The Missing Response!
QUESTIONS ON REPENTANCE
During the course of reading through this booklet, you may have had many questions arise in your hearts. You may sincerely want to repent of your sins and come to Christ for cleansing. Or you may be a believer already who sincerely seeks to deepen your repentance and deal with every single wrong in your life. This is good! We must be repentant people who seek God, His Kingdom, His righteousness, and His holiness with all of our heart (Matt. 5:6; 6:33; Heb. 12:14). Maybe some of the following questions are ones you would like to ask:
(1) “What if I dont feel like repenting?”
You may be like others who know they should repent and even want to repent of their sins, but quite honestly do not feel like repenting. First, remember that God simply commands repentance (Acts 17:30) and we are obligated to obey whether we feel like it or not–if we wish to be saved. You can choose to obey God (cf. Josh. 24:15). Second, you should develop an abhorrence of your sin by becoming aware of its necessity. As long as you remain in your sins, you are storing up Gods wrath or burning anger (Rom. 2:5). He has “indignation every day” toward you (Psalm 7:11): day after day His anger grows hot toward you as long as you are impenitent. Third, you can develop the sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) by remembering Gods abundant mercy, kindness, and grace extended toward you–one who is so undeserving. This should lead you to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Think long and hard of the account of the Lords coming, suffering and death for you, and this self-giving love demonstrated at Calvary should awaken a desire to repent (1 John 3:16; 4:9-10,19). As you read the Word and meditate upon its saving truths, you will find a desire to repent arising in your heart.
(2) “What if I dont know how to apply the principle of restitution to my unique circumstances?”
As we discussed earlier, sometimes restitution is difficult to apply to every sin of the past. This may help: Ask how you have wronged another, hurt another, or offended another. What can you do to rectify the sin, or repay the wrong done, or return good for the evil that you have done? Be willing to correct the wrong, whatever the cost. As you sincerely seek for any way to right your wrongs, God will reveal His will to you (cf. Phil. 3:15). Seek His understanding and ask for His guidance (2 Tim. 2:7).
(3) “I have now discovered that something I am involved in is sin against God. Is it all right if I repent of it and then continue in the same activity and relationship?”
Nearly everything that we have learned about the nature of repentance would cry out against such a possibility. We learned that repentance is not simply sorrow or disappointment that we have sinned or are in sin, but it is an inner choice to cease from the sinful action or relationship. Paul commands, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Cor. 15:34a). John adds, “The one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:8a). True, heart-felt repentance says, “If I had the opportunity to back up, I would choose never to commit that sin.” It also says, “I choose to turn away from the sin and live in holiness in the future.” Therefore, it is impossible to have Scriptural repentance and still plan to continue in the sinful activity or relationship in which you are involved.
(4) “Repentance is just too complicated. I dont know where to start.”
Begin with where you are and what you know. Repentance need not be a deeply involved act at the time of ones salvation. Remember that people repented and were baptized immediately in New Testament times, without long and involved teaching (cf. Acts 2:41; 8:35-39; 10:47-48; 22:16; etc.). You too can be saved at once, providing you are willing to purpose in your heart to turn from all sin of which you are aware now and renounce all sin in the future as you become aware of it. Of course, you must also place your reliance in Christ and be baptized in His name.
(5) “Are we saved by repentance or by faith?”
This is like saying, “Do we choose to be married because of love or because of commitment?” Ones choice to be married is motivated by love, care, appreciation, admiration, commitment, friendship, and much more. Likewise, when one comes to Christ, he responds in repentance, belief, trust, surrender, commitment, devotion, and in other ways. We may look at your question like this: Repentance is a choice to turn from sin and faith is a choice to depend on Christ and His death. In another respect, repentance itself is a decision to cease trusting in oneself and to begin trusting in Another (Christ) for salvation. Again, repentance is renouncing your commitment to sin and making a commitment to believe in God through Christ. Repentance may be viewed in a comprehensive way as a response that embraces all that one does (turning from sin, faith, commitment, baptism, confession). It may be so viewed in this way in Luke 13:3,5; 24:47; Acts 11:18; 17:30; 26:20; 2 Peter 3:9. At other times repentance may be more limited in scope and distinguished from faith (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21) and baptism (Acts 2:38; cf. Luke 3:3).
(6) “How can repentance be required for salvation since it is a human work?”
Actually, God does not consider repentance a work as we conceive of a work. It is simply an inner change of mind and heart that turns from the “disease” of sin and receives the “remedy” of salvation. It is a means of receiving and not achieving. Beyond this, God Himself grants or gives repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25)–the opportunity, persuasion, incentive, means, and capacity to turn from sin and accept deliverance through the sacrificial death of the Savior. Repentance is not meritorious, but it responds to the meritorious means of salvation–Jesus Christ.
(7) “I know that there are a number of favorite sins I am still hanging on to, but I am willing to lay aside most of my sins. Do you think God will accept this repentance and save me?”
No, god will not be party to this kind of hypocrisy. He will not tolerate a compromising spirit that deliberately plans to keep a few particularly cherished sins. Although it is true that no one knows all of God will at the point of conversion and does not know all of the ways God wants him to change, we are responsible to purposely turn from all sin of which we are aware. We need not be overly concerned about how God will give us the strength to overcome all of our sins; but we must proceed with faith that He will help us have the victory. Repentance is simply the inner determination that we will not purposely sin again.
(8) “My sins are too deep, too involved, too evil, and too much a part of my character to change. Tthey simply have me bound and I can never break free.”
It is true that sins do hold people captive: “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin” (Prov. 5:22). Jesus added, “Every one who commit sins is the slave of sin” (John 8:34b). If you do have the desire to turn from your sins to God, He will enable you to so respond. “The one who wishes” may “take the water of life without cost” (Rev. 22:17b). He commands you to repent (Acts 17:30), thus He must know that you have the capacity to obey His command. Remember that Paul, who called himself the “foremost” of sinners, was able to repent and turn to God, and thus receive mercy (1 Tim. 1:12-16). You too may have His power to repent and follow through on such commitment. He will give His Holy Spirit to enable you to say No to sin (Rom. 8:13).
(9) “Does anyone come to the point when he cannot repent?”
Probably so. If one has hardened his heart and sins against the light of truth he knows, he may be beyond the reach of Gods Spirit. Esau may have come to such a place of insensitivity–although the Scripture can be understood differently (cf. Heb. 12:16-17). It seems that regardless of Gods abundant mercies, His judgments against sin, and His truth communicated to their hearts, some people simply will not repent (cf. Rev. 9:20,21). More generally, people simply do “not want to repent” of their sins and are satisfied to remain in them (cf. Rev. 2:21). Sadly, such unrepentant people (the vast majority of the worlds population) will die in their sins (John 8:24; Rom. 2:5-6).
(10) “I really havent been very bad at all in my life. Ive always gone to church; I am good to others; I treat my family well. Ive always been moral. I enjoy church work. Do I really need to repent?”
It may be that you did not come to this place in your life with a background of drug abuse, drunkenness, premarital promiscuity, or adultery. Yet Jesus is clear that everyone must come to the point in his life when he sees his life as God does, fully repents of any sins in his past, and places all of his trust in Christ Jesus for salvation. You must realize that you also have sinned–perhaps of a more “respectable” variety (as society would view them). This may include such sins as dishonesty, anger, envy, jealousy, discontent, bitterness, unwholesome speech, materialism, and wasting of time and money. Then there are the sins of omission such as failing to pray, read Scripture, study Scripture, sing to the Lord, bless the lives of others, give to those in need, or love God with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself. All of this needs to be repented of and we often overlook these less obvious sins. (Remember the “righteous” Pharisee in the temple and the way he overlooked his own sins–Luke 18:9-14.) Think also of the devout and God-fearing people like Lydia, Cornelius, and Apollos for these too needed to repent. You also need to have that inner renunciation of these “respectable” sins and come to Christ for His forgiveness.
(11) “When I was a young person, I made some attempt to believe in Jesus and repent, and then I was baptized. Later I came to see that I really did not rely upon Christ as Savior in my earlier experience nor did I truly repent. So I have come to the point of faith since my baptism. Will god accept this?”
Earlier in our study we notice that baptism demonstrates true faith in Christ and sincere repentance of our sins (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 18:8; Col. 2:12; Gal. 3:26-27). This would mean that if one actually did not fully repent at the time of his baptism, it really was not genuine “baptism” of Scripture. If one did not truly have faith in Christ Jesus at the time of his baptism, his “baptism” was not Scriptural baptism. Therefore, one is still unbaptized. This is true regardless of whether one was three months old, six years old, twelve years old, or thirty years old. If you have come to the place where you truly rely upon Christ and trust Him as Savior and sincerely desire to turn from all of your sins, you need to be genuinely baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).