Summary: This message is about Repentrance - what it means in Scripture and how it starts with the heart versus the mouth. True repentance is not just saying you're sorry , it's actually being sorry and willing to stop and change.
What It Means To Repent
Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” The phrase, “turn from their wicked ways” means to repent. It means to stop. It means that you’ve had a change of heart and want to do something different. Keep this in mind as we go through this message this morning because when we repent, then God is able to act on our behalf – He is able to hear our prayers; forgive our sins; and provide for us.
In my last two series of messages I talked about the grace of God; what it was, how it worked and what it did and did not do for each of us as Christians. That series opened the door to the series pertaining to whether or not it was possible for a Christian to walk away from their salvation. In that series I shared with you that the Bible says it is possible for someone to turn their backs on Christ. Actually, the Bible says not only is it possible, but that it will happen. The word translated for a person doing this is apostasy or what some Bible translations calls backsliding. The core tenet of both series was the idea of repenting and asking forgiveness. I mentioned repenting in both series but I did not dwell on the subject. Understanding what it means to repent is the key to maintaining our relationship with God and not thinking we are righteous when we are not. Remember, there are many people who are going to be surprised when they end up in hell because of house they are choosing to live here on earth. The title of my message today is “What It Means to Repent?”
How many of you parents have had children who sometimes did things intentionally to their siblings and you told them to say they were sorry. The child, fearing the outcome of what would happen if they refused your request would look at their sibling and say “I’m sorry.” If they were truly being pushed to say it when they did not feel it they would simply say, “Sorry!” Sometimes the child was truly sorry for their actions, but those other times they meant to do exactly what they did. It was during those times when we made them say they were sorry that we knew they were only saying they were sorry because they were being forced to do so. We knew they did it intentionally and was only saying they were sorry because they were being forced. In reality, they were not sorry at all. In our society when someone says they are sorry it is an admission that they made a mistake that might have hurt someone else. This is why some struggle to say they are sorry because they do not want to admit that they messed up. Think about what is happening in our society now. How many times have you heard police officers say they were sorry when they killed someone who was not threatening them? If they were to say those words then society would immediately latch on to the words as an admission of guilt which would play against them if they were to ever go to trial. For this reason people struggle saying they are sorry and believe it or not, this is the same reason some people struggle with the thought of repenting. This is what we will examine this morning, what it really means to repent and how to know with certainty if you have done it.
I want you to notice something. When John the Baptist started his ministry, his message was simple and to the point – repent! Matthew 3:1-2 says, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 3:1-2) Matthew chapter four verse seventeen shows us that Jesus began His ministry the exact same way as John and with the exact same words. It says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matthew 4:17) When Jesus sent the disciples out on their first missionary tour, do you want to guess what their message was? “And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” (Mark 6:12) After Jesus was resurrected and the disciples started their ministry, the book of Acts records the first public sermon that Peter delivered. I wonder what Peter talked about? “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 you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38) There is a common theme in the message that each person stressed when they began their ministry. The essential message of John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples on their first missionary tour, and Peter on the Day of Pentecost, was “Repent.” Repentance is the first “word” they delivered in their very first message and this alone underscores how important repentance is to salvation and to remaining in that salvation. In order for someone to move from a life of sin into the body of Christ they had to repent from their sins. While we use this word a lot in Church, we seldom stress the meaning of the word and how important the message of repentance really is. This morning I hope to do just that in this message.