Jesus said, “...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3). These are very serious words from our savior, and should give us pause to consider the truth of them. What does it mean to repent, and how does that factor into our eternal salvation? Many might simply say that repentance is when we ask God for forgiveness. However, this falls far short of the true definition. We must understand and practice repentance.
Repentance is, literally, a “turning” – the idea is that one is going in a particular direction, and decides to turn, and to go in a different or opposite direction. It carries the concept of a change of mind, and thereby a change of action. These two things, thought and action, are completely intertwined in the Bible picture of salvation. If we think we should change, our actions should follow; if our actions do not change, then we really don’t think that we should. Repentance is a lifelong action.
Paul the Apostle teaches in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 that “Godly sorrow produces repentance [leading] to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Even though we have seen that repentance is much more than feeling sorry, having a sorrow about what we have done is absolutely necessary in order to produce repentance. We must understand that we have sinned, and that we deserve no praise, no thankfulness, no measure of approval by God. It is our sorrow that should bring us to change our behavior.
We must understand that repentances does not CREATE salvation. Our repentance LEADS to salvation (2 Cor. 7:9). It is one of the conditions that God has set forth for us to be saved.
Repentance often carries with it hard choices, and great sacrifices. Many things that we take pleasure in might have to be given up for a life in service to God. Ezra 9 and 10 record a time when the Israelites were commanded by God to divorce wives they had no right to marry in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Some today have to make a similar decision, based upon the Law of Christ.
If we choose to repent, we must do all that repentance demands. If we think we have changed while holding to the things we should be running away from, we will face a grim day in judgment. Thankfully, we can trust in God and know that if we change our lives to fit what He has given us, we will be blessed. -Steven McCrary