Why is Biblical repentance the need of this hour? Because we are living in a day when most religious leaders actually deny the need for repentance. If they preach it at all, they water it down like the seminary president who said repentance means no more than “a gentleman telling God he is sorry.” Others say that repentance was only for the Jews and not for us today. Some say that repentance is only for the children of God and has nothing to do with lost sinners, while others teach just the opposite: they say repentance is only for lost sinners but not for the children of God! And still others claim that repentance is just a form of works and unnecessary for any group! So, my purpose is to refute these fatal errors that are beguiling precious souls to eternal destruction.
Now let us hear the testimony of the Word of God. In Luke 13:3 and 5 we hear our Lord’s words: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” What He is saying is this: “Unless you lay down your arms of rebellion against God, you shall perish in Hell, for you abide under the wrath of God. Confess your sins and leave them or you shall perish forever!”
So to begin with, I must set forth the effect of sin upon the human race, especially upon you and me. What is sin?
Sin: Its definition
Sin in its essence is rebellion against God. This means thinking we have the right to do with ourselves as we please and acting independently of God and His Holy law. As the Apostle John says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1Jo 3:4). In fact sin is our way of saying to God, “Stay out of my life; I don’t need you.”
Sin: Its Solemn Consequences
The doctrine of sin’s effect upon you and me and the whole human race is most solemn. As no heart can sufficiently conceive, so no tongue can adequately express the state of wretchedness and ruin which sin has brought upon guilty, miserable man. You ask, “What has it done?” Oh my friend, it has separated us from God! It has warped and ruined our bodies, souls, and spirits! Sin has filled our bodies with sickness and disease. Sin has defaced the image of God in our souls. Sin has cut off our fellowship with Him Who made us in His own moral likeness! Sin has made you and me by nature lovers of evil and haters of God, Who is the only good. Yes, it is a most solemn thing to view sin in the light of God’s Word, to see what it has done to man, to God and His Christ, and to God’s creation! Sin has shut us out from God and opened the gates of Hell. It is solemn, because sin has cost man his most precious possession—his never-dying soul.
Sin: Humbling to Man
Again, the doctrine of sin as revealed in God’s Word is a very humbling one. Why? Because the Bible does not present us as merely ignorant and in need of instruction. Neither does it present us as run down and in need of a tonic. Rather, it reveals that you and I have become spiritually dead and void of any righteousness that will commend us to God.
This means we are spiritually without strength, thoroughly incapable of bettering ourselves, exposed to the wrath of God, and unable to perform a single work which can find acceptance with a holy God (Rom 3:10-18).
The impossibility of anyone gaining God’s approval by his own works appears plainly in the case of the rich young ruler who came to Christ (Mat 19). When you judge this young man by human standards, he was a model of virtue and religious attainment. Yet, like so many others who trust in self-efforts and self-righteousness, he was ignorant of the spirituality and strictness of God’s law. When Christ showed him the covetousness of his heart, he went away sorrowful, for he had great riches. It was humbling to find out that his best duties in religion were nothing but stinking rags in the nostrils of God (Isa 64:6). This young man would not confess that his morality and his best deeds were only damning works of darkness that he needed to mourn over and forsake.
Sin: Our Nature
How humbling it is to discover that God requires truth in the inward parts (Psa 51:6)! How humbling it is that we cannot shut off sin in our hearts and our minds! How humbling it is that we, like all others, must take our place before God as sinners and plead guilty before Him. We do not want to confess that we are sinners—lost, undone, helpless, and guilty—before God. The moral and self-righteous do not want to confess that they are in the same fix before God as the rapist, the harlot, and the drunkard! Nevertheless, we are sinners by nature and by practice.
We cannot get rid of sin by resolution, command, sacrifice, or by shutting ourselves out from the world, because it is our nature. Jeremiah 13:23 reads, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”
This fact humbled the apostle Paul. It led him to repent and confess himself a hell-deserving sinner before God. In Romans 7 he tells us that he was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came that he should not covet, then all Hell broke loose in his soul. He saw that he was carnal, sold under sin. He confessed that it was humbling to find out that what he wanted to do—live righteously—hecould not do. And what he did not want to do—sin against a holy and righteous God—he found himself doing. He confessed that he had the will to do good, but no power to perform it. His will was depraved and held captive by his sinful nature: “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:19). Fight it, resolve against it, denounce it, do everything against it that he would—he could not get rid of it.
Likewise, when we by the illuminating power of God’s Spirit see the awful power of sin in our lives, it is humbling .
Sin: How God Sees Our Hearts
The Bible declares that the effect of sin upon man is such that our hearts are compared to some of the most revolting things that we can think of! It uses these descriptions to show us how our sins look to God.
Did you know that God’s Word describes us by nature as maggots? It does in Job 25:4-6: “How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?” The root meaning for worm here in the Hebrew is “worm of decay.” This is the way God sees us in the decay of our sin outside of Christ.
Again, did you know that God describes us in our depraved nature as a putrefying sore? He does, in Isaiah 1:4-6:
“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
The Scriptures also show that sin has made man like the beasts in ignorance and stupidity; therefore, we must repent. We read this in Psalm 73:22: “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” Also in Psalm 49:20 we read, “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not [spiritually], is like the beasts that perish.” If you are still playing with sin, you will doom your soul to hell. And you are like the beasts that perish, for you are void of understanding.
I hear someone saying, “This is not very palatable language!” I know, but this is God’s Word. We must be stripped of all our pride and self-righteousness and for ever despair of finding anything in us to commend us to God.
What a picture of depraved man! What a picture of you and me by nature! Seeing us in this putrefying state, God must command repentance.
Let me reason with you: If you make no provision for eternity and have no mind for the world to come, then surely God’s Word pictures you accurately in all of these descriptions. You are like a maggot, a putrefying sore, and a beast that perishes. O that you knew your latter end (Deu 32:29) and would flee to God in repentance, casting yourself upon His mercy in Christ! O that you would stand before the Holy God today, humbling yourself before Him, and crying after Him in true repentance!
Lee Roy Shelton Jr., from his book, 'Biblical Repentance, the need of this hour'