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“Repentance: A One Word Sermon”
Many are feeling the pain of being trapped in an unending cycle of sinning and confessing, and unfortunately for some, this is on a daily basis. Day after day they experience the haunting and persistent accusations by Satan, the accuser, and day after day they cry tears of sorrow, only to find themselves doing all over again what they said they would never do.
And I believe this is true for just about every one of us. We all seem to struggle with persistent sin, where we try to do what is right but fail and fall and get up only to fall again. This is something that the Apostle Paul knew well in his own life.
“I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:19 NLT)
And so the cry of our hearts is, “Lord, how do I change? I want to change. I need to change. I have to change. But how do I change?” And so the question becomes, can we change? Can we break this cycle that finds us in constant despair and discouragement?
And the answer is “yes.” We can change. No matter how long we’ve been in this cycle, no matter how long we’ve been trapped in this pattern of defeat. We can change. Satan’s accusations can be silenced, and the lies against us can cease. The chains that bind us can be broken.
Now, while society and the church have a lot of different programs and methods trying to facilitate this change, God has only one way. It’s through repentance.
While the word repentance is frequently mentioned, there really isn’t a lot of teaching about what it really means.
In reviewing ten books and booklets for new believers, I found only three talking about repentance, and their treatment was anemic at best. One had it in its glossary of terms. Another said, “Repent: Be willing to turn from your sin.” Finally, in a two-hundred-page book for new believers, repentance was only mentioned once with a one-sentence definition.
This is why I added this topic as one of the chapters of my upcoming book, “Wells of Living Waters” that deals with those doctrines that Satan has successfully covered over in the church.
Now, some within the church have gone so far as to say all someone needs to do to be saved is believe, but that would make salvation a mental exercise, an intellectual belief. But it’s when the knowledge of what Jesus provided through His death upon the cross makes its way down into our heart, that is, making it into a heart belief, this is when true repentance takes place. This is when people turn away from their sins and the ways of the world and turn toward Jesus Christ to become fully devoted followers of His.
A major problem, however, is that people fail to understand the true meaning of repentance.
Some people think it’s being sorry for our sins. But it means much more than being sorry. It means being sorry enough to quit. Others believe repentance is merely turning away from doing what’s wrong, turning away from sin. But it means not only turning away from sin, but also turning toward God.
Repentance is more than merely a mental exercise. It means not only a change of mind but also a change of heart, and a change of our will.
Repentance is then a key element in our relationship with God. Its importance cannot be over stated, because its meaning can be found throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
In the Old Testament, the Lord makes it clear of the need to repent and turn away from our sins.
The Lord said, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets” (2 Kings 17:13).
“‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.’” (Ezekiel 18:30)
The preaching of repentance was also key in the mission of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples.
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’” (Matthew 3:1–3)
Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance . . . (and) unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Matthew 4:17, 9:13; Luke 13:3)
In the first sermon Peter preached, he said, “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” (Acts 2:38).
The importance of repentance, therefore, cannot be over emphasized.
What is repentance? It’s making an about face, a U-turn, or a 180.
There are two words in the Hebrew language that are translated as repentance. They mean a change of mind or purpose, to be sorry, and to turn or return. In the Greek language, the word means a change of mind.
Wayne Grudem in his book on systematic theology probably gives the best definition for repentance. He said that it is “A heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”
The need for repentance is therefore found throughout the Bible, and it always speaks of the need for change, specifically a turning away from sin and a turning to God for salvation. This is significant because repentance is more than merely turning away from sin. People can turn from their sin to a religion. People can turn from their sin and throw themselves into work or something else.
Jesus, however, connects repentance with belief.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 NKJV)
Jesus calls for us to repent and believe, but we’re not to believe in just anything. We are to believe in the gospel, the good news about Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, and that those who believe in Him will have their sins forgiven along with eternal life in heaven.
Repentance, therefore, is our need to turn away from our sins and back to God. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that God’s method of change is through the act of repentance. We cannot repent without changing, and we cannot change without repenting.
Repentance Requires Change
Pastor, author, and Bible teacher, James McDonald, said that repentance is the key that unlocks the door to all God has for us, but it isn’t easy. You see, repentance isn’t this half-hearted “I’m sorry God,” that most people seem to think it is.
A.W. Tozer, renowned Christian author and pastor, said to “Beware of vain and over-hasty repentance.”
The Apostle Paul brings this out.
“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 … For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 NKJV)
What’s the difference between being sorry, and having a heartfelt sorrow? Being sorry is being ashamed that we were caught, but not changing or turning toward God.
Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is our heartfelt sorrow over our sinfulness. This was the sorrow felt by King David when his sin with Bathsheba was exposed.
“You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart– these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17 NKJV)
A heartfelt sorrow is a deep sorrow over what we’ve done, and how it has hurt and wounded the heart of God
Repentance Two Main Ingredients
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJV)
The question at this point is what does it mean to confess. In the Greek language the word means, “to say the same thing.” In other words, when we confess we are literally saying what God says about it.
• While society calls addiction a disease, God calls it the sin of drunkenness.
• While society calls it an alternative lifestyle, God calls it the sin of homosexuality.
• And while society calls it living together, God calls it the sin of fornication.
And so, if we truly want to change we have to start calling it like it is and to see our sin the way God sees it.
Restitution is the act of getting restored what had been taken away. We see this through the prophet Ezekiel.
“If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ezekiel 33:15 NKJV)
This is lived out for us in the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of Jericho. When Jesus came through the city he stayed at Zacchaeus’s house. During this time Zacchaeus repented of his sinful ways and restored all the monies that he had unlawfully taken. And Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:9).
Speaking about the need to make restitution, Jesus said,
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV)
And so, restitution is about making right whatever wrongs we have done to others. If we’ve stolen, we need to give it back, or make it right. If we’ve lied, we need to tell the truth, or if we’ve injured someone with our words, we need to ask forgiveness.
Now, going back to what James McDonald said about repentance. Repentance isn’t easy.
Repentance Isn’t Easy
We see this in what Paul said about godly sorrow.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV)
The word sorrow brings out just how difficult repentance is, for it brings with it the idea of pain. It is an internal hurting. It is anguish of the soul, but it is worth it, because repentance, that is, godly sorrow, leads to salvation and eternal life, while just being sorry, or worldly sorrow, leads to eternal death.
A godly sorrow brings with it a brokenness before God and makes us ready for change. We see this in King David and the cry of his heart at his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.
In Psalm 51 David lays it all out on the line. He says that just be sorry and offering up the required sacrifices isn’t enough. Again, look at what he said.
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17 NKJV)
His cry was for God not to cast Him out, but rather to restore Him.
“Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:11-12)
And while repentance isn’t easy, it is available to everyone.
Repentance Is Available
“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:15; cf. Psalm 95:7 NKJV)
We see an excellent example of biblical repentance and its availability in Jesus’s story of the Prodigal Son. In the story the younger of two sons took the inheritance his father had for him and spent it all on sinful pursuits. After losing all his money and his so-called friends, he hires himself out to a pig farmer. But soon he began to desire the food the pigs were eating. Let me tell you, it really doesn’t get any lower than this.
This, however, is where the change begins. Look at what he said. It outlines the process of repentance.
He Acknowledged His State
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.’” (Luke 15:17 NKJV)
Notice again what Jesus said. He said, “When he came to himself,” that is, the prodigal son acknowledged that things had to change.
He Confessed His Sin
“I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’” (Luke 15:18 NKJV)
He confessed, and notice that like King David he knew that his sin was not just against his father, but also against the Lord God Himself. He said, “I have sinned against heaven.”
He Made Restitution
“I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:19 NKJV)
It is from this story that we see that no matter what state we are in, no matter how low we go; repentance and salvation are always available.
As the story ends, when the prodigal son returns to the father, the father runs to him, wraps his arms around him, puts on him brand new cloths, and has a feast in his honor, because his son who was once lost is now found.
And so, while repentance isn’t easy, it is available, and there is a blessing attached.
The Blessings of Repentance
Now, while repentance is often looked upon as a positive, it does come with a price, or as we have seen, it doesn’t come easy. But, no matter what the price may be, it doesn’t even compare to the blessings that come with it.
Repentance Brings Refreshing
“Repent therefore and be converted, that you sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19 NKJV)
Repentance Brings Renewal
“Observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:11 NKJV)
Repentance Brings Restoration
Going back to our story of Zacchaeus. After Zacchaeus restored what had been wrongly taken, Jesus said that Zacchaeus had now been restored. He said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9 NKJV).
Repentance involves our mental acceptance that we have not only sinned, but that we’re sinners. And that while our sins have affected and hurt others, they have also hurt and wounded God. This should then produce within us a deep heartfelt sorrow, that is, it should literally break our hearts over what we’ve done and what we’ve become.
But it cannot stop there. It must be followed by a definite course of action where we turn away from our sins and turn towards God, who then forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
In the end, repentance is nothing short of God’s gracious gift of goodness towards us, as Paul points out in his letter to the Roman Church that it is the kindness or goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Repentance is vital then to our walk and relationship with God. And when convicted by the Holy Spirit of our sins and our need to repent we should not hesitate one second.
God’s desire is for all of us to repent and turn to Him.
This is why repentance is a one word sermon.