We all need God’s saving grace through the death and resurrection of His Son. Our natural condition is one of sin, which makes us guilty in the eyes of God. We know that the penalty for sin is death. That is what we all deserve, eternal separation from God. Because of His great love for us and his desire to have a relationship with us, He sacrificed his Son so we can live together in perfect harmony with God. When we believe we become righteous in the eyes of God.
Repentance means to look at something that you did in the past, recognizing that it was sinful, that it broke God’s good and beneficial laws, and concluding you need to change for the better. We become different people. We no longer live for ourselves. We put away the things of the world and set our minds on the things of God.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
There is nothing natural about our new life; it is a matter of choosing obedience to your Savior. The only way this can happen is through the work of the Holy Spirit. He is our life changer. He will convict us of sins in our life that need to be confessed and give us a desire and courage to change the way we live. Real, genuine repentance and sorrow for our sin, results in permanent changes.
As Peter wrote, God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples to teach about His sacrifice and also that they should preach about repentance and remission of sins. Essentially, repentance is a complete change of thought, attitude, and action. It is like making a giant u-turn in live.
What does this look like in real life?
I had a student in our Anchors class years ago who was very popular, a sharp dresser, and was extremely smart and extremely naughty. The students loved her. Most, I imagined, wanted to be just like her. She attended the first several classes, took notes, but I could tell she didn’t quite get what this Jesus was all about…that was until we studied the death and resurrection of Christ. We started with the prophecies about Jesus and his death and resurrection, why he had to go through such pain and suffering, and then His glorious resurrection. I shared with them that until you understand that He died for your own personal sins and that when you believe and receive His gift of forgiveness of every single sin that you have ever committed in the past, present, and future, you will remain stuck in yourself with no hope of a future with God. When you choose to believe, God will give you freedom from guilt in the past and a new life. I told them to think about it for a few moments.
Ellen jumped up and said, “Oh my Gosh, I get it! I get it. Now I understand why He died. I want to share some things with the class now if it is ok.” I was not entirely convinced that she was serious, so I asked her to live out what she learned and come back next week to share. The next class began, and Ellen was more than eager to share what she had learned. “I left class last week and felt that I had to ask forgiveness of the parents of my friends for all the bad things I had talked them into doing. So, I went to each one of them. I woke some up because it got pretty late by the time I finished. I asked them to forgive me because God did and that I was now changing my life to be more like Jesus. I told them that I was now a new person. Then I went home and asked for forgiveness from my parents, which lasted for a while, but they also forgave me.” The class broke out into giant applause. Then she made an announcement, “I am inviting all of you this Saturday night at my house to a Resurrection Party. My mom will provide food and soft drinks.”
Never in my life have I, to this day, seen such a change in a person. We all went to the party, and it was a great success. I sought out the dumbfounded father. “Ellen loves parties. All of them, to this point, involved alcohol and whatever else was going on. I was like a cop trying to keep everything under control. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it. Surely it must true; when you believe in Jesus, life changes. I got my daughter back!”
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)