Repentance involves more than what you might think. Fundamental Christianity has always emphasized repentance and rightly so; it is the first step toward a relationship with God. Repentance is necessary in order to receive forgiveness. However, repentance can lead to much more than forgiveness for sins committed.
It is necessary for us to understand why and when we should repent, and what the resultant fruits of proper repentance will be. Having this understanding will accelerate our spiritual growth. Many Christians only repent when they feel they have said or done something they consider sinful. It is right to do so, but without a revelation of the positive aspects of repentance your spiritual progress can be limited. Listen! Satan doesn’t want you to know how repentance can thrust you into more of God. If he can make you think that you only need to repent for sins committed, then he has defeated you by limiting your spiritual progress. And that is spiritual abortion. Keeping you in an immature state will destroy the life you could have in God.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
As I looked at the passages of Scripture in the New Testament, it seemed that almost every one pointed to more than just forgiveness for sins committed. Yet that is the way most people think of repentance. They will repent when they do something wrong, or repent for something they may have done wrong that they are consciously unaware of; other than that, there is usually no repentance.
Peter, in Acts 3:19, says to repent that your sins may be blotted out. Then he adds, “When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” That makes it sound as though the blotting out of sins is future. The New American Standard Bible gives a more correct translation of the Greek: Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. So repentance here does two things: one negative and one positive. It wipes away the sins, and it makes a way for us to receive refreshings from the presence of the Lord. If all you are expecting is the wiping away of the sins, then that is probably all you will get. But if you also believe for refreshings from the presence of the Lord, then you will receive much more than forgiveness.
Matthew 3:7-10 But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of
the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O
generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
It is quite necessary for us to understand these verses. Many churches do not teach what the Holy Spirit is presenting here. Consequently, many Christians are not reaping the benefits, the fruits that can result from this kind of repentance. First, we must realize that these verses are speaking of “nature,” not sinful acts. Now let’s take a look at each verse.
In verse seven as the Pharisees and Sadducees approached John the Baptist, he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” By calling them “vipers,” John was referring to their nature. The Bible calls the devil “the serpent” – that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan (Revelation 12:9). So John the Baptist is describing their nature – they are vipers. In John 8:44, Jesus said they were of their father the devil.
In verse nine John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.” In other words, being a Jew didn’t exempt them. Regardless of race, nationality, or religion, all must repent (Acts 17:30). The reason is because human nature is sin. When the Bible says that you cannot please God in your flesh (Romans 8:8), it is talking about your flesh nature, your human nature. Then in Romans 8:7 the Holy Spirit says that the carnal mind (of your human nature) is God’s enemy. We are sinful because of our nature, not just because of what we have said or done. Sinful acts are merely the outcropping of a sinful nature. The nature itself is the real sin. And that is what John the Baptist was telling those Pharisees and Sadducees. They need a nature change; they need to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
You are your nature. You are the tree, and the axe must be laid to the root of the tree (Matthew 3:10). In other words, repent of your sinful nature. Repenting for sinful acts only plucks the leaves off the tree; it doesn’t get to the root. Put the axe of your repentance to the root - your nature. Do you realize how many Christians believe that their nature can only be changed after they die and go to heaven? or at a future rapture date? That is exactly what Satan wants them to think. The devil doesn’t care if you become a Christian as long as you keep your old nature.
I heard a preacher say recently that when you are saved you are born again, but as long as you live on this earth your nature will oppose you and you will have a continuous struggle until you get to heaven. At the same time, he said that because you are born again old things have passed away and all things have become new; you are a new creature in God, referring to II Corinthians 5:17. Those are two opposites; they contradict each other. How can you be born again (have a new nature from God), old things passed away and all things new, and still have to struggle continuously against your old nature for the rest of your life? Listen, your new birth, or new nature, is not completed at the instant you become a Christian. That is the first step toward being born again. We are not born again in the sense that it is finished; we are being born again. Many Christians are stalemated in their birthing experience because they don’t know to repent (or, how to) of their sinful nature. They only repent of acts; therefore, the axe is not applied to the root and they continue to have an ample supply of sinful acts to repent of. If you have committed sins, repent! Get that out of the way and start repenting for your sinful nature; put the axe to the root of the tree. Regardless of what those preachers have said, you don’t have to have a continuous struggle with your old nature. Besides, how are you going to do the will of God when you are involved in a continuous struggle with yourself?
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). When He came out of the wilderness, He came out completely victorious and began His ministry. His message was: Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. The ministry of Jesus Christ opened up a new realm in God for man to experience; the Kingdom of heaven was being made available. But in order to experience this new realm of His Kingdom, it was necessary to repent. Thus, we have the principle that entering any new level in God is preceded by repentance. Our Christian experience should always be progressive; advancement is from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18), from level to level. And each new level of glory must be preceded with repentance. This means repenting for what you haven’t become.
Repentance is a very necessary tool. It creates the humility you need for spiritual growth. If you want the Lord to lift you up into higher realms in God, humility is the answer, and it is a result of true repentance. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift thee up. James 4:10.
Repentance will bring forgiveness for your sins and much more. It will bring refreshings from the presence of the Lord, it will put the axe to the root of your nature that you might bear the fruit of a new nature, and it will thrust you forth into the next level in God. Repentance should not end after you have received forgiveness for sins, for after that is done it is one of your most valuable tools toward spiritual maturity. We must realize, though, that true repentance doesn’t just happen; it is not inherent in human nature. Just because you want to repent doesn’t mean you will be able to. Remember Esau? Even though he wanted to, he could find no place of repentance (Hebrews 12:17). How often people will repent for something and then later have to repent for the same thing again! The repentance didn’t reach the root of the problem. We must reach into a repentance that works! True repentance is needed, and it comes from the Lord. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy on how to minister to those who oppose the truth, saying, “If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (II Timothy 2:25). True repentance comes from God! In Romans 2:4, Paul said, “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” Repentance is a gift! Appropriate it from the Lord, and then be faithful to use it to enhance your relationship with Him. Do not just repent for the bad things. Repentance can bring forgiveness and much more.
Copyright © 1997 by Henry DuBose