What Happened to “Repentance?” :: by Grant Phillips

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3, 5)

“Repentance (metanoia, ‘change of mind’) involves a turning with contrition from sin to God; the repentant sinner is in the proper condition to accept the divine forgiveness.” (F. F. Bruce.The Acts of the Apostles [Greek Text Commentary’ London: Tyndale 1952 p. 97)


I.       to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent

II.    to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins

Amend (II):

alter, adjust, modify, revise, improve, change, correct, make changes

Abhorrence (II):

hatred, loathing, detestation, disgust, repugnance, revulsion, abomination, aversion

Before I get started, I would like to state, as I have hundreds of times, two things; (1) works cannot save us, and (2) only God’s grace can save.

“…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Now that that is said, again, what happened to “repentance?” Repentance is something few speak about anymore. It is seldom heard from the pulpit or anywhere else. Perhaps a few will bring up our need to repent, but they are definitely in the minority.

Repentance is something the Bible teaches that is required of us all. If one desires to be saved, repentance must be involved. If a Christian needs to seek forgiveness to have fellowship restored with the Father, repentance must be involved.

One of the many things I always admired about Billy Graham was his message to repent. Every message included the need to repent, and we all certainly need to keep that in mind.

Most proclamations today toward the lost are “… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” (Acts 16:31) I too have used this passage many times, and rightly so. It is God’s Word. This is all God requires.

Unfortunately, many have accepted it with the same grain of salt that Satan does. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19) Actually, the devils place more emphasis in true belief than many so-called Christians who say they believe.

The devils tremble because they know that one day they will experience God’s judgment. They railed against Him and know Him well enough to know He will keep His Word and their judgment will be severe.

On the other hand, look at mankind. Many come to Christ to be saved, but still live like devils. The devils tremble because they know judgment will come. Most people do not tremble because they have not truly repented. How do I know that? It’s simple. They continue to live no differently than they did before they made a “profession of faith.” No wonder the world can see no difference between the Church and the world.

Is it to say we should be sinless after being saved? That is preposterous, of course not. As long as we are in these bodies, we will continue to sin, but a truly saved person will learn to recognize sin and grow to hate it and come to the Father in humility asking for forgiveness to restore the fellowship they have broken with the Father. If they are really a child of God, they cannot lose the salvation Jesus provided, but sin harms the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, and needs to be acknowledged and dealt with to restore the fellowship.

When individuals say they are a Christian, but still continue to have no guilt for obvious sins against a Holy God, something isn’t right. When we are reborn in Christ, we are a new person. Our desires will not necessarily be changed overnight, but they will change of course. No two people are alike. For some it may be immediate, while others may take much longer until people can actually see Jesus living within them.

When God clearly says, “Thou shalt not,” and we habitually continue in our sins anyway and especially when we feel no need of repentance, something just isn’t adding up. If Jesus says to love our neighbor, but we hate our neighbor and we see no need to think otherwise, are we living as Jesus expects us to live? “But I love Jesus,” you say. How can you, if you do not love your neighbor?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, how can we not be grieved if we do not obey Him? How can we not be ashamed if we do not honor Him? If it doesn’t bother us to live apart from what God requires of us, how can we think we are His child? If there is no guilt in our soul, is there not a problem?

On the other hand, if we, as a Christian, have a sin problem we’re wrestling with, and it is weighing us down, would this not be a better indicator that we are a child of God? Those who are not God’s children will not be effected by sin as strongly as one of His own. The reason is due to the Holy Spirit living within those who belong to Christ. He, the Holy Spirit, is convicting them of their disobedience; i.e. sin. Those of Christ can have no peace until they repent. Those without Him, see no need of it, since they are at peace with their sinful lifestyle.

Do we have the mistaken idea that once we are saved everything in our lives will be “fixed” and we’ll be free of those sins that strangle us? If so, it is wrong. We must work at it. Yes, this is when work comes into play for a Christian, not an unbeliever, but a Christian.

For example, if we have a problem with abusing alcoholic beverages, and the liquor store is on our way home, go home by another route. In the case of His children, God expects us to repent. What does that mean? It means to change our mind about the sin, hate the sin, and make some changes to overcome the sin. He will help us.

Let me further explain this. If a young man or woman desires to be a great basketball player, should they practice? In other words, should they work at it? If they don’t work at it, they’ll be an old man or woman and still a lousy basketball player.

To come to Jesus Christ for salvation requires only our faith in His work on the cross for us personally. By His grace He saves those who will come to Him. However, when we come to Him by faith, simply believing, there is automatically a need to repent built in. As an unbeliever, when we see Jesus and then see our self as one who is unworthy, the obvious thing that is included in our belief is our repentance. Our belief activates our repentance because of His graciousness to us. If we are honest in our belief in Jesus, our repentance will come naturally.

As a true Christian, we need to repent every time we recognize we have wandered off the path He has for us.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Those who repent recognize the grace of God and the judgment we deserve. Those who do not repent see nothing wrong with their lifestyle even though it is in conflict with the clear teachings of God’s Word.

Most of our churches are doing no one any favors by avoiding the need for repentance. A lost world needs to repent and call on Jesus for salvation. Many in the Church need to repent of their sins also, and forsake them.

Instead, our churches have chosen to compromise God’s Word for whatever reason it may be. They want the crowds on Sunday morning. They want the offering plate full. Regardless of the reasons, most of our churches are in direct violation of God’s Word and begging for God’s judgment.

The lost world and the body of Christ do not need watered-down, milk-toast, feel-good, politically correct soliloquies from the pulpits of America. We all need the unabashed Truth of God’s Holy Word preached as our Lord has commanded us.

It is His Word that is important, not ours, so let us proclaim all of it just as He said it without any compromising.

Repentance needs to be returned to the forefront of every pastor and evangelist’s preaching. It was the preaching of repentance that woke Nineveh up to their sin and brought them a reprieve, not the bland feel-good sermons of today.

Billy Graham states in part in a Decision Magazine article on December 1, 2006 called “True Repentance, Real Change, “The Bible commands it, our wickedness demands it, justice requires it, Christ preached it and God expects it. The divine, unalterable edict is still valid: “God commands all men everywhere to repent … First, repentance is not penance … Second, repentance is not remorse … Third, repentance is not self-condemnation … Repentance is not a word of weakness but a word of power and action. It is not a self-effacing emotion, but a word of heroic resolve … First, there is conviction …The second element of true repentance is contrition … Third, repentance carries with it the idea of changing–changing your mind, changing your attitude, changing your ways. The Bible says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV). If we are truly repentant, our will is brought into action and we will make a reversal of direction. And God, seeing that we are in earnest, gives us the gift of eternal life.”

True repentance leads to true belief. Without it, everything else is just words, and each of us has to decide for our self. Keep in mind that we cannot look at someone else and say “they are a true believer” or “they are not a true believer.” Only God can read the heart.

Grant Phillips