“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”(Luke 5:32).
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”(Acts 3L19).
Repentance is walking on the new and correct path and turning from the past. In Christianity, repentance is the first step in becoming a Christian. The prophets asked their people to repent in the olden days. Jesus also said, “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”(Matthew 4:17). He commanded his disciples to preach this to the people when they left for their evangelistic missions. The path to enter heaven is by repentance and to recognize yourself a sinner and then stop sinning.
The prophet Isaiah said, “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins”(Isaiah 58:1). If we want to be good people, we have to recognize our guilt and sins first. Without knowing what these things are we cannot fix them.
But, most of us dont try to recognize our faults, today. We are too self-confident, and proud. We never think of ourselves as sinful, so we feel bad when we are called sinners. Most people want to be flattered. However, there is nothing better than to see our faults so that we can make our lives bright and beautiful.
Jesus was resurrected three days after he died on the cross, and He rose to heaven 40 days later. The disciples of Jesus gathered in an attic in Jerusalem after Jesus ascension and prayed with unified hearts to receive the Holy Spirit from above. As a result of this, all 120 people who prayed there all received the Holy Spirit.
Among them, was Peter the one who had been the first disciple but had denied knowing Jesus three times. He repented and prayed one and received the Spirit to prove the power of Jesus in front of a multitude of people in Jerusalem. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this; God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witness to this”(Acts 2:36, 3:14,15). When the people heard this, their hearts were touched and they said to Peter; “Brother, what shall we do?”(Acts 2:37).
His warning and pointing out of their sins touched their hearts. Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”(Acts 2:38). In the afternoon, Peter said in the synagogue, “Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that a time of renewal may come from the Lord”(Acts 3:19). In this phrase, a time of renewal means the day of salvation when we can be released from our sins. The conditions for having this are faith and repentance.
As was said before, repentance is not just an awareness of sin. Repentance is an act of turning away from sin. Turning away from the past is called rebirth. Repentance and rebirth are two aspects of the same experience. However there is a little difference between them. Repentance is the work of humans; rebirth is the work of God. Jesus told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 18:3). It sounds very strange to tell adults to be like little children. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil”(Jeremiah 13:23).
Can we expect to be better by repenting by our own efforts or with our own strength? We have already learned that our pledge and determination are not strong at all. A real repentance is beyond the reach of our own power. Some people believe that we can be changed by education or training. They believe that we can change a sinner into a righteous person. But we can’t change our real characters.
The apostle Paul who was a well-educated and moral person lamented his weakness and imperfections.
There is only one way. It is the experience of rebirth. Once Nicodemos, a Jewish leader, visited Jesus. He was a very good and well educated person and was working as a member of the ruling council. He wanted to receive Jesus teaching.
Unlike the apostle Paul, he seemed to think that his own life was perfect and his character was good. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth; no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again, and the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”(John 3:5-8).
According to this saying, true repentance is rebirth, which is, being a new person. But we can’t experience a rebirth by our own efforts. Only Gods grace provides us with the way to rebirth by his great power.
Paul recorded his experience, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared…He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”(Titus 3:3-5). Paul tells us that rebirth is only by the Holy Spirit, not by us. Therefore, if a sinner wants to live right, he has to receive new life from the Holy Spirit through an experience of rebirth. When we say that we believe in Jesus and repent, it means two things. First, we receive forgiveness for all our sins. And second, we receive new life from Jesus. Without these two things, we can never be saved. This experience is like a breath of fresh air blown into our hearts. No one can feel it except the repentant person himself.
There are some steps that we must take to experience rebirth. First, we must know our sins. Once, someone asked Grotdustin, an English prime minister. What do we need in modern life? He answered, knowing our sins.
Awareness of sin is very important thing if we want control our personal and social life. But these days many people dont realize that they are sinful even though they commit sins every day.
What a pity it is, if we dont know when we are living in the sin! Every one of us is born sinful since Adam, and is living in sin, so there is no one who has no sin.
Something to consider is that among all sins, the biggest sin is not knowing and believing in God. If a child doesn’t know his parents or ignores them, he is a sinner. Like this, if we don’t honor our Heavenly Father who gave us life, we also sin. Not keeping the Commandments and being disobedient are also sins. Having wrong thoughts in our minds is also a sin. Not doing righteous things even though we know how to is also a sin. So there is no one who is not sinning.
Second, we must repent. If a person realizes he is a sinner and he is doing wrong, he has to repent with a sincere heart. Paul mentioned in a letter to the Corinthian church, “yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance... Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death”(Corinthians 7:9-10). Sorrow means being sad about doing our sins and being contrite. This sorrow, which can lead us to salvation, is a turning point to a new life. It’s not just being sorry or full of regret. It must be a much bigger feeling. When we think of God’s infinite love and the suffering that Jesus experienced, when we realize His suffering was from our transgressions, we start to feel great inspiration in our hearts and we start to hate sin like we hate our enemies. “This is the sorrow we must feel in our hearts. Paul said; God’s kindness leads you toward repentance”(Romans 2:4). Nothing but the Holy Spirit can make us experience this. This is the work of God.
Third, we must confess our sins. The thing to comfort us, when we suffer through repentance, is confession of our sins. John said in his letters, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9). It is very easy for us to receive forgiveness for our sins. We should only admit that we have sinned and confess what we have done. Then God will forgive all our sins. So when a person confesses all his sins faithfully, his concern will turn into peace and his sorrow into gladness.
When we confess, we need wisdom and courage. We must not confess without wisdom. If the sin is private, we have to confess only to God who can forgive us. But if we have offended our neighbors, we must admit the wrong and beg their pardon. If it is property damage, we must pay for it. If we can’t do it, we must explain our circumstances and make a compromise. And if we commit sin in public, we must confess the sin before those people. But if we expose a personal secret, it is not right at all and of course, it is opposed to Biblical principles.
Forth, we must separate ourselves from sin.
The last thing is to be separated from sins. According to Paul, this means to turn away from sinning: “they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds”(Acts 26:20). We now need to walk on a new path in our new life after we turn away from the sinful and passionate way we were. We do this by being baptized. Baptism is a symbol that shows our forgiveness and rebirth and our desire to enter the Christian Church to live as a Christian.
Lets think about life after repentance. Are we really free from sin after we have an experience of repentance? No. Satan still wants to tempt and test those who have repented.
How can we overcome his temptation? This is the most important thing for those who have experienced rebirth. The secret is to overcoming Satan’s temptation is this-to make Jesus Christ, who is the power of our life, live in us.
“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him”(Colossians 2:6). We must accept Jesus as our Lord, and crucify ourselves. In other words, when we suppress all our passions and give ourselves to Jesus each day, we can live our lives in triumph.