The Need for Repentance
Yesterday I proposed that repentance is something that is good, or as I said it, the “good stuff.” My thinking behind this is that often repenting is seen as unpleasant and bad, something to be avoided. When a person thinks this way then they are doomed in at least a couple of ways.
First, if they are not a Christian then they are simply doomed to a life that will never experience the joy of full forgiveness in Jesus Christ. They shall remain in their sin and they have only the expectation of the eternal judgment of God that hovers over them. As Romans 2:4-5 bluntly states it, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” There is nothing in that passage for one who rejects Jesus to hope in. So when I have a non-Christian who comes to me for help I have limited options. I must point the person to Jesus Christ as their supreme need. I can address as well the surface issues, such as drugs, anger, or drunkenness but in the end all that I can offer is behavioral changes that never address the core problem of being enslaved to sin.
Second, if they profess to be a Christian then I must have them realize that to remain in a sin is simply contrary to the gospel. Paul makes this abundantly clear in Romans six when he states, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” He goes on to describe how our union in Jesus Christ causes the dominion of sin to be broken. To be sure the presence of sin is there, but not the power to enslave you as it once had. He has given us the Holy Spirit so that He wars against the sin within us so that we do not do as we wish (cf. Galatians 5:16-17). We have the Word of God that is, in part, given to us to grow with respect to our salvation (cf. 1 Peter 2:1-2). Therefore, when one tries to hide the sin or short circuit the process of turning from our sin they are living in a manner that is alien to their identity in Christ. It is certain that they will lose a joy in their fellowship with the Lord and His people. It is certain they can expect our Father to discipline them(cf. Hebrews 12:5-7). And it is certain that no change will truly occur for them as they are seeking to do it in their own power.
But if the non-Christian repents, meaning they turn from their sin and their idols to God alone through Jesus Christ then they are finally in a right relationship with Him. They have now the ability to begin to truly change and grow. Their sin no longer must have mastery over them. For the Christian who finally comes to grip that they have given themselves over to a sin, if they recognize the need to repent then much good also occurs. Though there might be pain, as they begin to sever relationships and activities that must be put away, there is also the encouragement that comes from the Spirit who desires their holiness. There is a new perspective on life as they turn from a mind set on the things of this age to the hope of eternity where sin is wiped away in its entirety. They place themselves in the paths where God’s daily, sustaining grace flows rather than the dry wastelands in which they only recently wandered.
So, you need to help a person repent. The first thing you need to do is build hope in them. They need to see that repentance really is the good stuff. Life is found in repentance. Forgiveness is found in repentance. Jesus is found in repentance.
Next post will discuss what things you will want to look for with one who says they are repentant.