As we look into the great commission, our responsibility carries with it not only the task to “make disciples,” but also to teach “them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) We know from Acts 2:38, that one thing they needed to learn about, prior to their conversion, would be the act of repentance. What we seldom consider though, is the role it should play in our walk with Christ. So today I would like to take a moment and consider what God’s word teaches us about repentance.
I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will likewise perish. Luke 13:5
Like is so often the case today, religious people associated calamity as God’s punishment toward a person’s sinful conduct. (Note the question to Jesus found in John 9:2, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”) In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus used two calamities (Galilean’s killed by Pilate and 18 killed by the collapse of a tower in Siloam) to impress upon His listeners that all need to repent. Someone once said, “If we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in.”
Realizing its importance, it is only reasonable that we seek to understand what repentance means. In the NT, the Greek word means to think differently or afterwards reconsider [Strong’s]. Thayer’s gives us further insight, explaining that it means to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins. As one person put it, “It is foremost a decisive reorientation of one’s life away from the self and toward the Lord.” Some suggest that repentance is not a “work,” but something God does. But we learn from Acts 17:30 that God “now commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30)
Repentance is not merely internal, although it does begin there. Jesus challenged some Pharisees and Sadducees saying, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) When one recognizes their offense toward God, they seek to make things right internally (change one’s mind), but also outwardly. In Acts 19:19 those who believed, not only spoke of their sins, but also spoke of how many who practiced magic brought their books to be burned; books that were costly. What would cause them to do such a thing? This brings us to my final thought about repentance.
We know repentance is a change of mind that is to bring about a change in direction. But what brings someone to want to change? Paul say, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted.” (2nd Corinthians 7:10) It is great sadness that one feels when they realize they have offended God. It should take place prior to conversion (Acts 2:38) and should be evident in our walk with Christ (1st John 1:8-9). You see, repentance is not an event; but rather, a series of choices which reflect one’s genuine desire to please God.