In this second part of our series on three great themes of the Bible, we look at why humans must repent to have a proper relationship with God. In the first part of this series on three themes of the Bible, we learned about God’s great purpose to develop a relationship with human beings. We learned that sin is what prevents that relationship. Sin is defined as the breaking of God’s law. God desired to build a relationship with Adam and Eve, and later the nation of Israel, but that relationship was severed by both human parties deviating from God’s laws.
God is currently calling a relatively few human beings from all around the world to build a relationship with them and to bring them into His Church. So, if God is calling you, how can you build a relationship with God now and be a part of His Church?
In order for us to have a relationship with our Creator, we must repent of our sins. Sin prevents us from developing a right relationship with God. The Bible reveals, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” ( emphasis added). That separation caused by sin ultimately leads to eternal death. The Bible reveals that the only way sin can be removed and a right relationship with God established is through the process of repentance. God’s plan to bring mankind into a proper relationship with Him begins with the shed blood of Jesus Christ , which makes possible the process of repentance. God has a master plan to bring humankind to repentance .
Repentance isn’t just feeling bad about a particular sin, admitting the sin or paying some kind of penance for a sin. True repentance, according to the Bible, is a process that has a specific end result—a change of life.
The process of repentance
1. A person must recognize his or her need to repent. The Bible reveals that God is the initial source of a person coming to the realization that he or she needs to repent. God is only dealing with a small number of people whom He is calling now . When someone hears and begins to understand the true gospel and the laws of God, God is beginning the process of leading that person to repentance . When we learn that we have broken God’s law and are sinners, separated from God and deserving the penalty of death, we are led to sorrow. But it must be “godly sorrow [that] produces repentance leading to salvation”.
2. A person must then confess his or her sins to God and be baptized. Confession of our sins to God is also a prerequisite to forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” . Confession of sins is the next step toward personal repentance. After we realize our need to repent, we must make a heartfelt commitment to stop sinning. But forgiveness of past sin is also necessary.
When asked what to do by a group of people confronted with their own guilt, the apostle Peter told them to “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” ). Baptism provides the “remission” (forgiveness) of past sins and the opportunity to be forgiven of future sins when they are repented of.
After we have repented—made the commitment to stop sinning, having confessed our sins, asked for forgiveness and been baptized—we are cleansed from past sins by the blood of Christ .But the process of repentance, confession and asking for forgiveness does not end there. Even after baptism, we will continue to occasionally stumble and sin . Being truly repentant—continually committed to stop sinning and asking for forgiveness—is something we must do on a regular basis.
3. A person must change his or her life through the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated “repent” in the New Testament is metanoeo. The word implies a change—a metamorphosis—down to the very core of one’s heart. This, then, produces a transformed life. Once we have recognized our need to repent, had a real change of heart, confessed our sins to God, asked for forgiveness through the blood of Christ and been baptized—the process of repentance continues through the rest of our physical lives. We must continue our effort to change our lives by overcoming sin and growing closer to the perfect character of God in our lives.
God does not leave us to do this on our own. God gives the Holy Spirit “to those who obey Him”. Those who wholeheartedly obey God (keeping His laws and living by all the principles found in the Bible) are given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to us after we have truly repented, been baptized and had hands laid on us by a true minister of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the most essential element to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose to develop a relationship with human beings by bringing them into His family . The Holy Spirit is God’s power that strengthens and enables us to overcome sin, draw closer to God and develop His character within us.
The big picture of repentance
The above three points show, very briefly, what repentance is and why it is so important. It is a process that begins with God showing us the need to repent and leads to a life that “bear[s] fruits worthy of repentance”. Without repentance, human beings are “alienated and enemies” of God because of “wicked works”. Since Adam and Eve rejected God’s guidance in the Garden of Eden, most people have gone the same way and have been cut off from a relationship with their Creator. Thankfully God made a way of repentance available to man. That can only happen through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.