Sinfulness is universal. We have inherited a selfish, ungodly nature that separates us from God. It is important that we recognize our sinfulness and repent of our committed sins.
Man originally had a beautiful relationship with God. Through Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden, sin came into the world (Genesis chapter 3). This separated them from God, as the Scriptures teach: "Where- fore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned' (Romans 5:12). God wants to have a beautiful relationship with every- one, but He cannot with people living in sin. All people 'have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
If man refuses to repent of sin, he is condemned to an eternal separation from God in the abyss of hell. Hell has been prepared for the devil and his angels or followers. God does not want anyone to perish but wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). He has shown His great love to all men by sending Jesus, His only begotten Son, to die on the cross for sinful men (John 3:14-20). Jesus paid the debt of our sin by giving of His life and shedding His blood. This is God's grace to mankind.
God is a God of great love. That He should even think of making a plan of redeeming mankind is a sign of His unfathomable love and mercy. Opening the door of repentance unto salvation is an act of love even though repentance is a painful experience for man.
For sinful man to benefit from this grace, he must meet the conditions set forth in God's word, the Bible. Man, of his own will cannot repent, nor can he be delivered from sin unless God draws that man to Jesus (John 6:44). When people in sin feel the conviction of His Spirit, it is a manifestation of God's grace.
God sent John the Baptist to preach repentance to a lost world. His message was: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Read Matthew 3:1-12). Jesus preached the same message when He came. To repent means to have a deep regret or sorrow for sin and deeds committed. Each person must come to this .sorrow, and realize that he is a sinner, and that sin condemns man to hell. No sin or sinner can enter heaven where God dwells.
When John the Baptist preached his clear and simple message (see Luke 3:1- 12), the people who heard him were deeply troubled.-This is called conviction. The same thing happened when Peter and the other apostles preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-40). (For another example read Jonah 3.) These people's sins were exposed through the preaching of God's word. The Holy Spirit convicted them and made them realize they were lost, condemned to eternal hell fire. When these troubled people asked what they should do, they were told to repent. They needed to become sorry for their sinful lives, change their ways, and depart from sin and evil.
Repentance, as taught in the Bible, is not just reforming. When God reveals our sinful condition to us, it brings regret for sin and deeds committed. This is often accompanied by tears of remorse because one realizes his sinfulness. One sees how he has grieved God and his fellow men. There is no hypocrisy in true repentance. Repentance is not some- thing with which one pleases men. It is honestly dealing with sin before an holy God. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of-. but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves" (2 Corinthians 7:10, 11).
These aspects of repentance are well illustrated in the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-21. This rebellious boy came under conviction while working on a hog farm. He had wasted his life and money. He then realized that his sin was first against God and then against his father. He felt so bad about it that he felt totally unworthy to claim the privileges of a son. He was ready to be his father's hired servant if he could only have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep. When he met his father he confessed his sins, and his father gladly forgave him. In the same way, God is ready and willing to forgive a repentant sinner.
Another account in Luke 19:1-10 tells 5 how the rich publican, Zacchaeus, went looking for Jesus. He became uneasy about his sinful life. When Jesus came to his house, Zacchaeus repented. In his sorrow he turned from what he had been doing, and made restitution for the money he had taken falsely. His repentance also brought him to see his greed. His heart was changed from loving riches to compassion for his fellowman, so he gave half of his goods to the poor. Zacchaeus found forgiveness and salvation that day. His response was proof of repentance. John the Baptist called this type of response 'fruits meet [proper] for repentance" (Matthew 3:8).
As people repent of their sins, there are fruits that give definite evidence that their repentance is genuine. When people who are dishonest, repent and confess their deeds to God and man; when thieves restore what they have stolen (even to the point of being willing to accept punishment), when drunkards feet so bad about the way they have lived that they quit drinking-that is godly repentance. When immoral persons see that they have sinned against their own body and against those whom they have defiled, when anger and fighting that go on in homes become sinful to the point where they are no longer done-that is godly repentance.
Chapters 11 and 12 in Second Samuel record what happened when King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. 'lb cover his sin he had her soldier husband put in the front lines of battle to be sure he would be killed. Even though men may have been fooled, God was not. God sent Nathan the prophet to bring David a message. When David understood the terribleness of what he had done, he admitted his sin and repented. Read his repentance prayer in Psalms 51.
A repentant spirit is broken and con- trite. To reach this condition, one must come to God confessing his sins. By faith one looks to Jesus and the blood He shed for his sin. Thereby he receives remission of sins and peace with God and becomes a new person in Christ (1 John 1:5-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17). When this takes place one will, like the prodigal son and Zacchaeus, have a desire to follow the ways of God, serving Him instead of the lust of the body and mind. He will avoid sinful places and people who might
lead him back to the sinful ways of the past. The sinful things he has owned are destroyed so they will not be a snare in the future (Acts 19:17-20). There comes instead a desire to read the Bible and know God's will, a desire to pray where- by one talks to God, and a longing to go to church to fellowship with other people who have experienced repentance and the new birth.
The end result of it all is a quiet assurance and a peace that passeth understanding (Isaiah 32:17; Philippians 4:7). One can then claim the promise of an eternal home in heaven with the redeemed.