From that time Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17
Repent of your sins.
Scripture is clear about the need for sinners to repent of their sins in order to be reconciled to God:
Repentance means to genuinely and sincerely “turn away” from your sins – to stop doing deliberate, willful, and continued sinful behavior. The heart of the repentant sinner also feels guilt and remorse for the sins that have already been committed – by having a contrite heart. This implies that you now recognize that you are a sinner.
The need for repentance is not something newly added starting in the New Testament; Scripture is clear all the way back in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament dispensation (including the Jews under the Mosaic Law) about the need for man to repent of his sins in order to be reconciled with God. If you are turning to Christ, you must also turn away from sin; you cannot do one without the other. This is the step being performed here – initial repentance recognizing and acknowledging that you are a sinner and that you want to change your ways.
You have already read extensively in this book about how we are all sinners. Sins come in many forms, from the most obvious ones such as murder, theft, lying, and so forth, but also in less obvious forms such as gossiping, slander, idol worship, coveting, cheating in business dealings, and even failing to do something that you know you should have done (sins of omission). So, be honest with yourself, have you ever done any of these? Even just one single time? In your entire life? I think any honest person will admit that he or she has. Also, recognize that even the smallest sin is great in the sight of a holy and just God. God’s holiness is not something to be trifled with, it is His character. We humans tend to horribly underestimate the holiness of God and rationalize that our sins must not be “that bad” and therefore not worthy of death and judgment. However, the Bible is clear that all sin is worthy of and punishable by death. It is not what we think on the matter which is important – it is what Scripture tells us God thinks on the matter that counts.
At this point, do not worry or wonder how you will ever possibly be able to beat an addiction that you are trapped in (if you currently are) or worry that your sins are too great to be forgiven, for Jesus is The Great Physician and Healer. He offers life and forgiveness to all who come to Him, to all who call on His holy name. I know this firsthand from personal experience; I lived the addiction life. When I truly and finally turned my life over to Christ, things changed – the addiction was banished.
The Bible tells us that “all things are possible” with God. Or in other words, nothing is impossible with God. For He is not a small God, He is a big God – Creator of Heaven and Earth, yes, of all the universe, which He simply “spoke” into existence! Amazing! Imagine the unbelievable awesome power in such a Being! He knows what you’ve done and what you may be facing, and He wants you to come to Him now, today, just as you are! He already knows everything; nothing is hidden and kept secret from God. You will be amazed at what He can do in your life when you place your faith and trust in Him. The Bible is full of examples of men who were once murderers, who then gave their lives over to God and to Christ: people such as Moses, King David, and the apostle Paul. Scripture is full of amazing things that these people did subsequently in their lives – and they became men of solid character, courage, and strength all through the power of Christ living in them.
In this chapter, we are dealing specifically with the initial repentance you do as part of being born again. But also realize, once born again, a Christian continues in (ongoing daily) repentance over their lifetime with the avoidance of deliberate and continued sinful behavior and actions. None of us will be perfect and never commit sin; that is not what repentance is indicating. It’s indicating a sincere desire and deliberate, willed choice to not participate in sinful actions and behavior. We are not to live under bondage to sin any longer, as a slave to sin, carrying out its desires. We will still slip and stumble at times; that is normal. Just get back up, dust yourself off, confess and repent of the recent sin, learn from it and then continue walking towards Christ Jesus every single day, pressing even harder into Him if needed! If you confess your sins, the Bible says that “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Remember, you are not going to be doing this by your own “will-power”; you are doing it through His divine strength and might – by the power of Christ who “lives in you.” No matter what you have done or struggle with at this very moment, the power of Christ will enable you to overcome it.
As your walk as a Christian deepens and matures, you will find that your old sinful actions and behaviors lessen over time, as you become more “sanctified” (set apart for God and progressively conformed to the image of Christ). You no longer want to do those sins you used to do. Additionally, as you become a mature Christian, your awareness of sin becomes heightened. You start to realize how holy God really is, and you also start to see how your old sinful fleshly nature clashes with the new spirit in you. That is normal and to be expected. The Apostle Paul wrote about his own battles between his old and new natures. I talk more about this in the Living in the Spirit chapter.
You will learn in subsequent chapters how to develop healthy God-fearing Christian habits and behaviors and learn how to fight off (spiritual) attacks of the enemy (Satan), who will try to turn you back into sin, the ways of this world, and back towards death. The spiritual forces of evil are very real; do not underestimate your enemy! He will try everything possible, even things you are not consciously aware of, to turn you away from Christ and eternal life. The path forward is not always easy, and sometimes victories are won after hard-fought battles, but it is possible to overcome any sin (or addiction) through the power of Christ living in you. Repent of your sins and place your trust in Jesus!
FALSE TEACHING(S) YOU WILL ENCOUNTER:
- The doctrine of “Original Sin”
- Saying a “Sinner’s Prayer” saves you
- You get a “2nd Chance” after death
- A Christian no longer sins
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. – Psalm 51:10-17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment. – 2 Peter 2:9
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. – Hebrews 10:26-27