While our Lord was living on the earth, there was a brief period of time when He wanted His apostles to preach only to Jews. When they did so, they preached about repentance. The Bible says, “So they went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12).
John the Baptizer and the Christ preached about repentance (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). Jesus calls on us to preach repentance in all nations (Luke 24:47).
What does “repent” mean? It is not simply regretting a decision. Repentance is not the same as sorrow; rather, it flows from a heart filled with godly sorrow. Notice the order of three matters: “. . . godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). First godly sorrow, then repentance, which leads to the third item, salvation. Yes, repentance is a salvation matter, meaning, without repentance, a person cannot be saved.
“To repent” is from the Greek word “μετανοέω/ metanoeō,” which is defined as “to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent; to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” [Thayer, word no. 334 via e-Sword]. When one repents due to his godly remorse for breaking God’s will, he changes his thinking about committing sin and then changes his conduct.
When Christians teach about the necessity of repentance, we do not do it to prove that we are better than other folks; we do it to prepare others for heaven.
When we proclaim the Bible message about repentance, we do not do so to run people down; we do it to reconcile them to the Savior.
When we declare the need for sinners to repent, we are not trying to offend anyone; instead, we are trying to open their eyes to the ugliness of living in darkness and the beauty of living with the Master.
At some point, there needs to be personal application of what the Bible says. Those who worship idols need to repent of such by leaving them behind and turning to God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
When people mock the Lord and His holy word, they need to repent of blasphemy (Mark 7:21-23).
If public officials intentionally tell falsehoods to citizens, they need to repent of lying (Proverbs 14:5).
Those who sleep with someone who is not their spouse need to repent of fornication (Hebrews 13:4).
When a man steals funds from his boss or business partners, he needs to repent of his thievery (Mark 7:21-23).
God’s way of forgiveness is for man to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), not prayer. When religious teachers tell lost people they can be saved by praying to Jesus and confessing their sins, they need to repent of leading people astray.
When people are a part of and endorse manmade religious organizations, they need to repent of upholding unauthorized groups (Matthew 15:13).
When brothers in the Lord attend every service of the church, but go home and treat their wife like dirt, they need to repent of not imitating the love Jesus had for His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25).
When Christian sisters worship with enthusiasm, but in the presence of others constantly belittle their husband’s outward appearance, limited formal education, and lack of ability, they need to repent of failing to show proper respect (Ephesians 5:33).
When parents allow their children to decide for themselves how they will dress, where they will go, etc., they need to repent of not giving good guidance.
When Christians spend many hours each day on social media and watching TV or YouTube videos, but say they are too busy to study their Bible, they need to repent of having misplaced priorities (Matthew 6:33).
When shepherds of God’s flock refuse to lead the church in disciplining rebellious sheep in the way God has prescribed (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14), they need to repent of dereliction of duty and letting others down.
When deacons are preoccupied with earthly matters and fail to fulfill their assignments, doing absolutely zero for the church, they need to repent.
When preachers never speak about sin in the camp because they are afraid of losing their job, they need to repent for their lack of courage and being more concerned about their salary than they are about souls.
“You cannot force people to repent.” True. We must, though, show them what the Bible says about it and the consequences of not repenting of all sins.
— Roger D. Campbell