From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17 ESV)
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. (Acts 2:38 ESV)
Repentance is an important part of the Christian message. The Bible use "repent" to mean stop doing sinful activities and start doing what God wants.
Our sin kept us from God. At the same time, changing our behavior will not save us. We are only saved because God forgave us based on Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
So, if turning away from sin will not save us, why repent? We turn away from sin because it nearly killed us. If we continue to sin, it will affect us negatively, even if we are forgiven. We need to repent for our own sake.
Repent because He forgave us
But we also need to repent because we have been forgiven. Imagine a co-worker walks up to you every day and kicks you in the shin. After many years he come up to you and, rather than kick you in the shin, apologizes for kicking you all these years and asks you to forgive him. You are touched by his sincerity and forgive him. The next day, he walks up to you and kicks you in the shin.
What are you going to think? Was yesterday just an act? When you forgave him, you thought he would stop.
We need to repent for our own sake
Why should it be different with God? He forgave us a huge debt and gave us new life. Furthermore, he gives us His grace—the desire and power to do right. Shouldn't we use that grace to stop sinning?
The apostle Paul wrote: But thanks be to God,that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18 ESV).
If you want to truly repent, if you want to be free from sin, try these steps.
- It always starts with a decision. Make a commitment to God and yourself that you want to turn away from your sins.
- Read Romans 6. This chapter of Paul's letter gives good information on being free from sin.
- Ask God for His grace. God has not left us helpless. More than forgiveness, He offers us the power to overcome sin.
- Clear out the junk. Do you have a pornography stash? Throw it out. Fortune telling devices? Burn them. A supply of drugs? Get rid of it. Remove anything from your life that will tempt you to sin.
- Live like a free person. Believe that you have been delivered. Have confidence in the power of God to overcome sin.
Bob Caldwell is Theologian-in-Residence at Network 211.