Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few that I have gotten in my ministry and via email for this column.
Dear father Paul: I’m kind of confused. What does it mean to repent? Is it just confessing my sins and asking for forgiveness? I’ve done that lots of times and I don’t feel any better. — Ricardo.
Dear Ricardo: Repentance is an essential part of the salvation … the “born again” experience. Confessing one’s sins and asking God for forgiveness as you have already done are indeed important. As a matter of fact they initiate or come first in the salvation experience with God … and both are essential. But — and this is important — anyone can say they are sorry … that they “regret” the life they’ve led … and even ask for forgiveness. Those things aren’t hard at all for most of us.
But we must also, and in addition, repent to “seal the deal” with God, as the saying goes. We are told that we must repent to gain a right standing with God throughout the Bible. Luke 3:3 tells us that John the Baptist (who preceded Jesus) “preached the baptism of repentance.” When Peter preached the very first sermon of the new Christian church on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:14-41 the Bible says his hearers were “cut to the heart,” and said, “what shall we do?” To which Peter replied, “repent and be baptized …”
So what is repentance? True “Biblical” repentance is simply realizing that you are going in the wrong direction, stopping — literally — in your tracks, turning around 180 degrees, and then going in the exact opposite direction — and continuing in that direction. Repentance indeed involves sorrow for sin as well as a plea for forgiveness, but most of all, it involves brokenness and a totally changed life.
Lots of Christians claim to be “born again” or “saved,” but they are still living and walking in the same sins as before they met Jesus. They may even go to church, serve on a church committee or give their money … but, according to the Bible, their salvation is in serious question. Why? Because there is no evidence of a changed life … evidence of repentance.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A man spends all of his spare time looking at porno on his computer. The Holy Spirit, possibly through a friend, a pastor or a relative tells him about the love of Jesus and that he is living in sin, but that Jesus died on the cross to receive the punishment that he himself deserves. He is convicted … broken and contrite. He confesses his sin, asks God to forgive him and receives Christ as his savior … and, as part of this process, he repents. He declares, ”I’m not going to live the old way anymore. I’m going to live a new life that’s pleasing to God.” Then, from that day forward, instead of spending his time looking at porno, he begins to spend that same time reading and studying his Bible, in prayer and doing acts of kindness … and being a better husband and dad, etc. That’s true repentance.
I urge you Ricardo. Don’t just go half way with God. Go all the way. Repent today.
Do you have a question for the column or a comment? Do you need prayer? I would love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia … a Liturgical, Evangelical and Charismatic Congregation, modeled after the ancient, historic church. Sunday sermons (audio), service times, directions and more info. are available at our web site www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com Visit us this Sunday.