
12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"
13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."
14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?"
So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages." (Luke 3:7-14)
Have you changed?
Most Christians in these end times are Laodicean. Consider what Jesus told the Laodiceans:
14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'" (Revelation 3:14-22)
Even if you do not consider that you could possibly be Laodicean, do not be LIKE the Laodiceans and think you do not need to repent of anything. We ALL need to heed the messages to the churches.
More on Laodicea can be found in the article The Laodicean Church Era.
Repentance is not merely emotional sorrow, and neither is it penance.
Penance is an act or acts designed to try to pay the penalty of sin tor oneself, such as by doing some good work of charity. Sometimes, courts will require 'community service' as the penalty for some crime or action.
Although good works are necessary in a Christian's life, they do not forgive past sins or pay their penalty, for our sins are forgiven by grace and not works.
The Church of Rome and many who profess Christ, however, do not view this as God does. Yet, the Bible simply does not teach the doctrine of penance, and penance is in no way even similar to repentance, which God's Word teaches and indeed commands.
Most of the 'penance' that Catholic priests say is required for forgiveness is to repeat several memorized prayers. Sometimes people are told to "pray the rosary" as penance. Notice the following:
The prayers that essentially compose the Rosary are arranged in sets of ten Hail Marys with each set preceded by one Lord's Prayer and followed by one Glory Be. During recitation of each set, known as a decade, thought is given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Normally, five decades are recited in a session. Other prayers are sometimes added after each decade (in particular, the Fátima Prayer) and before (in particular, the Apostles' Creed), and after (in particular, the Hail, Holy Queen) the five decades taken as a whole. The rosary as a material object is an aid towards saying these prayers in the proper sequence. (Rosary. Wikipedia, accessed 11/03/16)
And one or more of those prayers often contain one or more statements that are in biblical error (e.g. that the dead should pray for the living in the case of the 'Hail Mary' prayer). Furthermore, although we should continue to pray regularly, Jesus also warned against the use of ‘vain repetition’ type prayers:
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:7-8)
Thus, even though the outline of prayer Jesus gave in Matthew 6:9-13 gives us priorities and certain specifics to pray about, true Christians do not just repeat those words in rote multiple times in a row as do some faiths who profess Christ. In some cultures, they actually spin a wheel and believe that each rotation sends up a prayer to the gods. In at least one place in Asia, I recall seeing ‘prayers’ that were on wheel spun by the wind. This is not what God wants. Those who use bead-counting systems for prayer are not being truly fervent nor effectual (cf. James 5:16). God wants His people to “cry out to Me with their heart” (Hosea 7:14), not just repeat words like some type of sorcerer might.
Jesus told sinners to "sin no more" (John 5:14; 8:11). They were not told they could buy 'indulgences' or anything similar (see also Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory?).
Jesus taught that Christians are to pray to God to be forgiven:
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12-15, NKJV )
Jesus is teaching that we are to ask God to forgive us, to help us not again go the way towards temptation, and that Christians who wish to be forgiven their sins need to forgive others. He did not add a list of penances to be done.
(See also History of Auricular Confession and the 'Sacrament of Confession'.)
Christians need to have "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).
Again, let's look at Acts 2:
36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:36-39)
How are end time Christians described?
12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:11-12)
Real Christians keep God's commandments (see also Revelation 12:17). Salvation requires obedience as lawlessness is not to be an option (Matthew 7:20-21). Therefore one needs to stop ones old ways and begin obeying God -- this requires repentance!
Notice what the Apostle John wrote:
18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
True repentance is not just an outward confession. True repentance is toward God the Father (Acts 26:20), who is the author of His law and against whom our sins are directed. Such repentance goes far beyond a mere outward verbal expression of belief, and even far beyond a few mechanical changes in behavior (see also Living as a Christian: How and Why?). It pierces deep into the heart and mind of the person, and embodies an unconditional surrender from living one's own way to truly living God's way of life.
Does it requires putting Christ above all else in one's life?
26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-33)
Does it require, in a symbolic sense, sacrificing your own life?
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
If you will do that, Jesus promises you will have what you really need:
31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-34)
We need to seek God's kingdom first every day.
Further, true repentance is not a once-and-for-all event, nor is it synonymous with perfection. The repentance required before baptism is indeed a focused turn-around from our way to God's way -- a massive spiritual reversal. Yet, even at baptism God does, not reveal all of our sins to us at once, nor do we immediately overcome all our sins. We continue to see and battle them over time while we "grow" in God's grace and knowledge of His ways:
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17-18)
As He reveals His law to us, and hence our sins (as we see how we fall short of that law), we must daily repent:
9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need, 12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13, New Living Translation).
Literally, instead of sins, the Greek refers to debts. You have a debt of sin that you should ask to be forgiven of and change. Even if you are a real Christian, you still need to repent, grow, and change.
We must see our sins, stop them, resolve to do right and follow through with God's help --continually. Indeed, we must grow spiritually for the rest of our lives. God's word shows us our sins:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:8-12)
We are to examine ourselves by what is in the word of God:
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:28-32)
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
But please realize that our obedience to God's law comes with help from Him. no one can obey God's law in its fullest spiritual sense, in heart and mind, without His help:
23 O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
24 O Lord, correct me, but with justice;
Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:23-24)
15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
We need God for many reasons, including the fact that the minds of humans are susceptible to the pulls and deceptions of Satan.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)
Yet, the spirit of God, which is given to those who have been properly baptized after true repentance, is more powerful than Satan and can and will give us the strength to obey!
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:9-11)
When God has granted you true repentance, you will have the power to resist the way of the world. You will turn to God in sincere, heartrending sorrow because of your past life and submit yourself to His laws and His way of life. The old "you" is buried in baptism. A truly converted person has changed his life-style to conform with Christ's. The converted person now strives to overcome his carnal drives, the temptings of Satan the devil and the pulls of society. He submits to God and really trusts Him.
Here is a brief summary of some of the key scriptures about this subject.
The importance of repentance cannot be overemphasized. It is a first step toward salvation.
Notice also the following:
What is real repentance?
It is a tumultuous upheaval in a person's life, a spiritual and emotional crisis triggered by a painful and intense conviction from grasping the true inner motives and intentions--the evil inside us (Matt. 19:17).
Real repentance is an experience that hammers home to us that we haven't just done wrong but that we are wrong (Ps. 51:5). The truly repentant are pricked in the heart (Acts 2:37). They are shocked by the deceit and vanity that permeate their words and deeds--they realize that even their good deeds are many times only selfish attempts to appease God's wrath or to make themselves feel better than others (Isa. 64:6)!
Real repentance includes the heartbroken desire to give ourselves over to God-- the willingness to allow God to refashion us as He sees fit. This includes submitting to the human representatives of God once we prove who they are (John 20:21).
Real repentance is the stabbing awareness that our personal sins, the wrong habits that we relish and enjoy, required the brutal and excruciating death of Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:11). Real repentance is toward God and no one else. The truly repentant worry about their personal standing with God, not their standing with anyone else.
Real repentance means to tremble at God's Word, not at the opinions, customs and traditions of mere men (Isa. 66:2). When God speaks, we listen. We are submissive, teachable. We're willing to observe any festival, pay any tithe, shun any worldly association to measure up to God's standards (Phil. 3:8).
Real repentance is the sober desire to replace selfish, fleshly reactions with the promptings of God's Spirit inside us (Eph. 4:24). It is the axial change in life, the most important experience we can ever pass through. ...
Real repentance. It is that catalytic key step on the road to real life -- the road to eternity (Luke 15:21-24).
So how about it? Do you still only agree halfway with God? Do you resent the concerned direction and authority you receive from this Work? Do you still say, "Well, here's the way I look at it." Do you hold back? Do you still retain sovereignty over part of your inner nature? Those of you who really understand should know by now that this is God's Work, not that of men (Acts 5:38-39).
Those of you who feel pricked in the heart by the promptings of God's Spirit as you study our publications should begin to respond.
Because the Holy Spirit can be inside you, illuminating your understanding, giving you a richer contact with the God Family, setting you on the road to your eternal destiny--a life of accomplishment, service and usefulness in the coming Kingdom of God. It all begins with that first step: the willingness to admit, the honesty to confess, the strength and wisdom to agree, that we just didn't do wrong, but that we are wrong. This is real repentance. (Earle N. This is Real Repentance. Good News, December 1982)
Have you repented?
If not, then the words shouted by the basketball coach to the confused workers are for you: "You're going the wrong direction! Stop! Turn around! Go the other way!"
A related sermon is also available titled: Real Christian Repentance.
Thiel B. Christian Repentance. http://www.cogwriter.com/christian-repentance.htm COGwriter (c) 2016 1211
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