The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that repentance is the first step, and a necessary step, toward salvation. No one shall be saved without it. Repentance is to be preached among all nations (Luke 24:47). Without repentance our sins will not be forgiven (Acts 2:38). Baptism, scripture memorization, a good reputation, and all else are worthless to us without repentance. This is a fact that Satan has long well known. Would it not be then an obvious work of Satan to confuse the meaning of this doctrine in our minds so that we would then continue to be his children, and not God’s children?
To repent is to have a “godly sorrow” for our sins (II Cor. 7:10). But what then, is sin? Sure, you have heard people talk about sin, and how bad it is. But have they told you what the Bible says that sin is? That’s where the catch is! You can only repent of your sins when you know for sure what God says your sins are. How and why would you be sorry for something if you didn’t know that thing was wrong in the first place? How will you learn to please God if you don’t know what He dislikes and says is wrong? Is sin doing something that you feel in your mind (using your own reasoning) is wrong? That’s what the ministers today are teaching. But only the Bible has the answer. Roman 3:20 tells us that ‘by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Perhaps that might not be plain enough for some, so it’s repeated elsewhere: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4).
To repent is to truly recognize how you have fallen short of what God expects of you, and to truly be sorry for this seeking from then on to obey God by keeping His laws that you have broken in the past. Only real repentance works. If you pray to God to forgive you for our sins and keep right on committing them just as before then you weren’t really sorry for your sins.
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). For this reason man rebels against the things of God. It is his nature to be rebellious against God. Man must, and shall, be delivered from this natural state of rebellion. God set in motion a law of the mind that causes a person to rebel. Paul recognized this law working in his own mind when he said: “I find then a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom 7:21). When Paul said: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (v. 22), then and only then he could “see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (v. 23).
We, like Paul, must get this law of God working in us to reveal the sin in us and the evil that confronts us in this present world.
Someone once said “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” You don’t change by concentration on change, or defining what change there is going to be. You don’t change by making excuses for your short-comings and hiding them from yourself, either. This is just the opposite of the “power of positive thinking,” where you decide what you want to be, and then be it. Now don’t jump up and shout “No, no I can’t! I’ve got this and that quality and I can’t accept it all.” God will accept you just as you are, provided you accept yourself for just what you are. Only then can the change take place. We do not know what we should be. We do not know what we should do. We don’t even know what we are very well. That’s why the Lord promised to send us a Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can then guide us as we seek to do God’s will. Self-acceptance is just a part of repentance. If we can’t accept and admit that we really are the screwed-up mess that we really are how can we go the God in prayer and ask Him to forgive us? Then how can we know what to ask Him to forgive if we don’t even know what sin is? Well, we can’t. If there were no law, there could be no sin. And if there were no sin, we wouldn’t need forgiveness. Since we were begotten after Calvary, and we do need God’s Son as our Mediator and our Saviour, our very existence proves that the Law had not been done away with.
Once you have learned what repentance is all about, and have learned to accept yourself, some things really happen. Other people are easier to understand and are more “real.” When we recognize our own faults it’s easier to accept the faults in other people. We don’t have to like their faults but we can accept them better even though they have these faults. So it’s’ easier for us to love and love is the fulfilling of the law. Just about every one of us can look back and remember a few people who have taken us just the way we are. No deals, no bargains. They take you because you are you, unconditionally; not “if you will shave your beard” or “If you will fix your hair-differently “or “If you will believe just like me.” These people saw our faults and loved us anyway that’s what the Master did.
Our transgression of the Law must be acknowledged, and we must have a “godly sorrow” in our hearts because of this transgression: this is repentance. When we find true repentance we also begin to accept ourselves. When we truly accept ourselves as we really are, then we can begin to be molded into what the Father would have us to be.
Once you have come this far and have made a commitment, never look back. A man once told Jesus: “. . . . . .I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house” (Luke 9:61). Jesus answered him: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
We should give careful study to the Noah-Lot comparison Jesus made with our day. As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. As it was in the day of Lot. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed, or “such will it be in the day when the Son of man appears” (Luke 18, Lamsa).
Now look at Matthew’s record of the “Noah” comparison: “Just as in the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For the people before the flood were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and carried them all away; such will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken away and the other left” (Matt. 24:37-40 Lamsa).
Jesus was stressing the point that the people were glutting themselves in their indulgences up “until the day that Noah entered into the ark.” His warning was about what they were doing before the flood.
“Likewise as it was in the days of Lot.” The warning is about what they were doing before the fire and brimstone fell. “But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone.” Lot was safely out of Sodom and then the fire fell. Noah and Lot were in their places safely before any part of the judgments fell.
Christ added an important detail to the comparison between Lot’s day and ours when He admonished: “Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:32-33). What might it be about this woman that Christ wishes us to remember? She wasn’t involved in the sodomitical sins. She wasn’t a mocker about the impending destruction like her sons-in-law. She held the hand of the delivering angel as she was escaping the doomed city, and she got part way to the place of safety. Then, she was lost while she was being saved. The sin and unbelief of her heart that brought God’s punishment upon her is expressed in two words: she “looked back” (Gen. 19:26).
In remembering her, did Jesus mean that if we don’t look back, the coming judgment will not fall on us as condemnation fell upon her? Did He mean that she would have escaped with her husband before any part of the fiery condemnation fell upon Sodom if she had not looked back?
In Lot’s day, as in Noah’s, the people made gods of their possessions and pleasures. To them, as with multitudes today, these things are “life.” Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it.” Christ taught much about life, and when Lot’s wife looked back, it was with an intense yearning for those things that were life to her. Christ called it “stuff in the house” (Luke 17:31). Lot’s wife lost both her stuff and her life. She looked backward to Sodom, but her heart was in Zoar.
Lot’s wife represents a multitude of professing Christians who are not living in obedience to our Lord’s warning: “but take heed to yourselves, lest your souls be weighed down with self-indulgence and drunkenness or the anxieties of this life, and that day come upon you, suddenly, like a falling trap; for it will come on all the dwellers on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35 Weymouth).
This present evil world offers may attractions some good, some bad. Some lawful one may become a snare unto us if we are not very careful. Some bad ones may appear all right. Isn’t it true that many “things” and much “stuff” we possess become very dear to us, and many hours are devoted to that which we ordinarily suppose is harmless? Many scriptures warn us of a too close attachment with “stuff:” “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17).Paul said in Galatians 6:14 that: “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,” I John 2:15 states: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” If we do not heed these warnings we may become “. . . . . lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (II Tim. 3:4). Paul brings many of these scriptures into focus when he states: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hat righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6:14-17).
An understanding of God’s Eternal law will help each of us to understand how to “come out” and “be separate” to the Lord. Once we truly repent that is the course we must take.