Updated: Nov 22, 2018
‘We are good at confessing other people's sins, but if it is true repentance, we shall have as much as we can do to look after our own. When a man or woman gets a good look into God's looking glass, he is not finding fault with other people: he has as much as he can do at home.’
~ D.L. Moody
Repent, therefore, of your wickedness, and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive you for the intent of your heart.
To repent or remain impenitent results in the outcome of life or death. Therefore we can rightly agree that this is an extremely serious subject that cannot be ignored and needs to be addressed with great solemnity.
Now we understand how the Bible specifies that in order to receive salvation that was made possible by Christ’s sacrifice of taking our place on the cross by bearing all our sins upon Himself, we must humbly repent before the Lord and turn to Jesus so that our sins will be blotted out.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…
But how do we truly repent?
In order to show genuine repentance for our sins, we first must see our need for a Saviour. If we don’t think we need to be saved from anything, then we won’t realise our true position and therefore won’t ever see our need to be saved.
D.L. Moody put it this way:
‘Until conviction of sin brings us down on both knees, until we are completely humbled, until we have no hope in ourselves left, we cannot find the Savior.’
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Let me explain this important reality through a story where Judah Ayling so eloquently articulates the truth.
‘There were two beggars on the street. One had no money and the other had a wallet filled with notes, however, the beggar who had a full wallet did not know that they were counterfeit notes because he was blind and couldn’t see them. He trusted in what he had been told by others. He thought he was rich, but in reality, he was no richer than the other beggar.
One day, a generous man walked up to them both in order to give them some money. He went to the man who had the notes in his wallet and tried to offer him cash, but he rudely refused and snapped at the man, saying, ‘I don’t need your help, I’m already wealthy.’
The generous man then turned to the other beggar and offered him the same. This poor beggar gratefully received the money because he knew of his great need.
So I ask, do you see the spiritual lesson?
Those who place their trust in a counterfeit gospel are in a worse position than those in the world. Even though both are poor, the one who knows he is poor has more chance of receiving the real thing. However, those who are poor but believe they are rich will remain in spiritual poverty and will not even discern it because their pride blinds them.’
So we can grasp from this story how important it is to see our need for something – and if arrogance (pride) gets in our way, we’ll fail to see it. Even to think we’re already saved can be dangerous if we haven’t come to the cross in complete humility. We don’t want to be like the blind man who thought he had all the money he needed, yet really had nothing at all because he didn’t have the real thing. He was holding on to something fake.
The Bible warns that there’s a false Jesus and a false gospel that we must be aware of so we’re not caught up in lies and deceit.
2 Corinthians 11:4
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
The reason the Bible warns of false teachers in at least 22 of the 27 books in the New Testament is because this is a dangerous problem that will lead many astray (Matthew 24:4-5, 11). Lies are often easier to believe because they’re more appealing to the flesh, but to believe in a false Jesus is to be heading to destruction – so this is a serious issue that we must check ourselves with.
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
We are all in need of the Saviour, therefore honestly seeing ourselves how we really are; sinful by nature and desperately sick, is the first step in having sincere remorse (Jeremiah 17:9). The need for repentance is known when we come to the realisation that we have sinned greatly against our Creator – that we are rebellious, lost and wretched beings without Him (Romans 6:6, 7:24).
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
We must understand that we need to be saved from our own selves!
David came to realise that when he committed adultery, deceived and murdered, he had not only sinned against people, but much worse, he had sinned against almighty God.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…
It’s imperative that we realise that Jesus is not a vehicle of relief from life’s struggles. We cannot come to Him with a desire to be freed from hard times and difficult experiences. We must come to Him with a yearning to be rescued from our sin that we’ve entangled ourselves in. You see, when we honestly look at ourselves and recognise how defiant and unruly we’ve been, it is only then that we will be able to humbly come to the Lord with godly sorrow for the wickedness we have committed against Him.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
It is possible to just feel worldly sorrow for our sins. Judas had remorse for what he’d done against Jesus (Matthew 27:3), however his was a worldly sorrow which led to death, both physically and spiritually (John 17:12). So we must comprehend the difference between godly sorry and worldly sorrow.
Repentance is not when we cry, but when we change!
For the believer, true repentance is a continual act that is done on a daily basis – we walk in repentance. This means we have shown genuine sorrow and regret for our actions, made it right by repenting to the Lord (and those we have sinned against) and have turned in the opposite direction, running away from sin (death) and heading towards righteousness (Christ). We not only want to change (from evil to good), but are eagerly taking actions towards making the change, with the Lord's help.
The Christian life is a journey of dying-to-self daily. It consists of having the flesh in submission and living by the spirit (Ephesians 4:22-24).
…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
‘Bible Study Tools’ explain repentance this way:
‘In the New Testament, the key term for repentance is metanoia - It has two usual senses: a "change of mind" and "regret/remorse." In both books of Mark and Matthew Jesus began his public proclamation with the call "Repent." In addition, Paul is said to have preached to both Jews and Gentiles/Greeks to "turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus".
- True repentance leads a person to say, "I have sinned" and prove it with a 180- degree change of their direction.
- Repentance requires true brokenness.
- Repentance is NOT asking the Lord for forgiveness with the intent to sin again.
- Repentance is an honest, regretful acknowledgement of sin with commitment to change.
- Repentance leads us to cultivate godliness while eradicating habits that lead into sin.’
Let’s examine our own hearts according to the Word of God and ensure first of all that we’re in the faith, testing our hearts to make sure we have truly repented to the Lord for our sins, have turned away from them and are now running the race towards God’s heavenly Kingdom, living for His eternal purposes and not our own (Hebrews 12:1-2).
…let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
-- By Jenny Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.