14 • What is Sin and Biblical repentance?
In Lesson 13 we said that a person is saved by repenting of their sin and having faith in Jesus Christ. But what does repentance entail? What is sin? The Bible says that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). In other words, breaking any of the 10 commandments of God is sin (See Appendix 1 and Lesson 4). The word for ‘sin’ in the Greek can be translated “missing the mark”. If we fail to live up to God’s standards revealed in the Ten Commandments, we sin. If we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength we sin and fall short of God’s glory. We sin when we don’t have a high regard for God and all He stands for (e.g. justice, love, righteousness, holiness, truth). We sin when we treasure anything more than God. We sin when we don’t love our neighbours as ourselves. None except Jesus has attained to these holy standards, and none ever will.
Jesus said that without repentance we will all perish (Luke 13:3, 5). When Jesus started His public ministry on earth He commanded: “repent and believe the gospel for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). The apostle Peter, after the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, preached to the Jews commanding them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins. The prophets’ plea in the Old Testament was always “turn from your sins and live” (Ezekiel 18:30, 32; Amos 5:14, 15; Isaiah 55:6, 7). When Paul was in Athens, he reasoned with the philosophers urging them, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is a Biblical command (Acts 20:21; Hebrews 6:1).
But what does Biblical repentance entail? First, we must realize that repentance is a gift from God. God grants repentance to whom He will (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). Although God gives repentance as a gift, we are not passive in the process of receiving it. Biblical repentance involves three things: Conviction (a change of thinking), Contrition (a change of heart or emotions) and Conversion (a change of behaviour). If the way you think, feel and behave towards God has not changed, you probably have not come to Christ – you still love your sin. Biblical repentance means turning away from sin and turning to God in faith for forgiveness. Without this turning there is no salvation. Biblical repentance means you hate your sin enough to stop doing it. It means you feel the way God feels about sin – God hates sin. Biblical repentance means that the sin you used to love you now hate, and God whom you used to despise and ignore you now love and joyfully obey.
Unless you understand that you are damned and lost because of your sin (conviction), you will not turn to Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). Once you realise that you are a wicked sinner, call out to God for mercy as the tax collector did in Luke 18:13. Knowing and admitting that you are a sinner is part of the “change of mind”. We read in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” When King David committed adultery and murder, he wept before God and said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, these O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17). We see that weeping before God (change of heart) is part of repentance (Isaiah 66:2; James 4:9, 10). A change in behaviour is also part of repentance. When Zacchaeus came to Jesus he said, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” Jesus answered, “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:8, 9).
Question to consider: Has God worked in you by the Holy Spirit so that the sin you used to love and cherish, you now despise and hate with a passion?
Read: 1 John 3:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 13:3,5; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Ezekiel 18:30,32; Amos 5:14,15; Isaiah 55:6,7; Acts 17:30; Acts 20:21; Hebrews 6:1; Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25; John 16:8; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 51:7,17; Isaiah 66:2; James 4:9,10; Luke 19:8,9.