UNDER CONVICTION, REPENTANCE IS THE WORK OF MAN
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord”, Act 3:19
Repentance is not feeling bad about sins: it is to correct our ways, restore where we can and may because we feel bad about them. Repentance and conversion, if not the same thing, they are hand in hand.
There are many discussions as to what repentance is, as well as how far it is God’s work. Repentance is a duty. If God is not working it in one’s life, repentance means that one seeks God to work it out; if God is working, it may mean that one must be walking accordingly, however. We quote often the words in Lam 5:21 “Return us to You, O Jehovah, and we will turn; renew our days as of old”; but, in here, we may not forget it is a plea from someone nearing God and not a doctrine. The fact is that the same man, Jeremiah stated as well: “Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth”, Jer.31:19.
People often complain to one another that it has to be a work of God which turns people to God. I cannot disagree on this statement. However, I cannot accept the fact that, God being at work already, people seek God to repent for them! Where a word of God is, where a Bible may be found, God will work if people want and wish to turn from their ways - theirs or others forced upon them. Whether these ways be sinful ones, or even apostolic or religious ways which bear a mere appearance and a resemblance of godliness in them, they should be forsaken willfully.
Repentance is not to turn to a church’s views, it is to turn to a living God; it is not to turn to any belief in God or in Jesus even, but it is to create the ways to come to experience His full presence. Hence the commandment: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord”, Act 3:19. The full presence of God, the reality of it, the simplicity of its occurrence is not to be confounded with thee preliminarily work of conversion ever. God may lead one to fear so one may be converted making sure we fully grasp the inevitableness of His wrath upon any sin; He may lead us to love Him by revealing how He loves; His presence may even struck us to do something about it. But, the fullness of any life is not birth at all.
When Peter preached and people asked him, “what shall we do”, he said “repent therefore” as if it depended not of God, but on them, seeing God was there long ago. If it were a modern preacher’s words, however, we would hear, “Do nothing, for it is not by works that we shall be saved!”. If and when God is at work, man is fully responsible for his immediate conversion and repentance.
I often hear people saying, “I have this and that wrong, but I don’t feel convicted! I have stolen, but I want God to tell me that I must return the money!” How foolish these people are indeed! They bargain with their own soul! Jesus did not say you should wait for conviction, but that if you think or remember that your brother has something against you, you should leave your offerings on the spot where you remembered about it, and go to find the person you remembered about rather QUICKLY. Often, the waiting for conviction is a selfish excuse not to be responsibly active in one’s own salvation. It works that way that God changes us, yes, but He does not change stones into children of Abraham, those which do not move by themselves, even if He could. If and when you know you have done wrong, and it is not a mere selfish accusation, how long will you wait to go back on it? If Jesus stated to Peter and John “I tell you, No. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”, Luke 13:5, how should we take heed then! Can any always saved belief spare us from the wrath of God if there is one single known unconfessed sin still hanging in our conscience? If one goes as far as remembering about it alone, one should run rather quickly.
There are those who rely upon the significance of baptism, seeing it means the washing of sins. They want water to wash sins away and not repentance and conversion. Here is another piece of stubbornness in disguise, refuting against repentance, restitution and confession merely to suit man and to avoid such to be humbled down for the wrongs these alone are responsible for. In the same way, people of old relied on the circumcision and much more: where are those now? Because baptism means washing of sins just as circumcision meant a pact with God, should one avoid being washed for real then because of its significant meaning? Should we grab the ring and be wedded unto it and live without a partner because we do not like the smell him or her? Suppose someone lives on carrying his ring and does not live with his wife: does it make such a married man at all? How can baptism go without confession and repentance? How can someone assume one needs not asking for forgiveness from men or God due to baptism then? One should not be found discussing if immersion is the way to be baptized or not, but whether ones has confessed or not. Nowhere in Scripture do we read that if one “accepts” the Lord one is to be baptized. Baptism stands for a Christian life as a ring does in a marriage – you cannot converse with it, nor can it cook for you!
I can and may state many a point of disguise which came to avoid genuine and practical repentance. I will choose to mention the right way though: Jesus said, “Go quickly”. I can discuss many an issue and many a point of how people often delete the responsibility to go back on apologizing, restituting or even be put in jail because of past sins. There is no price you should avoid paying because of repentance, ever. I know of someone who went back confessing murder after coming to know God, and he was executed with death penalty for it. He died singing unto his God! He chose life. Can you? He argued that he should rather die with a clean and washed conscience than live with a stained one. Would you do the same for the Lord?
Richard Wurmbrand, a martyr for our Lord, stated in his biography that it wasn’t until he had confessed his many sins one by one five years after being imprisoned in Communist Romania for being an evangelical pastor, that he experienced God’s presence for real. He fought for his faith, he stood in the midst of severe beatings and torture, but till the day he cleansed his soul for real, he never experience what the word Emanuel really means to a saved soul. May God bless you with it then, for it is neither knowledge nor intelligence that is able to save, but obedience to a simple command: “repent and be converted”, “repent and believe” in a following order we may not turn upside down, for it does not say believe and repent. Amen.