I continually hear arguments regarding the need to repent in order to receive Salvation. Now, the short answer is, yes. But let me explain. Some argue that all you have to do is confess that Jesus is your Lord. Some say that there is nothing special you need to do because everyone is already saved. But what do the Scriptures actually say?
Well, the Scriptures tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.
I bring that up because the Scriptures do focus on repentance preceding our salvation (Take the time and read, Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). Now think about this. In order for you to change your mind and attitude on Jesus, you are going to have to repent! That is what the word, “Repent,” means! Repentance is a change of heart and mind and brings us closer to Lord. Among other things, it includes turning away from sin and turning to Yahweh for forgiveness. But here’s the thing, it’s motivation is our love for Yahweh and a sincere desire to obey His commandments.
Take a look at Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. He completed his sermon with what most Evangelicals expect a good preacher to do, he called for the people to repent. He didn’t ask for everyone to close their eyes, and those wanting to be saved to “raise their hand. No, he called for them to Repent, to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ.” Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior.
One person spoke of Repentance and Faith as being “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ without first changing your mind about who He is and His sacrifice for us. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about repentance from willfully rejecting Him or repentance from your ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ!
Your repentance isn’t something you do so you can earn salvation. No, no. You can’t repent and come to God unless He pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Theologians call it prevenient grace. As Tozer explained,
“We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. ‘No man can come to me,’ said our Lord, ‘except the Father which hath sent me draw him,’ and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: ‘Thy right hand upholdeth me.’”
Our whole possibility of redemption lies in our ability to change. To move across from one sort of person to another is the essence of repentance; the liar becomes truthful, the thief honest, the lewd pure, the proud humble. The whole moral texture of the life is altered. The thoughts, the desires, the affections are transformed, and the man is no longer what he had been before.
Again I turn to Tozer:
“We have reduced repentance to a change of mind. It is a mental act, indeed, but I point out that repentance is not likely to do us much good until it ceases to be a change of mind only and becomes a wound within our spirit.
No man has truly repented until his sin has wounded him near to death, until the wound has broken him and defeated him and taken all the fight and self-assurance out of him and he sees himself as the one who nailed his Saviour on the tree”
Scripture clearly indicates that repentance is not something that you need to work up. No, God gives it to you. It is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. Every aspect of salvation, including our repentance and faith, is a result of Yahweh drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance, as does His kindness.
While repentance doesn’t earn salvation, repentance that results in salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in your reaction. Within Scripture, clearly demonstrates that repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
A person who has truly repented from their rejection of Christ and turns to faith in Christ, will exemplify this with a changed life (see II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, as Tozer explained it, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to Him in faith for salvation. Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
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