OUR GREAT SALVATION (7)/ THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE TO LIFE
Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Doctrine of Repentance’. Her main text was taken from the book of Luke. “Jesus said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Lk 5:31-32). “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10).
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
*Repentance is heartfelt sorrow for sin, turning away from sin, towards God, to follow Christ! It produces ‘fruits’. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:10)
*Repentance is necessary to salvation! “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14, 15)
*Repentance is a gift of God! A gift from King Grace! “Him (Christ) God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Ac 5:31). “When they heard these things, they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Ac 11:18).
Question: What is repentance unto life? Answer: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience (Westminster Shorter Catechism)
Let me use and example… A woman thinks that she is ugly. She desires to do plastic surgery on her face. She has paid the doctor. She has left the house to go to the hospital. Going into the theater, when she sees the surgical equipment, the doctors and the nurses all dressed in white, ready for the surgery, she suddenly changes her mind. She said she does not want to do the surgery anymore. She turns back and goes home. From this time on, she stops thinking that she is ugly. She believes that she is beautiful. This is a picture of repentance.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Is 55:6, 7). You need to seek God, call upon Him thru prayer, return to God, and forsake sin. The word ‘repentance’ is not used here but this scripture describes it perfectly.
Repentance is a change, a radical change. Because we hate changes, we resist and hate repentance. Repentance is crisis moment, destiny changing season in a sinner’s life. It is a radical turning away from sin towards God, from darkness to light, from disobedience to obedience. It is a conversion. It includes a commitment to follow Jesus Christ as a disciple. Repentance is the work of King Grace. It is the first work that the Holy Spirit does in the sinner, during the process of salvation. Without repentance there is no salvation. Repentance manifests as godly sorrow for sin. It is a terrible painful feeling of regret, of pain, that you have offended God. It manifests as anxiety, restlessness, emotional upset, or depression. At that time, nothing helps. The repentant sinner feels like dying. Repentance is a spiritual act, internal and invisible. But it produces visible ‘fruits of repentance’ (Luke 3:8) which are a new godly character and a changed behavior. Without these fruits, the repentance is not genuine.
Repentance has two components: God convicts, and man turns! God convicts of sin and the sinner must turn away from sin and turn towards God. The command to repent applies to all people. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Ac 17:30). All unbelievers must repent, turn to God, and surrender their lives to Christ. Only the elect repent. This is the major primary repentance. After that, they need to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit. In case you grieve the Holy Spirit, stop all you are doing, turn around and repent! Obey God’s Word. Like the prodigal son, the backsliding believers also need to repent, come back to God, and be refilled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, repentance is a foundation and a lifestyle. It relates to both conversion and to sanctification.
Many do attack and hate the doctrine of repentance. They preach salvation without repentance. They tell sinners to ‘give their lives to Christ’ without telling them to repent of their sins. That is a false doctrine. They do not know the power and the tragedy of sin. They do not know the price the Son of God has paid to reconcile us to God. The same people who hate the doctrine of sin also hate the doctrine of repentance.
Repentance is a great Biblical word. Both in the Old and the New Testaments ‘repentance’ means a radical change of mind. The word ‘repent’ is also translated as ‘turn’ or ‘return’. For example: “you turn away from sin (from evil, from the world) and turn towards God’. This is the way the prophets were challenging the people to repent. The word appears more than 1000 times in the Bible. In Greek, the word repentance is ‘metanoia’. It means to think again, to think differently, to reconsider your thoughts, to think with a fresh mind. As a sinner, you were walking without thinking, without understanding. Suddenly you realize that this is the road of death. You stop! You then turn 180 degrees and change direction. You turn towards God, on the road of life eternal. You now walk with a fresh mind, a new thinking, and a new understanding. By faith in Jesus Christ, you stop thinking your old thoughts, you totally change your mind, your direction and purpose in life. To seal this act of repentance, God promised remission (forgiveness) of sin. The Holy Spirit comes to baptize the repentant soul. You are now born-again!
STEPS OF REPENTANCE
Repentance is a deep work done in the sinner’s heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit. These are the steps of repentance leading to salvation:
*The sinner sees his sin! For the first time in his life, he ‘sees’ his sin, that he has trespassed the law of God. Guilty before God, he now knows that he deserves to die and to go to hell.
*He sees that he is totally helpless to save himself. He now needs he needs a Helper, that he needs a Savior!
*He desires to be forgiven and to make peace with God.
*The sinner sees Christ on the Cross, who died for him. By shedding His Blood, Christ offers mercy, forgiveness, and grace to him.
*By the help of the Holy Spirit, he starts to trust Jesus. The faith is small like a mustard seed, but he believes that Jesus died as his Substitute!
*The Holy Spirit seals his genuine faith and gives him peace with God! The sinner now knows that God has justified Him and forgiven his sins!
Primarily, repentance relates to God who hates sin. As the sinner repents, he now hates sin with the same passion that he exercised in the past when he loved his sin. Repentance happens at the Cross. When you see that Christ died for your sins, a godly sorrow happens that leads you to repentance. You see that you are helpless to change yourself. You see the mercy of God available at the Cross. In the New Testament repentance and faith are spiritual ‘twins’. As the sinner repents, he now has faith in Christ, as His Savior. The Holy Spirit leads this holy work which ends in salvation and gives peace into the soul. True repentance always includes godly sorrow for sin and ends in peace and joy!
REPENTANCE AND FAITH
Apostle Paul was “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ac 20:21).
Tests of true repentance: was it sincere? Does it last? Is your character changed?
You say: “I am not sure if my repentance is genuine” Then go to the Cross and gaze at Christ Crucified for you! The Vision of Him who died for you will ignite the fire of true repentance unto life, and you shall be saved!
REPENTANCE AFFECTS THE WHOLE SOUL
Genuine repentance affects the whole soul (the mind, the emotions, and the will). Basically, it has three parts:
*Confession! To repent you need to confess your sins. This is the work of repentance in your mind, in your thoughts.
*Contrition! This affects your emotions. You feel sorry for your sin, not just because you were caught, but because you broke God’s heart.
*Change! To repent you need to change your lifestyle, your speech, your behavior. This affects your will.
Repentance changes the whole life. It is a radical change. There is no going back. The repentant soul can only go forward. Therefore, repentance is making true progress in life. It affects the heart, the center once affected by sin. Once the heart is changed, the whole man changes. It is a total surrender to Jesus. It is a total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ! The believer enters a new life of joyful obedience to the Word of God. The process of sanctification is a form of repentance that leads to spiritual maturity.
REPENTANCE LEADS TO RECONCILIATION
True repentance is not only asking God for forgiveness, but it’s also asking forgiveness from those that we’ve hurt. Real repentance leads to reconciliation, and to true peace with those that we’ve hurt. A true child of God who has repented will never return to practice sin as it was in the past. He may fall into sin and backslide for a time, but he will never return to dwell in sin as it was before. If a man who said he has repented but he goes back to sin exactly as it was in the past, that man has not repented properly. Any form of repentance that does not manifest as deep pain because he has offended God, is a false repentance. God will not forgive that sinner and will give him no peace until He sees a true desire that he wants to change. Repentance means that you hate sin with a passion. Sin becomes like bitter poison to you. You do not love it anymore. You expose it, and you forsake it. Progress, spiritual and physical, follows. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (PV 28:13). True repentance is always progress. It is complete. You forsake all sins! 100%! It is all or none that God demands! If you do not hate and forsake all sins, from their roots, heaven is still not your home!
THE HISTORY OF REPENTANCE
Before the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had a system by which they believed that sinners can be saved from sin and death thru the church. This was a system of works. There was no grace or faith in it. These are wrong doctrines. They believed that salvation starts at the point of water baptism, when all sins (inherited from Adam and committed up to that moment) are washed away. Because of this false doctrine, most people postponed their water baptism until they are old, sick, or ready to die. After the water baptism, according to the Catholic church, repentance became more difficult. To maintain salvation, the Christian must keep his church membership. If he commits any sin, he must feel sorry for his sins, and he must confess them to the priest, who will recommend acts of penance. They did not translate the word repentance as ‘changing your mind’. They translated it as ‘doing acts of penance’. Penance is defined as voluntary acts of self-punishment ordered by the church authority with the hope that the sin will be forgiven by God. Acts of penance are fasting, prayers, and doing charity works. The season of Lent, 40 days long, is traditionally a time for doing penance. This doctrine of Penance is an error. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit.
During the Reformation, the true doctrine of sin and repentance was thought. The Reformers said a man is saved from the law of sin and death at the point of justification. The sinner is saved by grace and by faith in Christ crucified. That is how a sinner becomes a born-again child of God. No act of penance can atone for his sins. The water baptism does not save a sinner. The Catholic priest cannot replace personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A backslider comes back to God in true repentance. His life will prove the fruits of repentance. The Word of God is clear: man is born a sinner. From that sin nature, sins will manifest. We all need a savior. There is only one mediator between God and man and that is the man Christ Jesus (2Tim 2:5). “Confess the sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (Jam 5:16). Pastors are called by God to equip the saints for the work of ministry. They have a role to play in supporting the peace and purity of the Church. However, the minister’s authority is only in the Word of God. They guide the saints spiritually, challenging them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our lord Jesus Christ, thru the process of sanctification, and never thru punishment.
REPENTANCE AND FAITH ARE GOD’S COMMANDS!
Our Lord started His public ministry by preaching repentance and faith (Mk 1:14, 15). After the resurrection, Christ said to the disciples: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk 24:46, 47). We are to preach repentance and remission of sins to all people! Repentance was included in their preaching of the apostles. “So, they went out and preached that people should repent” (Mk 6:12).
There are two types of ‘repentance’ or sorrow for sin. Apostle Paul says that godly sorrow for sin is a proof of genuine repentance. He also says that ‘sorrow or the world’ is a fake repentance, must be repented of, and it leads to death. “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. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor 7:9, 10). False repentance is a regret, a remorse for sin, expressed thru painful emotions, but the heart does not change. God does not accept this false repentance. There are no visible fruits of a new behavior and no peace in the heart. Here are some people who experienced a false repentance:
*Esau – “lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 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” (Heb 12:16, 17). *Pharoah – “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that He may take away from me this death only.” So, he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the Lord. And the Lord turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go” (Ex 10:16-20). *King Saul – “Then Saul said: “I have sinned. Return, my son David. For I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Indeed, I have played the fool and erred exceedingly” (1 Sam 26:21). *King Ahab – So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning” (1 Kings 21-27).
*Judas Iscariot – “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood. Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed and went and hanged himself” (Matt 27:3-5).
GOD’S GOODNESS LEADS TO REPENTANCE, TO SALVATION
“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. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 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? 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 Jews thought that because God has given them the Word, they are better than the Gentiles, that God is pleased with them. They talk about the goodness of God, but they do not repent of sin. Even Christians commit the same sin. They take the goodness of God for granted. They despise it. They wrongly interpret God’s goodness as an excuse to continue in sin. They see God as ‘an old weak nice grandfather’ who is good to them and who cannot punish wrong. They waste the riches of His goodness towards them. In Greek, the word ‘despise’ means to think against God’s goodness, to actively insult it in your mind, to see it as useless. By despising God’s goodness, grace and patience towards him, the sinner says that God approves of his sin. He refuses to repent of sin. This proud stubbornness is a sin in itself! To see God’s goodness as His weakness is to despise the Holy God! In other words, they ‘use’ God for their selfish desires. They hate God!
That is the tragedy of preaching wrong doctrines! These people come to church, say that God is good to them, but they do not know the plan and the purpose of God. They are willfully ignorant of God! ‘They do not know that the goodness of God leads to repentance’. This does not mean that these people are ignorant of the fact that God is good. They accept that truth in general. But they choose to forget the purpose of God’s goodness. They assume that God is good to them because they merit that goodness, that God rewards them because they are good themselves. They receive God’s goodness as an end of itself. They are not seeing it as a signpost leading them towards the Cross, where Christ died for their sins. They want the blessing of God’s goodness and at the same time, to continue in their sins. This is the attitude of religious scoffers. “Knowing that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget…” (2Peter 3:3-5). A scoffer is someone who laughs at the things of God, mocking and showing great disrespect to God. These people ‘willfully forget’ God, His acts and the purpose of His goodness and grace. These are religious unbelievers who despise God’s goodness and power.
What is the purpose of God’s goodness and grace to man? The goodness of God ‘leads’ you to repentance. The word ‘lead’ is the same as in in this verse: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). This is a spiritual law: God leads His children by the Holy Spirit, thru His goodness and grace. To lead is an active word. It reveals motion. It describes cooperation between the leader and the follower. To lead it does not mean dragging you by force like a slave against your will. Leading is the constraining force of a holy influence. To lead it means to guide the way by holding your hand. It is the way you lead your dog by the leash. The dog knows that you are his master, and it follows you. The purpose of God’s goodness is to act as ‘a holy leash’ round your neck, to bring you to the Cross, to see why Christ died for your sins, and to repent. If you refuse to see God’s purpose for His goodness towards you, it means that you despise the purpose of God’s goodness. You insult God! A similar statement is this: “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). The unbelievers see God’s goodness as ‘slackness’, weakness, or laziness. Because God is patient waiting for them to repent, they interpret God’s patience as ‘slackness’. They willingly forget that God has the power to destroy all His creation. God does not delay His judgment because He is slack, but because He loves the sinners, and He is longsuffering. He wants them to take advantage of the extra time of goodness and that they should repent.
GOD WISHES ALL TO BE SAVED BUT HE WILLS ONLY THE ELECT
This is a difficult doctrine. We see that men’s reaction to the Goodness of God differ. Some refuse to be led by it towards repentance and salvation. These are the unbelievers. The believers appreciate the goodness of God and are led by it towards the Cross, where they repent. What makes this difference? Why does God not force all people to repent, so to be saved? This is a great mystery!
God told the Prophet Ezekiel: “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). ‘To turn’ it means to repent! Apostle Peter uses the same word in His sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Ac 3:19). As you cans see, these are general calls to all men! God appeals to all men to repent!
God’s goodness is designed to bring all men to repentance and salvation. God is good in an active way even to the unbelievers. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). Goodness is a manifestation of God’s grace to all men, believers, and unbelievers. God does not want anyone to perish but to come to repentance and receive eternal life. This goodness to the unbelievers is not part of the effectual call of the irresistible grace of God. It is a general grace that manifests as goodness to all His creation, but it does not change the hearts of men.
There is a great difference between what God desires (He wishes) and what God wills (He performs). God wishes that all should repent but He does not bring all to repentance by His irresistible Grace. This is a mystery. Some men are brought to repentance and others are not. Repentance is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. No man can repent except God brings him to repentance. God manifests His love, goodness, and patience to all, but some men despise it, misuses it and willingly ignore it. Child of God, if God does not bring you to repentance by an act of His sovereign will and irresistible Grace, you would not repent of your sins! Glory to God!
REPENT AND RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT
“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.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Ac 2:36-43)
This is part of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Peter preached the Gospel, Christ crucified and resurrected. The Word produced a strong reaction in the people. They were ‘cut to the heart’. This describes an instant godly sorrow and conviction of sins. It is the work of the Holy Spirit using the preaching of God’s Word. Peter told them what to do: Repent and be baptized in water. The effect of this true repentance is that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. False repentance may be a very painful emotion of regret, expressed with weeping and tears. But the Holy Spirit is not ‘moved’ to come and fill that ‘vessel’. True repentance is like Elijah’s altar. The fire of God fell on it. False repentance is like the altar of Baal. There are many prayers and tears, but the heavens do not open over it. The fire will not come. This seal of the Holy Spirit upon the true repentant soul is eternal. It is for all generations to the end of time!
The definition of a Christian is this: A man (or woman) who has repented from the love of the world. He is now saved from this ‘perverse generation’. The world’ is a system, a spiritual realm under the dominion of the devil, also called ‘the god of this world’ (2 Cor 4:4). We are all born sinners. We are born with a worldly mindset that hates God. Often, this mindset manifests during the teenage years. The young man (or woman) does not want to go to church anymore. He thinks that religion is foolish, and it is made for ‘old people’. He tries to become ‘independent’ (better said rebellious). This attitude manifests itself as disobedience to parents, love of money, desire for fame. He thinks he does not need God to live well. Going to church means nothing to him. We all inherit this type of mindset.
Many years can pass by. Then one day, this man hears the preaching of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit reveals his sin to him, how he transgressed God’s Law, how he hates God. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. Godly sorrow for sin follows. He now repents of sin. He has faith in Jesus, the Savior. He is baptized with water as a public testimony that he is now a believer. Then he joins a living church. He loves to go to church, to listen to the Word of God, to pray, to work for God, and to have fellowship with the brethren. These are fruits of genuine repentance unto salvation. During revival the separation between the world and the Church becomes clearer. No more shadows of compromise! The Gospel is a message that comes with a sword. It separates people. In the same family, you see that brothers and sisters separate spiritually. Once the Word of God penetrates the hearts of men, it changes them radically. They become saved. The Word of God produces leaders, heroes, martyrs. God’s Word comes loaded with the greatest power in the universe! This is a great mystery! Halleluiah!
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5, 6)
Job was a righteous man. During his trials, he insisted that he is righteous. At last, God brings him face to face with His sovereignty and majesty. He then repents of his superficial understanding of God’s Word and ways.
THE PRODIGAL SON REPENTS AND COMES HOME (Luke 15:11-24)
The younger son asked his father for his share of inheritance. He took all he got and went to ‘a far country’. He spent everything in wasteful living. He became in need. At his lowest point ‘he came to himself’. These words mean repentance. He came back home. The father welcomed him with love saying: “this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!”. Our Lord said that true repentance leading to salvation is heavenly joy. We too should rejoice! “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10).
Do not make it easy for a sinner arrested by the power of the Holy Spirit. Leave him in the hands of God! Let him cry and let him plead for mercy. It may take hours or days… But the moment will come when the peace of God shall descend and cleanse, heal and save his soul… I have witnessed this miracle of life with many… ‘What can wash my sins away? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!’ Do you rejoice as you read these words? Can you say ‘Amen’? Do you identify with them? Do you have a burden to pray that souls be saved? Do you hate sin? Are you dead to sin? Do you love righteousness and holiness? Do you pay the price to be like Jesus? Then blessed are you, for you are free! Give God all the glory! In Jesus’ name, amen! Worship the Lord!