Summary: Talks about what repentance is, its importance in salvation, and its importance as a foundation for revival.
(Some of the illustrations and a few of the points in this message were gained from researching what other contributors to this wonderful site have shared on this subject. Credit and thanks to them.)
Last week, we talked about the importance of humbling ourselves before God. We talked about feeling anguish over the things that grieve God. We talked about our desire to see a Holy Spirit revival come to our hearts, our families, our church, and our community. Today, I want to build on that sermon by talking about the importance of repentance.
Repentance is a word you don’t hear as much about in today’s preaching. Yet is at the very heart of the gospel of salvation. It is at the very heart of a vital intimate relationship with God. It is at the heart of a powerful and effective prayer life. It is the one of the key elements in preparing our hearts for revival.
What repentance IS: Repentance means to turn FROM sin and TOWARD God. It is an INWARD conviction that results in a change in OUTWARD choices and behaviors.
What repentance is NOT: It doesn’t have to be an emotional decision. When I was younger, I waited to become a Christian because I thought it was supposed to be an emotional moment when I repented. I had seen others come forward in tears to become a Christian. So I was waiting for a service where I was moved to tears before I gave my life to Christ. But, looking back, I realize that I just wasn't an outwardly emotional person as a kid. Now, since marrying and having children, I cry at the drop of a hat (movies, sappy stories, etc). But back then, I didn't cry much. I eventually realized that repentance is state of mind whereby you agree with God that you want to flee sin and obey Him.
Repentance is not a state of perfection. It is not a state of perfection. I don't want anyone to hear this sermon today and think, "I still sin. I must not be repentant and therefore not saved." The difference between a repentant believer and an unrepentant unbeliever is that, you may not be perfect, but your INTENT is to please God. When you DO sin, it bothers you and you desire to confess it and receive God’s forgiveness. You want to deal with the sin in your life and overcome it.
Repentance is at the heart of salvation. There are many today who preach a salvation message that does not stress the importance of repentance. Some teach that a profession of faith in Christ is all that is needed for salvation. So many today want to build a whole doctrine around one verse without considering the full context of God’s Word on the subject. For example, a lot of people look to the Romans 10: 9 and say that belief and a profession of faith is all it takes to be saved. Romans 10: 9, “… if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
But I could take you to verses that link every step of the salvation process with repentance. One verse that cuts straight to the chase is… Luke 13: 3, “… But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” But, to me, the most clear cut verse in all the Bible is in Acts 2. The apostles are asked a DIRECT QUESTION about what the people needed to do to receive salvation and they give a DIRECT ANSWER. Acts 2: 37 – 39, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
I must admit I have mixed feelings when I hear a preacher lead a group of people in a prayer and then say, “If you prayed that prayer, you just got saved.” A crusade is held and hundreds or thousands mouth a prayer and leave believing they were just saved. First of all, baptism is also an important part of washing your sins away and publicly identifying with Christ. But, second of all, did the people truly have repentant hearts or were they just interested in saying some "magic words" and getting a “get out of Hell free” card? The best indicator is to simply examine the fruit of their life four, six, or twelve months down the road. Jesus said that, if we want to know what kind of tree a particular tree is, just examine its fruit. By extension, I believe He was talking about people. Just watch them over time and examine their fruit. Are they striving to live for Christ and growing in their faith? Or have they gone right back to the life they were living before?