Repentance That Leads To Life
By Rich Carmicheal
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30).
If you are harboring any sin in your thoughts, attitudes, and/or actions, the Lord calls you to REPENT! He does not, however, issue this call to rob you of what may seem to be the pleasures of sin, but rather to help you discover "…the repentance that leads to life" (Acts 11:18). Here are some of the reasons the Lord calls us to repentance:
1. He wants us to escape judgment.
Without any question, sin brings judgment. The Apostle Paul writes that "because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2:5). Jesus warns that "…unless you repent, you will all…perish" (Luke 13:3). Likewise, to the church in Ephesus, He declares, "Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5).
If we refuse to repent, we will face the judgment of the Lord. This judgment will find full expression in the final judgment, but we can also experience judgment in lesser degrees in this present life. The Lord, however, wants to spare us from judgment. He "…is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Consider again His words to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:5. His desire was that the church repent so that her lampstand would not be removed. The Lord wants us to repent for our own good, that we might escape corruption, destruction and judgment.
2. He wants to restore fellowship with us.
Whereas the Lord wants us to escape judgment, He has an even greater reason for calling us to repentance: He wants to restore fellowship with us. One aspect of repentance is turning from the sin in our lives and the judgment that sin inevitably brings. The other aspect is the turning to God. Note both elements of turning in these passages: "…so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God…" (Acts 26:18); "…that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (Acts 26:20); "…and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God" (1 Thess. 1:9); "We…preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God..." (Acts 14:15).
The Lord’s desire is not just that we keep from sin. His greater desire is that we know Him and enjoy fellowship with Him. Since sin separates us from Him (Isa. 59:2), He wants us to turn away from sin so that our fellowship with Him may be unbroken. His call to repentance is motivated by His love for us: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19). Yes, He wants us to forsake sin, but more importantly, He wants us to embrace Him. He wants us "to return to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls" (1 Pet. 2:25). He desires this fellowship so much that He extends His kindness and forbearance and patience toward us in order to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). He draws us toward repentance, granting us the opportunity to turn from our sin and to turn to Him. There is great joy in heaven whenever we repent and turn to the Lord (Luke 15:7,10).
3. He wants us to enjoy fullness of life.
Restored fellowship with the Lord is accompanied by many blessings. As we repent and return to Him, our sins are wiped away and times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). Genuine repentance is "without regret, leading to salvation" (2 Cor. 7:10). As we "…turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God…[we] receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith…" (Acts 26:18). The veil is taken away and we are able to behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:15-18). Repentance also leads to forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) as well as to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 2:25).
Now Is the Time for Repentance
Although the Lord wants us to repent and is gracious to lead us to repentance, we dare not test Him in this matter by delaying repentance and continuing in sin. As the Apostle Paul stresses: "…Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:1-2). In his second letter to the Corinthians, he expressed his fear that some of the Corinthians may still be living in sin: "I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced" (2 Cor. 12:21).
The writer of Hebrews warns that "…if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment…" (Heb. 10:26-27). He adds that in the case of some who fall away, it is "impossible to renew them again to repentance" (Heb. 6:6). Esau serves as an example of one who "…found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears" (Heb. 12:17).
We dare not put off repentance, thinking we have plenty of time to repent. We do not know what tomorrow holds. Judgment for our sin can come in various ways and at any time. Consider Jesus’ words to the church in Pergamum: "Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth" (Rev. 2:16). Likewise, He warns the church in Sardis: "So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent . Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you" (Rev. 3:3).
When sin is present in our lives, we need to "be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19). We need to embrace genuine repentance that produces earnestness, vindication, indignation, fear, longing, zeal and avenging of wrong (2 Cor. 7:10-11). We are to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt. 3:8) and do works "appropriate to repentance" (Acts 26:20).
If there is sin in your life, now is the time to repent! Turn from your sin and seek the presence of the Lord. In genuine repentance, you will not only find life, but also the One who is the Life. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…" (Jas. 4:8).