Repentance Towards God (Conversion – Part 1)

n the last post we discussed the Gospel of the Kingdom. In this post we will look at the proper response to the Gospel:

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “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 2:36-38 NKJV

The Gospel Summarized

In this passage we see the conclusion of Peter’s Sermon on the Day of Pentecost. The sermon started because the Spirit of God had been poured out on the believers and this attracted the attention of the crowd. Once the crowd gathered around the believers, Peter addressed the crowd.

He started off by quoting a passage from the prophet Joel which prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16-17). This passage ended with the promise that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (2:21). Peter continues his message by referring to the fact that Jesus had been anointed with the power of God, and had worked many miraculous works of mercy and power while on earth (2:22). This was clear proof that God was with Him. 

He goes on to lay the blame for Jesus’ death at their feet by saying that they handed Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified (2:23). Peter then pointed to a psalm of David which prophesied the resurrection of Christ (2:24-32). And goes on to declare that he and the others with him are witnesses of the resurrection. He then ties the resurrection back to the outpouring of the Spirit which they were all witnessing. He declares that it is Jesus who has poured out the Holy Spirit. He is seated at the right hand of God, and has been given authority to baptize people with the God’s Spirit (2:33-35).

This is the content of the message that concluded with, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” In this declaration he makes it clear that they are complicit in the death of their Messiah. And this Man whom they murdered is now Lord of heaven and earth! This is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

And it was this fearful conclusion which turned their minds back to the earlier part of Peter’s sermon where he declared God’s promise that all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. With their guilt hanging over their heads, and the offer of salvation still hanging in the air, they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?

godly Sorrow

Many of the Jews that had gathered for the feast were convicted by the truth that they heard from Peter on that morning. They saw the power of God and recognized that indeed the Old Testament prophecies were being fulfilled before their eyes. The complicity which they had in the death of their Messiah and the reality that He was now seated in glory as Lord of all struck them with dread. Not only shame, but also fear, gripped their hearts.

People’s love for sin blinds them until God comes to open their eyes to the danger and depth of their sin. When the Holy Spirit shines his spotlight on their sin and reveals to them the future consequences of that sin, sin becomes less attractive to them in light of God’s holy wrath. They then begin looking for a way to escape from their sin and its consequences.

When the light of God shines on a sinner’s soul he becomes aware that he is altogether corrupt. He begins to regret not just what he has done but even who he is. Paul calls this condition “godly sorrow” and says that it is the precursor to repentance (2 Cor. 7:9-10).

The fear and shame that many of the Jews felt after hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost led them to ask Peter and the other apostles what they should do to be made right with God and with His anointed King. Peter gives a clear and concise answer. He calls on them to repent, and by faith, identify with Christ by receiving baptism. 

Repentance

When one repents their entire mindset about life changes, particularly their view of God, sin and themselves. They begin to realize that they are not as good as they thought they were, but are actually rebels against a good and holy Creator. This radical alteration in thinking leads to a fundamental shift in the focus of their lives. Whereas before their own desires and plans were the driving force of their life, God and His will now become the main focus of their lives. They determine that they will no longer live for themselves but will learn to obey everything that Jesus taught.

It is important to understand that genuine repentance is not perfect repentance. True Christians often fail to perfectly obey God’s will out of ignorance, and sometimes due to willful disobedience. But in general they live in obedience to the commands they know and are determined to learn more about God’s will for every area of their lives. Disciples must understand that true repentance is not equal to absolute moral and spiritual perfection. Instead it is a real determination to live a new life of obedience to God and to leave behind the rebellious self-centered life. This determination is not a process, it is a decision we make in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but walking out this determination (by the ever-present help of God’s Spirit) is a lifelong process with many ups and downs.

It is also important to understand that though genuine repentance does not lead to perfection, it does lead to real and noticeable changes. If a person claims that they have repented of their rebellion against God but still determines that they will practice some sins, they have not yet repented. A person who has repented has determined to stop all sin, though they will fail sometimes, they cannot imagine living in willful and habitual sin. Their mindset has changed towards sin; they don’t want to live in it any longer. They still have sinful desires, but they are determined by God’s help to resist and overcome those desires. If a person is still content to knowingly live in sin, in any area of their lives, they are not walking out repentance.

The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is a very good picture of repentance. The Israelites had lived in Egypt for generations. They had grown up with the customs of Egypt. They ate the food of Egypt, wore the clothes of Egypt and even worshipped God according to the customs of Egypt. For all practical purposes they were Egyptian. But they had to leave their Egyptian life behind them. They had to renounce the world they knew and head towards a life that they knew nothing about.

This is what sinners are commanded to do. Though they are children of the world in bondage to the devil, they are called to renounce the devil and his ways. They must leave behind the ways of thinking, talking and acting that they have always known. This is a necessary step for them to take in order to be reconciled to God. Unless they forsake the devil and his ways, they can never embrace God and his ways. As Jesus says in Luke 14:33, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In repentance they leave their old life behind them so they can receive a new life in God.

To be clear, repentance leads to the fruits of repentance, and the commitment we make in the hour of repentance is something we must follow through with the rest for the rest of our lives. But that fruit, and that following through, is not repentance itself. Those things are the results of repentance. Though men cannot see our hearts, God can. God knows the moment we turn from rebellion against Him.

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