In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1
After a long intertestamental silence (i.e. the period between the old and new testament), a young prophet came on the scene. He was unique in every way. Particularly, in how he dressed, what he ate and where he lived. Yet, his voice echoed a message from God Almighty that pricked many hearts and brought them to repentance. He carried a prophetic mandate and utterance. Many who heard him had no doubts that he was a man sent from God. Not long, people began asking if he was the promised Messiah. This man was John the Baptist and there is no way we can talk about repentance without starting with him. This is because the new testament message on repentance was first preached by John the Baptist. After John’s death, Jesus’ immediate action as recorded in Matthew 4:11 was the preaching of the same message of repentance.
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17
Pay close attention to what God did after a long period of silence. First, He sends His prophet ahead of the promised Messiah-our Lord Jesus. Second, He gives them a singular message to deliver to everyone. And that message is REPENT! Repentance, therefore, is not a theological content one must know to become a believer. Instead, repentance is what God desires from everyone so that we can be saved from eternal destruction. But is that what we see today?
What is repentance and how is it different from remorse?
Repentance is a conscious ‘turn-away’ from evil and wrongdoings with a total commitment to God. It’s a decision to say NO! to sin and YES! to a fresh start with Jesus. Of course, at some points in your life, you have wronged God or done terrible things you feel shameful to even talk about. The weight of that shame offers two options. The first one is that it could lead you into remorse and the second is that it could lead you into repentance. Actually, your body is able to respond emotionally when the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin. Often, your body may assume a sudden sadness or even break in tears. It’s okay to feel that way but these emotions leave you at the point of remorse. However, when the weight of your guilt further leads you to confess and turn away from practising such wrongdoings, then genuine repentance has occurred. The Bible says; Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Some examples of genuine repentance recorded in the Bible includes; the prodigal son’s return home (Luke 15:17-20), Zacchaeus’ return of other people’s money (Luke 19:8) and Judas Iscariot’s return of the payment for betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3). Concerning Judas, the Bible says; When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” Notice that these three personalities were remorseful but that was not the end. They decided to turn away from the sins they had committed. True repentance actually cuts the heart and produces instant actions including confessions, commitment to God, making right with people and displeasure for evil or wrongdoings.
Conversely, we see Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:18-23 who would not repent but considered bribing his way to have the power of God. He was aware of his wrongdoings yet he sought to have power so he could continue to manipulate the people of Samaria. But Peter rebuked him and asked him to repent of his wickedness. The thing is, when you refuse to repent, the weight of your sin drags you into destruction. Gradually, you become exposed to all sorts of wrongdoings such that you end up thinking you are right in doing them.
Who must repent?
From the time of John the Baptist till now, God’s clarion call unto repentance has been for every person. You and I are so precious to God. He even calls us the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). If you have any guilt that is burdening you in this life, I encourage you to repent. God’s message for you today is that you must REPENT. It is only when you repent that you can be saved. There is only one cure to sin. That is the blood of Jesus. If you repent and believe in Jesus this cure will take away your sins and make you free. Also, repentance is not meant for only unbelievers. Both Jews and Gentiles were called to repentance and belief in Jesus as Saviour (Romans 10: 1-16).
What benefits are there in repentance?
One important benefit that repentance can bring to you is salvation. Without repentance, and unconfessed sins will burden you and drag you backwards at every step you take. But if you repent, you are made free (John 8:36). There’s this great relief you begin to experience as the joy and peace of God flood your heart.
No matter how terrible you feel now, do not run away from God, instead repent, return to him and he will save you. Amen.