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Friday, September 9, 2011

What Is Repentance?

Acts 2:37-38 (ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 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.

Repentance is normally described as turning away from the direction you were going. This is true but this defintion doesn't encompass all that Peter meant in the above passage. It required some action.

The people at Pentecost heard the gospel story told by Peter. They fell under conviction. True conviction demands action. They asked what they must do. They knew that their previous actions were damning. They wanted to believe.

Peter tells them that they must repent.-- But repent from what? Most say this means to repent of their sins but it has to mean much more. They had to repent of their former belief that Jesus was merely a man. They had to repent of following their religious leaders who presented Him as such. They had to see their former actions of works to produce a right relationship with God as wrong and accept the gift of salvation given by this new faith.

Baptism did not save them but it was an outward action that revealed an inward faith. It was necessary to have this outward action to cement their faith. An outward action provides a physical memory of their faith. The New Testament statement is clear: Every believer who had a chance to be baptized did so. It did not save them but allowed them to declare that they had repented of their former way of life to walk a new life in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit came to inhabit the repentant heart. The heart was clean of its former inhabitants. It was made ready by the acceptance of Jesus Christ. The Spirit received the heart of the new believer as home rather than as a place to visit. This was new to the world. They knew that the Holy Spirit came upon people but He did not stay. Now, those who believed possessed the Spirit.

I find that many churched people do not understand repentance. They think that it means that you want to believe. They want to believe so they come to church. They want to believe so they are dunked in the water meant for baptism. They want to believe but they really haven't believed because they do not exhibit a life of repentance. They are not new creations.

Those who want to believe but never repent are like those who want to take a trip to Israel but never go. They look at the pictures, listen to the stories of others and even read the history of the land. In order to go to Israel, you have to leave where you are (unless you are already in Israel while reading this). You have to repent of where you are. You can't simply talk like you have been when you haven't.

Churches have many members who want to believe but have never repented. Thus, there are the problems in understanding spiritual things. How can they understand spiritual things when they do not possess the Spirit? Of course, this does not eliminate preachers who have merely wanted to believe. They may have charismatic personalities which draw people in but their lives do not reveal those who walk in the Spirit. They, too, merely want to believe without repentance.

The question for each of us is whether we have repented and believe that Jesus is Lord. If we repent, there is nothing we won't do for the Lord. In fact, we can do everything because He inhabits us.

Have you truly repented? Have you been baptized? Do you possess the Holy Spirit?

1 comment:

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