Understanding Repentance

By Daniel D. Rodes

Introduction

 Understanding Repentance. Daniel RodesWe are living in a time when it is normal for people to backslide. Many have the mentality they can do as they please and still expect God to bless them. They have lost the fear of God and are not afraid to sin. Yet, when God doesn’t answer their prayers, they can’t understand why.

We must recognize we cannot reach Heaven with sin in our lives. Sin separates from God. When we are separated from God, He desires that we return to Him through repentance. Most people, today, do not understand how to repent.

Repentance really means to change your thinking toward sin and acknowledge that your sin is separating you from God. As you recognize your sin as exceeding sinful, it will stir the fear of the Lord in your heart.

Sin is attractive and fun for a season, but in the end, it brings destruction. This reminds me of a sermon I once heard entitled, “All Satan’s Apples Have Worms.” The minister stressed the idea that sin is appealing but ends with trouble. This message left quite an impression on me.

Sin will take you further than you want to go. It will get you into more trouble than you expected. When I was a young man, my father told me, “You’ll never become an alcoholic if you don’t allow alcohol to touch your lips. Stay away from it.” I honored that request. I have never tasted alcohol and it has saved me from much heartache. I have heard people say they could control their use of alcohol. They thought they could drink in moderate amounts, but soon became addicted. If they had never taken the first sip, they wouldn’t have become alcoholics.

People are being trained that as long as they become a “Christian,” then it is OK for them to sin. They confess, “We all sin and come short of the glory of God.” John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, declared, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). That’s pretty self-explanatory. You will not enter into the Kingdom unless you repent.

Some may say, “Well, I quit sinning.” No. That won’t work either. There has to be a time

that sin is cut off. God promised us redemption through Jesus Christ for sins that are past; “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). God only forgives the sins that are past. How do you know when that sin is cut off and finished? When it is no longer in operation. Sins that are past are no longer active, enjoyed or excused.

Some may ask, “What happens after repentance?” Repentance releases you from the guilt and condemnation that you had in the past. When you truly repent of the sin you committed, that sin does not exist anymore. It is removed. It may exist in the eyes of your brothers and sisters in the church. It may exist in the eyes of the heresy hunters and those who want to bring up your past. However, it will not exist in the eyes of God. Once you have repented, it is settled between you and the Most High God: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). He has taken away all of our transgressions, sins and rebellion. He promised to remember them no more. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). Why won’t God remember them? Because they don’t exist. A cry of repentance has been made. He will not remember sins and iniquities that have been forgiven and pardoned.

What Causes People Not To Repent?

A Cheap Gospel Known as the Gospel of Grace

 Some ministers teach a gospel that says, “The wages of sin is grace.” However, according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Grace does not allow us to sin. It is the key that keeps us from sinning. It helps us to overcome when we face trials and tests: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21). I have heard people interpret this verse by saying, “The more I sin, the more grace I receive.” They believe that grace gives you license to sin. This is not true. In the days of Noah, sin abounded all around him, but grace did much more abound to help him and his family overcome.

Deceitfulness of Sin

 Sin is candy coated. It is deceitful! Hebrews 3:13 warns, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin“. I have heard people make excuses for sin by saying, “I know people who are committing fornication or adultery and everything seems fine.”

You don’t know what is going on behind the scene. Payday has not yet come. In Hebrews 13:4, Paul declares, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” This ministry has received letters from youth crying out for help, “We have been committing fornication and we don’t know how to break free.” They had enjoyed sin for a season, but then came to the realization they were trapped and needed help to repent.

We must see the exceeding sinfulness of sin as written in Romans 7:13: “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Only after we see the wickedness of our sin will we have a true heart of repentance.

No Sorrow For Sin

 Many people have no regret for the sin they have committed. Today’s view of salvation is a mere, “Repeat after me….” A half-hearted apology is not true repentance. You may burn dinner and apologize for it, but it is still burnt. Apologies are not the same as repentance. God will not accept an apology. We must have true sorrow for sin: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Hardened Hearts

 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

I knew a man who had fallen into grievous sins. I asked him if he would allow me to help restore him. He replied, “I am so hardened to sin, I cannot repent. I can’t cry. I can’t do anything. I am stuck.”

If you are hardened to sin, the least you could do is try to cry. Beg God to help you repent.

I’ve been to the Wailing Wall in Israel many times. The people act as if they are crying and this often stirs them to truly cry. Some of them are being paid to mourn. The act of crying will not be accepted as true repentance, but it may get you started in the right direction. Ask the Lord to give you true tears of repentance. Ask Him for a broken and contrite heart. Matthew 21:44 says, “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” The Lord is saying, “If your heart is broken, I will forgive and cleanse you.”

Sin Has Become A Way of Life

 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).

The message of this verse is very serious. Those who continually live in sin are children of the devil. This doesn’t mean you will never make a mistake, but you will not willfully sin. You’ve made a decision not to sin any more. You have repented of your past and it is no longer your way of life. When temptation arises, you will not give in because you have made a decision to flee from sin.

The Belief That You Only Need To Stop Sinning

 I have heard people make the excuse, “I stopped sinning.” They believe that is repentance. Repentance is more than to merely stop sinning. You must be sorry for your sin and become dead to that sin.

Jesus found an impotent man in Bethesda and asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man responded, “… Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:7-9).

Later, Jesus came back to give him further instructions: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). Apparently, sin had caused this man to become ill. Jesus was instructing him, “Repent of your sins. Go and sin no more.”

Peter instructed the people in Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” The only way your sins will be blotted out is through true repentance. If you decide to stop sinning without repentance, it will be easier for you to return to the old sin when temptation arises. If you are truly sorry for your sin, you will hate it and will never return.

Evil Influence of Friends

 There may be a time in your life when you need to cut off your friends. You must get away from those associates who entice you to do wrong. They will cause you to fall. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12). Many people think they will be able to help or convert their sinful “friends,” but instead, those “friends” drag them down and pull them away from truth. By the time they realize they have been led astray, it is too late for repentance. Their prayers will not be heard.

Sometimes, even so-called Christian friends may hinder you by warning you to stay away from those who preach the truth. They may caution, “Don’t get messed up with those people; they are part of a cult.” I have been accused of being part of a cult. They blame me for taking away grace and making the way to Heaven extremely hard. I have never taught anything other than what is in the Bible. The way to Heaven may be hard, but repentance is here to deliver us from sin.

They Justify Themselves

 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

People have used this scripture as an excuse for sin. They justify themselves by saying, “We all sin. There is none righteous.” It is true that we are all born with a sinful nature, but that is the reason Jesus came-to redeem us FROM our sins. The Lord does not say, “Come to Me and I’ll take your sins away.” He says, “I first want your sins, then you come to Me. Give Me all of your sins.” Don’t justify yourself and try to hold on to your sins. Repent of them with tears and brokenness. Let Him take away those sins and wash you clean. Then, you will no longer need to justify yourself because you will be living a righteous and holy life.

They Are Caught In the Snare Of the Devil

 There are people who say, “I enjoy sin too much to stop. Furthermore, the Lord did not tell me to stop sinning.” Really? If you would read the Bible, you would find it is full of scriptures telling you not to sin. You are in a snare. You must rid yourself of all excuses and the religious theology that you have been taught.

2 Timothy 2:25-26 tells us, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” Through repentance you can recover yourself from the snare of sin. Even if you were alone in a jungle, you would still be capable of delivering yourself from the snare of the devil; but you must remember to repent. Those who continually fall back into the same trap have never truly repented. When you come to the realization that you will stand before the Almighty God on judgment day, the fear of God will come upon you and help you overcome.

Repentance

 What is Repentance?

 Repentance is an awareness that there is a separation between you and God because you have broken His laws and commandments. It is an acknowledgment of sin and a brokenness for that sin. It is a confession and turning away from wrong doing.

Many try to analyze whether one sin is worse than another. All sin separates from God. Even your “big mouth,” evil thought life, and negative opinions about someone else can separate you from God. You must acknowledge that these things are sinful. Sin must appear exceeding sinful.

Repentance Requires Confession

 The secret to repentance is confession. “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6). You need to acknowledge you have sinned. Confess that you have sin in your life that needs to be cut off and forgiven. Once confession comes, salvation may enter into your heart.

Zacchaeus was a small man who was determined to see Jesus. He climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Him passing by. Soon, Jesus came to the tree and called for him to come down. Zacchaeus hurriedly came down to meet Him. When he came face to face with Jesus, he confessed: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). As I mentioned earlier, repentance is thinking differently. Zaccheus no longer meditated on ways to take money from others. Instead, he desired to restore that which he had taken. Because he made these changes, Jesus promised him: “…This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).

 Repentance Requires Tears

 Today, people try to repent with a simple, “O, I’m sorry.” That is not true repentance. According to Joel 2:17, the people were told to weep for their sins: “Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” They cried and lamented for their wrongdoing.

Many people say they have no tears. If you are truly sorry for your sins, you will weep over them. King David wept with a broken heart after Nathan confronted him for his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. There have been many false interpretations of how Nathan approached King David concerning this sin. They believe Nathan was harsh. I believe he spoke to David with love and compassion, “David, thou art the man.” When King David heard these words, he was broken. Psalm 51 reveals his brokenness: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:1-4). David knew his actions had separated him from the Lord. He cried, “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Verses 9-11). David feared God. He was crying out to the Father not to remove the Holy Spirit from him. He was earnest- weeping and mourning. He appealed to the Lord, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Verse 12). He understood that sin destroys joy. God saw David’s brokenness and honored his request: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Verse 17).

Peter was also an example of someone who was broken for his sin. He denied that he knew Jesus, but when he heard the cock crow he was convicted of his sin. He remembered what Jesus had prophesied to him: “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34). How did He respond? “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). He repented with sorrow and tears.

Tears of Self-pity Do Not Attract God’s Attention

 The following paragraphs are examples of those who did not truly repent. Instead of brokenness, they had an “I’m sorry” type of repentance.

Esau wept only after he realized his blessing had been taken from him: “And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept” (Genesis 27:38). Then, he became angry and blamed others for his loss. Why didn’t God protect him? His heart was not right. There are many who weep, but Heaven will not hear tears of self-pity. They are crying for selfish reasons instead of repentance for their sinful ways.

King Saul wept, but not with brokenness. He immediately demanded honor to be given to him: “Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God” (1 Samuel 15:30). This generation weeps as Saul and Esau. The few tears they cry are from self-pity and have very little value with God.

Pharoah tried to repent: “And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked” (Exodus 9:27). True repentance means you cut off the sin. You change! Pharaoh did not desire to change; he only wanted to stop the plagues. When the plague stopped, he returned to his old ways. When he finally let the children of Israel go, he changed his mind and pursued after them. The Lord said he was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so” (Exodus 14:4). Don’t allow yourself to come to the place where God hardens your heart because of stubbornness.

In Luke 22:48, Jesus pled with Judas: “…Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” When Judas finally realized he had sentenced an innocent man, he tried to repent: “Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is

that to us? see thou to that.” (Matthew 27:4). His cry did not reach Heaven. Judas was only saying, “I am sorry I did it.” He didn’t have a heart of brokenness and repentance. He chose, rather, to hang himself.

Many people have gone the same route as Judas. They chose to kill themselves instead of acknowledging their sins and repenting. What if Judas had fallen on his face in repentance and cried, “Lord, I have sinned. I have transgressed. I acknowledge my sins”? When wicked Ahab humbled himself before God, he attracted God’s attention. Humility touches the heart of God. He is looking for someone willing to acknowledge they have sinned and repent with brokenness.

Balaam acknowledged he was wrong, but his will was not broken. When your will is not broken, you will not truly repent. Cry out to the Lord as the Psalmist: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to Thy mercy remember Thou me for Thy goodness’ sake, O LORD” (Psalms 25:7). God wants you to repent and give Him your sins. He is in Heaven calling and waiting for you, “Come home, O prodigal son. Come home!” Make a decision that you are no longer going to walk in the sinful path. When you have truly repented, He will not remember your sins anymore.

Repentance Requires a Cutting Off

 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). The Bible teaches us to repent by cutting off sin at the roots. Once sin has been cut off, those roots cannot be fed by your flesh anymore. Who lays the axe to the root of the tree? I believe you are the one to pick up the axe and hand it to the Lord to chop down the tree. You make the first move by desiring to be closer to the Lord: “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.

Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8).

Some of you have problems in your marriage. Repent of the way you have been treating your spouse. Ask the Lord to help you change. Make a decision not to argue. Cut off the things of the past. Allow the love of God to flow through you. God’s grace will help you to live together in peace.

I once read the account of a man who would not debate with anyone. When he was challenged or someone tried to argue with him, he would not respond. He had made a decision not to argue. He cut off the temptation to quarrel with anyone. I have made the same decision. I won’t argue with those who disagree with my teaching. I’m not going to respond to their folly. I don’t have anything to say. There is a quote that says, “Convince a man against his will, he’s of the same opinion still.” There is no point in trying to argue when you know the other person will not change their way of thinking. Learn to live in peace with those around you. Lay the axe to the root of anything that causes strife.

If there is any sin within your life, it must be cut off. That is the only way to true freedom. Brokenness and repentance are tools to help you cut off your past.

Repentance

Requires Fruit

 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8).

What is the fruit of repentance? You acknowledge and confess your sins and cut them off: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then, you make a change of direction in your life: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Instead of committing sin, you now have a righteous lifestyle.

There is a possibility that someone may backslide after they have repented, but they can be restored. However, there is judgment for those who willfully return to sin after repentance: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

Conclusion

 Some prisoners were given a Gideon Bible. Instead of reading the Bible, they began using the pages to roll cigarettes. They had torn out all the pages up to the Book of Leviticus when a new convict arrived. He began questioning them about the Book they were tearing up. They explained, “The Gideons gave us this Bible, but instead of reading it we use it to roll cigarettes.” This man began reading the torn Bible and received salvation. God’s Word does not return

void. You may try to tear up the Bible and ignore the convictions in your heart, but they will face you at the judgment.

No matter how many excuses you make, you will face all of God’s Word on the other side.Your religious theology will not stand before God’s judgment. There comes a day that you must repent. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). You will not break free from your habits, addictions or anything else until you decide to repent. Confess and acknowledge that these things have become your god and you are finished with  them.

The message of repentance will never end: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Repentance is truly the key to reaching Heaven. God will never turn His face away from a broken heart.

This article is an excerpt from a sermon taught at

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They brought a woman to the Lord-

Caught in adultery

And said, “The law would have her stoned

Now Lord, do you agree?”

Then Jesus said, “You cast the stone

In whom no sin is found.”

Then slowly turned Himself around

and wrote upon the ground.

 

CHORUS:

O’ sinner lost and dying,

That’s the reason for Calvary;

That’s the reason for the cross-

To set the captive free.

I know you are a sinner,

That’s what I came here for;

I the Lord have pardoned you

Now go and sin no more.

 

When Jesus turned Himself about,

He saw her stand alone;

He saw the teardrops in her eyes

and heard that inward groan.

He knew the crowd had slipped away;

In them some sin was found;

While He had turned Himself around

And wrote upon the ground.

 

© Copyright Daniel D. Rodes