And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.( I Timothy 2:24-26)
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.(Acts 11:18)
The Christian journey always begins with repentance. There will be no salvation, no forgiveness, no knowledge of God, and no going to heaven for those who do not repent. Jesus said “unless you repent, you will perish”.
But what is repentance? We have seen that it is rethinking, changing our mind about what we once thought we knew about God, ourselves, our moral and spiritual condition, heaven, hell, Judgment, the spiritual reality, and about Jesus.We have also seen that repentance is Teshuvah, the hebrew word for repentance which means turning. To repent is to turn away from idols, or from folly and sin, and unto God himself, on his terms.
Repentance has a profound effect on the affections as well, for when a person truly repents, He now loves the things of God, and hates the sins which once bound and destroyed him. “Love not the world, nor the things of the World, for if any one loves the world he has not the love of the Father…” . (I John 2:15)
There are many examples of this in the Bible, such as the prodigal son “re thinking” about his Father, Nebuchadnezzar ‘changing his mind” about his greatness and sovereignty, Moses realizing that he stood with the slaves, and not with the Egyptians, and Saul of Tarsus, falling in love with Jesus and the Christians, who he once hated and persecuted.
All of these were brought to repentance, they turned away from who they once were, and fully turned towards God, through Jesus.
My point in this article is that repentance isn’t something that anyone can ‘work up at will’, rather it is a gift from God. People who are trapped in a wrong way of thinking; in sinful habits and desires, shameful lusts, can’t rouse themselves out of these things without God’s gracious intervention. God grants unto those who He saves the gift of repentance.
In my own case, as I was sinking deep in sin in my late teenaged years, came across a Bible, a gift someone had given my brother. It really was a paraphrase of scripture, called “The Way”. One evening I returned from drunken carousing, and saw the Bible on the dresser in our room. A thought occurred to me, “I have never really read the Bible, how could I consider my self truly literate”?
So I began to read the sermon on the mount, which I found beautiful, but soon found troubling and convicting. Jesus’ interpretation of the spirituality of the law hit me very hard. I thought it would be good enough not to kill a person, or not to commit an act of Adultery.
But Jesus’ words changed my mind (albeit reluctantly). He was working on my soul, changing my mind about the nature of true righteousness. I was being given a gift, repentance. Now I saw that I had already broken all of the laws of God, and that my inner man was sick, ‘corrupt according to deceitful lusts”, and that I was liable to Divine judgment
My repentance began by turning me away from myself righteousness and sin.
My repentance was completed when I was shown who to turn to. I was in despair one night, because I knew I was damned, and lost, but didn’t know how to be saved. I had answered so many ‘altar calls” trying to shake the guilt, but still had no faith to be saved. I couldn’t see how God could forgive my breaking of his law.
Reading the Bible, but so depressed and despairing that I really didn’t even know what it was I was reading, I had a clear thought penetrate my mind,”Look at what you are reading and understand it!”. I had been so distracted by sorrow and fear of judgment, I had been reading the same verse over and over agin and couldn’t even tell you what it was!
I looked again at the scripture, “He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”(2 Corinthians 5:21) Suddenly I perceived why Jesus died on the cross; He was taking my place in judgment and bearing my sin , that I might be accepted before God as He was. Jesus became “me” so that I could become “Him” as far as status before God!
God uses scripture, and people, and even circumstances to get a person to ‘turn aside and look at the burning bush’, or to ‘ponder the path’ of their feet, and ‘consider their own end’. But in the final analysis, it is not going to happen unless the Holy Spirit of God gives a person the gift of repentance.
I now realize that what happened to me in the years 1977-1978 was the fulfillment of the words of Jesus,
And when he (The Holy Spirit)is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.(John 16:8-10)
We must pray that God will grant repentance to this generation, for without it, they perish forever. The minds of many have been so blinded by secular humanism, atheism, Islam, humanistic ‘christianity’…anything but the Truth. But God is not willing that any should perish, but that all will come to repentance, He is dealing with people by His Spirit, urging them to get right with Him, calling them to himself.