True Repentance

Scripture is clear that it is not enough to offer mere mental assent to the truth of the Word of God. Jesus warned His disciples, “‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’” (Matt. 7:21). James noted how even the demons believed there was one God but had neither saving faith nor true repentance (James 3:19). Saving faith (true belief) is always accompanied by sound action (true repentance).

Billy Graham referred to repentance as “a launching pad where the soul is sent on its eternal orbit with God at the center of the arc.” When true repentance takes place, a person’s life is moved away from himself and toward His Creator.

The Baptist Faith and Message says the following about repentance: “Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God.” This is a biblical definition. God has always required those who would be His people to turn to Him. God spoke through the prophet Joel to the people of Judah, “Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). The command was to “return” to God. Evidence of this turn could be seen in fasting and weeping and mourning.

Peter’s preaching contained the same message, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20). Again, the most basic idea of repentance seems to be turning from sin to God. So it is imperative that our proclamation of the Gospel include both a call to believe and a call to repent. This is, after all, the message of Jesus, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

So what does repentance look like? Maybe Pastor Thomas Scott is a good example. He learned that being a pastor did not make him right with God. He had to repent and believe the Good News. The same is true today. Being a church member or just believing is no guarantee of conversion. Believing and repenting is. We have one life to live. If it is going to be lived for God’s glory it will involve our faith in and repentance toward the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Justin Villines