All Should Come to Repentance (Part Three)
In parts one and two of this article, we have considered three emotions which do not equate to repentance (guilt, fear and sorrow), a Biblical definition of repentance (a changing, a turning, a returning and a conversion of mind and life away from sin and directed toward God), and three evidences of repentance that should be seen in a penitent person’s life (Godly sorrow, a reformation of life and restitution).
Change is very difficult for many. It speaks to our ego and tells us that we are not right. Some do indeed like change, but most are more stubborn and set in their ways and need motivation to change. Thankfully, God gives us at least three wonderful motives to help inspire us to make spiritual changes in our lives.
First, God’s goodness ought to motivate us to repent. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Has God been good to you? Has God blessed you? Has God given you more than you deserve? In the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul reminds us that God’s great love was manifested in the giving of Christ and that the gift of Christ was given to unrighteous, sinning, enemies of God (Romans 5:6-11). I ask you again, has God been good to you? Absolutely, He has! If there was nothing else given to mankind by God but Christ alone, each and every human being must admit and acknowledge God’s goodness.
However, Christ isn’t even all we’ve been given. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from God (James 1:17). Even the sunshine and the rainfall are blessings from the Father (Matthew 5:45). The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the roof over our heads, the jobs we work, the families we love, the Church of Christ we belong to, and the Savior we adore are all blessings from God. The question then becomes: shouldn’t God’s goodness motivate us to repent? Shouldn’t His gracious kindness encourage us to change when He asks us to change?
Second, God’s patience should also motivate to repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The words “slack” and “slackness” may be unfamiliar in this setting, but they simply mean “to delay” and “tardy.” In other words, Peter wrote that God is not delaying His promise of eternal life in Heaven as some would be tardy in fulfilling a promise. A man may tell his wife that on their tenth anniversary he will take her on a trip to any place in the world she wants to visit, but when the anniversary approaches he examines their financial status and other obligations and says to his wife, “how about our fifteenth anniversary?” He is unable to fulfill the promise that he made with good intentions, and seeks to delay it. Such is not the case with God. God is not delaying eternity because He is unable to make good, He is delaying eternity because of His patient waiting.
God is exercising His patience with mankind. Why? Peter tells us it is because He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Remember what Jesus said about repentance? “…Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5). God continues to allow this world of sin and sorrow to exist only because He is patiently waiting for people to repent. Shouldn’t that motivate us to change? Every time we take in a breath of oxygen, every time we blink our eyelids, every day in which the sun rises and sets, should be viewed as an opportunity for us to repent, because one day God’s patience will run out. The very next verse that Peter pens says, “but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). God’s patience is not eternal and one day He will send Jesus to destroy this world and judge mankind. Nonetheless, as long as you have life within you, you have time to repent.
Third, a conviction of sin ought to motivate us to repent.
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37-38).
On Pentecost, the apostle Peter lays the blame for Christ’s crucifixion at the feet of the people. In his sermon, he had proved that Jesus was truly the Christ because God had testified with signs, wonders and miracles, because Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, and because the apostles were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. When the people realized that they were guilty and in sin they asked, “…What shall we do?” Peter’s response to this query was a call for repentance and baptism.
The call of Peter remains valid today. Whenever we realize that sin is present in our lives, we must repent. We must be sorrowful for our wrongdoing, vow to never do it again and make the necessary life change, and finally, make restitution whenever possible. This is what God counts as true repentance.
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:46-47).