REPENT MEANS CHANGE
The founder of the Salvation Army predicted several conditions of the church in the last days before the Lord’s return. One of the items he saw coming was Christianity without repentance, which results in what can be called “easy believism” as has become evident today.
Evangelistic endeavors common today focus on simply “ask Jesus to come into your heart”, and that’s all there is to becoming a Christian. Much emphasis has been placed on the grace of God; (I refer to it as the “greasy grace” message). The grace message has been abused and carried beyond what God ever intended. In fact, the term “grace” as is commonly used in evangelism is a word that most Christians don’t even know what it means.
Some denominations base their entire evangelism on the phrase, “You are saved by grace”. It is true that without God’s grace there could be no salvation experience. But it is not grace that saves us as so many have been taught. Grace is best understood as “God’s provision”; God’s grace ‘provided” a means for mankind to be restored to him. God’s provision is Jesus who came in the flesh and died for the penalty of sin on our behalf. God’s provision was revealed in His covenant promise with Abraham who prophetically declared, “God will provide a lamb”:
Genesis 22:8 - And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
Grace is what brings the offer of salvation to a person. That grace is freely given to all people:
Titus 2:11 – For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Everyone on earth has been given the grace of God even though many do not know it. Does that mean everyone on earth is saved? …..of course not! (That is why we are commissioned to preach the gospel message – Romans 10:14-17.) It depends on what a person does with that provision that is so freely given. If grace saves, then all people would be saved, but this is surely not the case. Why, because there is a key missing ingredient to the idea of “saved by grace”. That missing ingredient is “faith”, or trust in what God has provided.
Ephesians 2:7-8 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Note that the grace is the gift from God not the faith to accept it).
How does one accept God’s gift of grace (provision) ……by faith, trusting in the divine offer. God’s provision for salvation is like a contract that consists of and “offer” and an “acceptance”. His grace makes the offer of salvation and faith is our acceptance. The responsibility is then in a persons own hands as to what he does with God’s grace gift – either accept it or reject it.
Romans 10:9-11– That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Faith requires an evidence; proof that what is now believed is now valid in a persons life. That evidence is known as faithfulness, being obedient to the faith one confesses.
Hebrews 11:6 – But without faith (faithfulness) it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Let’s look at how this worked when the church first began as recorded in Acts 2. The first people to be added to the church as a result of Peter’s preaching are those who received the message of God’s provision and were stirred in their hearts to accept by faith. After their acceptance of the message they inquired as to what to do next.
Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
To this basic and very important question Peter replied with the only possible answer:
Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Repent and be baptized, EVERYONE OF YOU! Accepting Jesus as Savior without repentance (changing) from your old self centered way of living produces impotent Christians. These are people who claim to Christians and go to church and may appear to be religious, but their life outside of church, their actions, behavior, speech, etc. does not reflect Christ. Without repentance there is no change.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. They’ve changed!
Preaching the grace message without preaching repentance produces dirty saints, (if they are really saints at all, since “saint” refers to one who is sanctified). This produces a church that represents man’s character and personality and not Christ’s. Many Christians and churches need to repent of self indulgence and get back to missed basics, listed as “principles” in Hebrews 6, including repentance, faith and baptisms.
Hebrews 6:1-2 – Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, …..
Baptism is a physical action that represents dying to the old sinful life with its corruption; burying it, and then coming up into a new life by a new way of living. Baptism is symbolic of repentance or change of life – the old is done away and a new life begun. Please note that baptism is done be immersion into water as in being buried; sprinkling doesn’t represent a burial.
Romans 6:4 – Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Colossians 2:12 – Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Most believers do not understand why Jesus was baptized. We must recognize that baptism is a sign of repentance and change, putting off the old life and rising up in to the new life. So why was Jesus baptized? Jesus had no sin, he was sinless. He was baptized to publicly show that he was repenting – changing His way of life.
Matthew 3:13-15 – Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Up until the time when Jesus was baptized, he lived as the son of Joseph, the carpenter. It seems as though Joseph had died as he is not mentioned in Jesus’ adult life. Since Jesus was the first born of the family, he now becomes the head of the family and the family business according to Hebrew tradition. This is why His mother, Mary relied on Him; and also why Jesus passed Mary’s care over to the apostle John at his crucifixion –
At his baptism, Jesus was repenting, changing his life; changing from serving his earthly father, Joseph, his family and the family trade. He buried his former life by being immersed under water. Then He comes up out of the water into a new life. Now He is going to serve His Heavenly Father.
Matthew 3:16-17 – And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
At this point, his Heavenly Father acknowledges Jesus as His Son before all the people present. By this you can plainly see that sprinkling, as used in many churches, does not represent true baptism of repentance. Please don’t get hung up about whose name you get baptized in as some church groups do. The focus is to be on the act, what it represents, and what it means to be baptized, and that you are doing it as unto Him; following Him in a new way of living. The act of baptism is not a mere formality or ritual, it is done with a sense of purpose and the intent of the heart to change your life.
Those who have accepted God’s provision and believe the gospel message but have not truly repented and been baptized seem to lack the strength, power or ability to live a godly life. They are the ones who have nagging problems with besetting sins and backslide so easily or quickly. There may be no evidence in their life of salvation. They claim to be a Christian, but you can’t tell it by the way they live and the things they do. They haven’t truly REPENTED – they haven’t CHANGED!
What needs to be repented of; what needs to change? What is it in human nature that causes everyone to sin? …..LUST of the human “will”! The “I want”, or “I will” desire that motivates people.
James 1:14-15 – But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. –
Every one of us has lust; its forms and manifestations may vary from person to person, but we all have lusts; better recognized as the selfish, or soulish nature. We were born with it; it is a feature of the old carnal nature, the sin nature that Jesus came to deliver us from.
Lust is not a spirit that can be cast out of a person as I have seen some try to do in the past. You can’t cast it out because it is part of you, but you can learn to control it if you are so taught, disciplined and equipped. Lust is a quality of the soul which is in the human mind with all of its emotions, intellect, personality, will, and most importantly, your desires. The human will is where lust is centered and becomes a driving force. The human “will” is also referred to at being the heart of the individual.
The will is simply that part of you that “wants”. It can also be referred to as the “flesh” or “self”. Some people are more “self-ish” than others. Self-ish-ness, or the big “I” is the lust that has to be dealt with in everyone of us. Some people lust for money; others for power; others for sex, or position, recognition or fame; and the list goes on.
When the “self” or “I want” part of a person is enticed, that person will eagerly seek to satisfy that desire. The result is usually sin, a transgressing or violation of a law or of another person or a command of God; as listed in James 1:15 above.
As a new creation in Christ, having repented of such willful and wanton things, a true saint of God now uses the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit to help him overcome and control the lusts of the old nature. This is known as “being led of the Spirit”. The “self” needs to die and be buried, even daily, as it seeks resurrection to regain control of a life.
Galatians 5:16-18 – This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law
Galatians 5:24 – And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
The desires of the flesh (self) are listed for us:
Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
However, the believer, who lives a repented life is able to have the new life, the Christ-like life, show forth from him.
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Such divine qualities are actually the character and nature of the Spirit of Christ which is to be fully revealed in every true believer. However, they must be diligently exercised by a deliberate act of your will in preferring and conforming to the will of God. Thus your desires are consecrated to Him. The exercise and continued practice of walking in the Spirit allows His fruit, His life – the life of the vine to reproduce His likeness in you.
John 15:1-5 – I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
This is the goal and purpose of Christian maturity, to reproduce the Fruit of the Spirit which is the likeness of Jesus Christ in you.
Galatians 4:19 – My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
Thus we see why Peter gave the command to the new believers in Acts 2:38 to repent and be baptized; then they were able to receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that equips the saints with the ability to live a Christ filled and Christ-like life.
Romans 8:29 – For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Colossians 2:26-27 – Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Now another reason why repentance is so necessary: the normal fleshly, sinful nature is not acceptable in the Kingdom of God and those who continue living so are not accepted in the kingdom.
Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Christians are instructed to put off such behavior.
Galatians 5:24 – And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The life of Christ is to be manifested in all true Christians and evident by the way we live:
Ephesians 4:21-32 – If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Note that the following was written to the Church, the Christians at Rome:
Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 13:11-14 – And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
1 John 3:2-3 – Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Now most Christians seem to think that they will change their thinking and behavior at the resurrection. WRONG! The only change that takes place at that time is in our physical bodies which are changed from mortal to immortal; to be like Christ after His resurrection. The reason we remain on earth after accepting Christ is so that we can learn and mature spiritually to become more like Him.
Ephesians 4:13-15 – till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
We are not to wait till He comes and gathers us to Himself in order to change our way of living some think; that change is for us HERE and NOW. Could this also be why the five foolish virgins were not able to get into the wedding celebration – because their “light” went out? (That light being the life of Christ in them – the light of the world.)
Matthew 25:8-12 – And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Can you now see why repentance is so important. Salvation without repentance changes nothing! Those who don’t change and conform to Him will not be accepted in the kingdom. Change from selfish fleshly indulgent lifestyle into His image by denying self and be loving, giving, and merciful as representatives of His kingdom.
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
We are all waiting for the foretold harvest; harvest time is when the fruit is ripe! God is waiting to see His desired fruit in His people. That fruit is the “Fruit of the Spirit” which is the character and nature of God that comes through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ – by abiding in the vine.
John 15:1-8 – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Matthew 13:23 –But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
The seed sown is the Word of God, Jesus as we receive Him, and as we mature His character and nature is formed in us as “fruit”. Some produce 30%, some 60% and some 100%. Verse 22 shows how some do not produce any fruit, or have none of His character and nature.
Repentance, change in the way we live, act, behave, talk and think is needed in the church today. Thus we will be able to have a greater impact on the world for righteousness. Then when we preach repentance to the world they will be more prone to listen because they see the evidence. Action speaks louder than words!