You see then, sinful man stands as a rebel against God’s government and authority. This is why our Lord Jesus came on the scene preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat 4:17). He commands every sinner to lay down his arms of rebellion and hoist the white flag of surrender to enter the Kingdom of God. In other words, a sinner has to change his mind about sin.
And this is exactly what it means to repent: a change of mind about sin and about God, which results in turning from sin to God. And what a turning it is! Repentance affects the whole life of a sinner.
Repentance includes a sinner taking the blame for his sinful condition before God and siding with Him against himself. A penitant blames no one else for his condition, but rather condemns himself under God’s eternal wrath because he deserves it.
Repentance includes sorrowing for sin. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says that “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” And Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
Repentance leads to confessing sin. Hiding nothing, a sinner owns his sins and pours out his sinful heart to God.
Furthermore, repentance leads to forsaking sin. A repenting sinner determines not to return to it. So in Biblical repentance, a convicted and convinced sinner takes his place before God as justly condemned. He hates his sin, longing to be free from it. He sorrows over sin, determining not to return to it. And he shows that his repentance is real by walking in the pathway of righteousness and true holiness. “Bringing forth fruits for repentance” is evidence that a radical change has taken place in our lives (Mat 3:8).
Repentance and Judgment
In Acts 17:30 we read these words, “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” God says all men—not just the Gentiles, but all men, which includes every tongue, nation, tribe and people. And in v.31 we find out why God has commanded all men everywhere to repent: judgment is coming! “Repent!” God says, “The King is coming in judgment! Repent, if you value your never-dying soul!” Why? “Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained [Jesus Christ]; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Yes, God commands that all men everywhere repent and bring forth fruit suitable for repentance which is a holy life, or He will meet you in judgmentwithout mercy!
You see, God is sovereign in his salvation. He alone sets the terms by which He receives rebellious sinners into His kingdom. His Word does declare that He is loving, kind, merciful and gracious; but He is also holy and righteous. Therefore, He commands men to repent. Unless a rebellious sinner repents and believes the Gospel, there is no forgiveness. But praise His precious name; it is to this kind of sinner that He will look! The Lord says in Isaiah 66:2, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Also, Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
Praise the Lord! He will never turn away a repentant, believing sinner. Christ came to seek and to save just this type of sinner. Listen to Isaiah 55:6-7: “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD; and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” You will note in these verses there is again a command for forsaking our way and turning unto God. Forsake your way and turn to God!
Repentance Is Perpetual
I must stress yet another truth: Biblical repentance is perpetual—God’s child will repent till God takes him home. Repentance is a lasting mindset, a continuing abhorrence of evil.
Oh how many precious souls have been damned right here! They seem to embrace repentance for a while. They give up their old companions and leave their places of sin—the bar, the dance floor, the harlot’s house. They seem to embrace Christ. They even preach, teach, and witness for Him. But because they are “stony-ground hearers” (Mar 4:5, 6; 16, 17), they only endure for a while. They begin to grow cold, gradually returning to their former ways. They go back to sin, back to what they had renounced. One by one they pick up the old sins and companions and return to the world. You see, their repentance was not perpetual: it did not spring from the new birth, but from the flesh. The Word of God describes them:
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2Pe 2:20-22).
In so many cases, going back is slow. Few go back all at once! First, they long for “liberty”: they search the Word of God to find out what liberty they have, so they can live as close to the world as possible. Then slowly they go back to this sin and that sin. Finally, they no longer have a witness for Christ, but only an outward profession of faith. Sin doesn’t bother them anymore. They neither hate it nor cry against it. They tell themselves that God no longer wants them to repent and hate sin. They think they’re in the way of life, yet sin doesn’t bother them anymore! So they turn back to those sins from which they had once turned saying, “We now have liberty to walk in these ways!” But oh, my friends, this is not liberty, but license to do what you’ve always wanted to do, license to walk in sin without restraint! You’ve played with fire and your heart is now hardened by the deceitfulness of sin! (Heb 3:12)
Again I warn you, beware of repentance that does not continue! If it is not true Biblical repentance, your heart will again be satisfied with the garbage of the world: “He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isa 44:20). So never forget: true repentance is perpetual. If you are truly converted, you will hate and forsake your sins for the rest of your life. And you will long to be holy, to be like Christ, and to please God.
I ask, “Have you ever possessed the true Biblical repentance that God commands of all men?”
Repentance Is a Gift
Now I must quickly add that repentance is a gift of grace worked in the heart by the power of God the Holy Spirit. Acts 11:18 tells us: “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” The Holy Spirit shows us our sinful condition before God and makes us willing to renounce our hatred of God and His authority. And by His grace He gives us a desire to walk with Him in newness of life and holiness.
As we have already seen, God commands us to repent because you and I are rebels against God by nature. Every man outside of Christ is a rebel against the Throne of God (Rom. 8:7). Because of our sinful nature we have determined to live our lives apart from God. So we must radically change our minds about living independently of Him. This displays itself in our crying after God to be Lord and Ruler of our lives!
Because we have spit in His face, blasphemed His name, bowed down to the gods of gold and pleasure, spent His Day as we pleased, and walked in pride and arrogance against Him, God commands us to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We must change our minds about pride and arrogance, about covetousness and worldly pleasure, and about walking in our way. We must cry out to Him to work His love and holiness in us.
Yes, my friends, because we have not loved Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and have lavished our love on self and the world, God commands us to repent, trusting the Lord Jesus for the remission of our sins. For you see, true repentance takes self off the throne and enthrones Christ as Lord over every area of life.
Lee Roy Shelton Jr., from 'Biblical Repentance, the need of this hour'