The message of repentance was preached by the apostles. After the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost people enquired as to what they needed to do to be saved. “..Peter said to them, ‘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 fact that 'repent' was the first command given in all three examples I believe signifies that repentance is the first step towards salvation. Without repentance there is no salvation, so before we journey any further we need to ask ourselves the question ‘Did I repent and am I saved?’ Note that the understanding we get for repentance in scripture teaches that it is not just stopping in our tracks while still facing the same direction, neither is it just stopping and turning around but is instead a turning around and heading off in the opposite direction away from where we were heading before i.e. it is a fundamental transformation that affects us from the inside out and is evidenced by a change of mind and actions.
True repentance bears fruit
John the Baptist in Luke 3:8 says, “..bear fruits worthy of repentance, ... even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Note here that repentance bears good fruit that can be observed. John went on to explain, to those who asked, what the fruit of repentance looks like. In effect he was saying if you have more than enough while others are in need do not sit there and do nothing, help those who are in need. It is evil to think to yourself “I have two because God has blessed me but they have none because God is not pleased with them therefore I will not share with those whom God has cursed.” Here is the exact quote of what John said, John 3:11 “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” He goes on in verses 12-14 to explain that true repentance is also evidenced by our honesty and contentment. The story of Zacchaeus’ salvation is an exact example of what John was preaching, listen to what Zacchaeus said and Jesus’ response. Luke 19:8 “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ 9 And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, ...’” Zacchaeus’ statement is evidence of repentance which is the starting point of salvation, and Jesus Himself said it “Today salvation has come to this house..” Why? Because he who stole will steal no more but will instead now give back to those he stole from and will provide for those in need. Where there is no fruit there has been no repentance and without repentance there is no salvation.
You realised what’s rubbish
Be assured of this, there is no gaining Christ until we recognise that all our earthly achievements, pedigree and possessions are like filth when compared with the excellence of knowing Christ. A person who has truly repented and turned to God will quickly and willingly give up the pride of such past achievements and associations realising their worthlessness. If one struggles to let go their past life as Lot’s wife struggled to let go of Sodom then this would be evidence that something is wrong. Paul says, Philippians 3:7-8 “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish *[and I easily let them go as if they were stink and nasty], that I may gain Christ..” The gift of repentance is the gift of recognition, the opening of our eyes where we recognise that what we wallowed in was mud and what we lapped up was vomit. The sins we used to love and indulge in becomes so repulsive that we gladly turn from them to follow Jesus our newly found treasure and love. Romans 6:2 “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Peter speaking of unsaved Christians who only had a form of Godliness but never experienced true repentance said “..it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’” (2 Peter 2:22) According to 2 Corinthians 7:10 repentance borne out of godly sorrow is genuine and will lead to salvation.
Repent or you will all likewise perish.
Jesus said some things in His response to the news about some Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices and those who the tower fell on that most would find shocking. The first shock had to do with Jesus’ lack of political correctness as He did not mourn their death, He did not say He was sorry to hear about it, He did not ask about their now fatherless children, He did not mention consoling their families but said, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1) The faithless, unrepentant person will die in similar fashion. How did they die? Suddenly, without sanctity, and without God’s intervention as if their lives were not worth much to God. Back then people questioned the existence and character of God using the same reasoning as we do today. If there is a loving God why did He not intervene and stop innocent people from dying such horrible deaths? A second shock comes when we hear Jesus’ parable about the barren fig tree. Here Jesus seems to be telling us that the fruitless falls in the same category as those sinners who experience sudden horrible deaths. It is made clear that the extent of one’s sin is not what matters but whether one has repented of them. The notorious murderer who, in our estimation, deserves a horrible death is no different, in God’s estimation, from the unsaved ‘Christian’ who may be a 'goody two shoes' but is unrepentant and is therefore unfruitful.
Being able to repent is a gift that is more precious than money because the person who can repent will be saved but the one who cannot, will be dammed. Yes, repentance is a gift that must be granted by God. 2 Timothy 2:25 “..if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,..” No human effort can bring repentance, only the conviction of the Holy Spirit can lead a person into repentance.In a time when many are praying for health, wealth and prosperity I would advice that we pray for brokenness. That God gives us a heart that can be broken before Him when He, by His Spirit, convicts us of sins. Pray that He blesses us with brokenness that will, in times of conviction, bring us into a deep sorrow that will then result in repentance. This is priceless in these the end of days.
*My words are in parenthesis [...]