The Truth About Repentance
God has always been and always will be. The heaven and earth in all their beauty and glory are creations of God. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
God also created the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the cattle, and every other animal on the earth (Genesis 1:20-25). After doing so God made man and gave him dominion over all the earth and everything on the earth (Genesis 1:26). “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).
God named the man, who He created in His image, Adam. Adam was created sinless, holy, and pure. He possessed direct communion with God. In fact, God created a garden of beauty and splendor full of good food, called Eden, and gave it to Adam. It was a garden in which God and Adam could walk, talk, and have fellowship. “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).
God loved Adam and his wife Eve and wanted them to love and worship Him. However, God did not make it mandatory to love and obey Him. He created man with the power of choice. Man received much from God to take advantage of and enjoy, but God did put one restriction on him. God forbade Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Thereby God was testing man’s love for and obedience to Him.
Satan is an evil being who opposes God. He once served God as an angel with much beauty and power. God seemingly elevated Satan to a high position. Satan, also called Lucifer, became very proud of his position and tried to exalt himself to be equal with God. He led a rebellion by the angels against God. God being the ultimate power of the universe defeated the rebellion and cast Satan and the angels that followed him out of heaven. God has prepared hell, a place of eternal fire and torment, for their final end (Isaiah 14:1215). Presently, God allows Satan to tempt man to sin and serve Satan rather than God.
FALL OF MAN:
Satan took his first opportunity to tempt man to disobey God in the garden of Eden. Satan being very subtle appeared to the woman Eve and lied to her. He told her she would not surely die if she ate of the one tree God had commanded them not to eat of (Genesis 3:4). “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Eve began to observe the fruit. She saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and she thought it would be desired to make one wise. “. . .She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6). Man had disobeyed God. Created sinless, he had fallen into sin.
CONSEQUENCES OF SIN:
The consequences of man’s fall were many and far reaching. God meted out the punishment. He promised the woman pain and sorrow in childbirth. He ejected both Adam and Eve from the beautiful garden of Eden. He told Adam that he would have to work and sweat for his food all the days of his life. He cursed the ground so as to make it difficult to raise crops except by great effort. Man could no longer eat of the tree of life which grew in the garden of Eden and so was destined to die as God had promised (Genesis 3:14-19).
The greatest consequence of the fall was the change of man’s nature. Man, no longer sinless, suffered separation from God. This consequence not only applied to Adam and Eve but all of their descendants. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). “But I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5, Living Bible). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).
Adam passed his sin on down to all of us since everyone descended from Adam and Eve. We all inherited a sinful nature and our works are of the devil (Satan). “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (I John 3:8). Therefore as long as we remain sinners our destination is the same as Satan’s. Any person dying a sinner will go to hell and there spend eternity with Satan and the fallen angels. Together they will be eternally tormented in a lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:14, 21:8).
POSSIBILITY OF ATONEMENT:
Thanks to God’s mercy it is not necessary to die a sinner. Provision has been made for any individual who so desires to be redeemed from sin. Another consequence of the fall of man in the garden of Eden shed a light of hope on the pathway of man, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). In other words, God talking to Satan, prophesied of one who would come from the seed of the woman who would bruise Satan’s head. He would ultimately conquer and destroy the works of Satan. Satan was destined for defeat; the seed of the woman to victory.
The one of whom God spoke in Genesis 3:15 is Jesus Christ; a special seed of the woman who did not inherit Adam’s sin because His Father was not a man. His mother, a virgin named Mary, conceived Him as a result of the Holy Spirit of God over shadowing her (Matthew 1:18). An angel commanded His name to be called Jesus because He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). This Jesus was the promised seed of Genesis 3:15. His Father was the Holy Ghost, His mother was a virgin. His miraculous birth served warning to Satan of things to come.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). At the age of thirty Jesus began a public ministry. During His ministry Jesus performed many miraculous works. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and even the dead returned to life at His command. His life serves as an example to all. He always spoke truth, did the will of God, and most of all Jesus never sinned.
While Jesus was still at the prime of His natural life the so-called religious leaders of His day plotted to have Him crucified on the cruel cross of Calvary. They beat, bruised, and striped His back unmercifully. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Cruel soldiers plucked the beard out of His face. Blood and water flowed from His side as a soldier’s spear pierced it.
All this was done to a man who never did anyone any wrong; the only completely sinless man who ever lived. Yet, Jesus died the most inhuman death they could imagine for Him. And even then before He died He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Truly, He was God manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). He proved this when three days after He was crucified and buried He arose from the grave.
It is through the willing death of this sinless One and His subsequent burial and resurrection that we can be relieved of our sins and their consequences. We now have a choice of whether to be in bondage to sin or live a changed life as a servant of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is only possible because sin and death held no power over the Son of God (I Corinthians 1 5:20-23).
Jesus’ cruel death was a substitutionary death for us. Sin demands death. God told Adam and Eve they would die if they ate of the tree. Death still remains as the consequence of sin. However, by our accepting the supreme sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as being for our sins, we can receive remission sins. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22). The shedding of blood is representative of the death which is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Our blood does not have to be shed and we don’t have to die because Jesus’ sinless blood and death was efficacious for all of our sins. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus, being sinless, was the perfect sacrifice for sin, and there need never be another one (Hebrews 10:12-14).
If man will repent of his sins, his sins will be forgiven and can be remitted by the blood of Jesus Christ. Through the blood of Jesus there is redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). In fact, it is for this purpose that Jesus Christ, God manifested in flesh, came into this world and died on the cruel cross of Calvary. God foreordained Him before the foundation of the world to be the perfect sinless sacrifice for our sins (I Peter 1:18-21). God being omniscient, knowing all things, knew man would fall into sin. But He had a plan to redeem man from sin, and He worked His plan. All that is left is for man to take advantage of the work that Christ performed on the cross of Calvary.
ALL MEN MUST REPENT:
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).
So far we have discussed (1) how all men are born sinners due to the consequences of Adam’s fall; (2) how man is destined to a sinner’s hell unless he can be removed from the wages of sin (death and eternal punishment in hell); (3) how the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, on the cross made provision for the possible removal of the sins of an individual. We now must deal with the all important question, “How do 1, a sinner, take advantage of the work of Jesus Christ on Calvary? ”
In short, a man must turn from his evil ways of sin, repent, and come to Jesus. This is done as he is drawn by God to Jesus, for no man can come to Jesus except he be drawn by God (John 6:44). Everyone, sometime during their lifetime, is drawn in some way to God. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9, John 3:16). Man makes his own choice as to whether or not he submits to the drawing power of God and comes to salvation, or rejects it and continues in his sin. Rejecting it is a dangerous thing because he never knows when or if he will have another opportunity. Submitting to it is the key to eternal life.
As an individual comes to Jesus he must come with faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). This essential faith, however, is inherent in every man. The Word of God tells us that, “…God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). All man has to do is exercise this faith and repent of his sins as he is drawn of God.
For man to receive the gift of God, eternal life, he must repent. The message of repentance occurs repeatedly throughout the Bible. Jonah preached repentance to Nineveh and their repentance stopped the judgment of God from coming on them (Jonah 3:10). God sent John the Baptist as a forerunner of Jesus Christ to preach, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). He warned certain Jews, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Jesus commissioned His followers, the disciples, with the command that, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
Jesus’ disciples went forth preaching repentance. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Paul declared to the Athenians, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). The command is positive, the responsibility sure, in order to have salvation a man must repent or he shall likewise perish.
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
Repentance is a gift of God brought about by His goodness to us (Romans 2:4). Man decides within his heart to turn from sin and dedicate himself to the ammendment of his life. Realizing himself to be a sinner separated from God, the sinner feels a godly sorrow for his sin, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…” (II Corinthians 7:10). He then confesses his sin to God and asks God for forgiveness. He purposes in his mind that with the help of God he will cease to commit sin. He will endeavor to no longer disobey God’s commandments but to live in obedience to God’s Word.
David, an Old Testament king, a man after God’s own heart, knew what repentance was. Speaking of repentance, David wrote, For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin’ (Psalm 38:18), a broken and contrite heart. O God thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Jesus used the heart of a publican who smote his breast and requested, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18 13), as a man who went away justified because of his repentance. Repentance represents a true and proper change of purpose from sin to God.
In summary, true repentance is: (1) recognizing, by the convicting power of God, that you are a sinner; (2) deciding in your heart that you no longer want to be a sinner; (3) confessing your sin to God and asking Him to be merciful to you and forgive you; (4) dying out to sin by turning your back on it with the intention of living a life for God, never to return to your old sinful ways. “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2).
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