Repentance is an instruction from God if we want a relationship with Him. If we seek His forgiveness, it’s an absolute—it’s not negotiable—not with God. Unlike some have indicated when mistakenly referring to your best life now, following Christ is more important than how much money you have in your bank account, or how much fun you’re having at any given moment.
With His own life, Christ paid the penalty of eternal death we owe for our sins. We know there’s nothing we can do to contribute to our forgiveness. It is a gift that cannot be earned.
So why repent? Interestingly, repentance is not only required for forgiveness, it is an indicator of an individual’s spiritual condition.
Luke 13:3 states,
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Without repentance, there is no change of heart. The free ride of forgiveness does not exist. If your heart is unchanged—your heart is unchanged.
In Acts 2:38 we read Peter’s words.
And Peter said to them, “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.
According to Peter, repentance and baptism go along with forgiveness of sins. We know that baptism is important in the life of every Christian. It was even important to Christ, who insisted that John the Baptist baptize Him.
Earlier in Matthew 3:11, John stated to those who sought baptism,
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
It’s important to remember that baptism does not purchase forgiveness. Again, it is the free gift of Christ, bought with His blood. But baptism is an act of obedience for each Christian to show the world that they are followers of Christ and to identify with Him.
Paul taught followers in the early Church to be baptized and then believe in Jesus. In Acts 19:4 we see his instruction.
And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
Baptism was expected along with belief in Christ, but his point is clear—Christ requires the baptism of repentance. Again, it’s not baptism that produces salvation—but it goes with salvation.
When Peter explained to the early Church that God was offering salvation to the Gentiles, he stated in Acts 11:18,
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Repentance that leads to life is the key, and it is synonymous to early Christ followers with accepting Christ as Savior and Lord. It leads to salvation, it is required for salvation, and it is a sign of salvation.
Repentance means turning from sin we have committed—turning our backs on sin with great remorse.
There is a difference between sorrowful, sincere repentance before God for our sins of disobedience, and using repentance as a license to sin, knowing that we’ll be forgiven.
Repentance means we are going in the wrong direction and we must turn back. Clearly, we need to turn from evil to God.
Matthew 3:8 states that we are to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. This same command is repeated in Luke 3:8, as if Christ spoke of it often or emphasized it.
If we are not bearing fruit in our lives—and this is critical to Christ—perhaps we have a problem with repentance. At the very least, it’s a question to ask ourselves.
In my blog GOD’S FOUR STEPS TO FORGIVENESS, I outlined God’s instructions to King Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 regarding the people of Israel if they should fall into sin and turn away from God.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Turning from wicked ways is—turning from wicked ways. If we can sin without remorse and refuse to repent, are we really Christ followers?