"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).
God has commanded all men to repent. On the Last Day everyone who has ever lived will appear before Christ in judgment. If we have failed to obey God’s command to repent of our sins, we will be lost forever. Therefore, it is very important that we learn the meaning of repentance.
Repentance is a change of mind. It is a decision to stop doing wrong and to begin doing right. When a person repents, he changes his life completely. He decides that he will no longer rebel against God. He will obey the commands of God. One’s repentance will be seen in the good works that he does. One who has truly repented will try to please God in everything.
"But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not', but afterward he regretted it and went" (Matthew 21:28-29).
This parable teaches us the meaning of repentance. At first, the son in the parable refused to obey his father’s command to work in the vineyard. Later, he changed his mind and went to work. All of us are like the son in the parable. We have disobeyed God’s commands many times. But when we stop disobeying God and begin to do His will, we have repented.
Repentance is caused by godly sorrow. When a person realizes he has sinned by disobeying God, he becomes sorry for what he has done. This sorrow for his sin will lead the person to turn away from his sin. Thus, godly sorrow (being sorry for disobeying God) causes one to repent; "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
God is good to us. He has given us Jesus, His Son, to die for our sins. He has given us the Bible to tell about the way to eternal life. When we realize how good God is to us, we should be ashamed to disobey Him. Our sorrow for disobeying our Father will cause us to repent of our sins; "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)
"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" (Luke 3:8).
These words were spoken by John the Baptist. The people of Israel thought they were saved simply because Abraham, God’s faithful servant, was their father. John told them that they must prove that they had repented. We prove that we have repented by doing good works. Before repenting, we do evil deeds. After repenting, we must do good deeds.
Suppose a man has a fruit tree in his garden. If the tree does not produce good fruit, he will cut it down and use it for firewood. But if the tree produces good fruit, he will save it. If we turn from our sins but do not do good works in their place, we will still be lost. But if we produce good works, God will love us and save us.
What about you? Have you repented of your sins? Are you producing the fruits of repentance? If not, you are lost forever! Christ will reject you on the last day; "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).
We must repent in order for our sins to be forgiven; "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 2:38).
Many thanks to "Truth for the World" for allowing us to use their material!