I. Its Importance
In these times of easy believe-ism, it is highly probable that, for one reason or another, there is a void in fully understanding our Bible’s tremendously important doctrine of repentance as God has intended. When this happens, churches and believers confuse and except movement and excitement with lasting, faithful, and spiritual growth. Later when these impulsive and shallow events pass, the local congregation and its leadership are often facing confusion, discouragement, and even perhaps later, find themselves searching for someone or some folks to blame in order to help with what they believe to be the solution. Unfortunately, all too often this problem cycles in way too many congregations.
Although a void in teaching the Biblical doctrine of repentance appeared from time to time not long after the first group of faithful believers were permanently empowered by the Holy Ghost from upon high, from what I have been able to discover, the problem with a shallow understanding of this doctrine, in our era, started in the beginning of the 20th century and rapidly gained momentum soon after WWII.
A. B. Stringfellow states, “The truth in this lesson is one seldom mentioned. Repentance is not a popular subject. Repentance is absolutely necessary and is indispensable to salvation. Wherever this subject is taught, it brings forth fruit. Faith in Christ is the goal of teaching and preaching-but that teaching and preaching must stress repentance. Jesus stated that repentance was a necessity for salvation (Luke 13:3). Webster defines repentance as “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret or contrition.”
One of the primary factors interfering with accepting and defining true repentance is man’s sinful nature.
- (Jer. 25:4-7) “And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending [them]; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. 5. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: 6. And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. 7. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.”
_(Ezek.14:4-11) “ Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; 5. That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. 6. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn [yourselves] from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. The following happens when people attempt to come to the Lord apart from personal repentance. – 7. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: 8. And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD. A warning to liberal prophets not grounded in God’s priority that is placed on repentance - 9. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seemeth [unto him]; 11. That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.
(Acts 5:3-11) “ But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land? 4. Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried [him] out, and buried [him]. 7. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband [are] at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying [her] forth, buried [her] by her husband. 11. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
It is impossible for pledges and promises to replace real repentance that is always exemplified by Godly honesty. In reality, pledges and promises to God will eventually reveal the real level of sinfulness in a heart.
Repentance will continue to hold a key part of salvation in the great tribulation period. – (Joe 2:11-14) “And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp [is] very great: for [he is] strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD [is] great and very terrible; and who can abide it? 12. Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye [even] to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14. Who knoweth [if] he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; [even] a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
When one comes before God completely overwhelmed by countless things, extreme caution is necessary! First for the unsaved – God only knows how many times the unsaved have experience pressure produced by despair and run before Him crying out and experiencing a temporal emotional release. It is at this very moment the devil, if given the opportunity, confuses that soul into believing they have just experienced salvation. Apart from truly crying out to God with a broken heart because of their sinful condition and asking God to mercifully, forgive them, and then inviting Him into their hearts as their personal Savior, the personal consequences may be life-long. Except God intervenes by using His word, more than likely through His people, there is a 100%
possibility that the rest of their lives will live be spent living being submerged in spiritual deception. As a result, it is commonplace for believers, who have witnessed their actions, to interact with them as believers when in reality they are not. On the other hand, for the saved, when these times come we certainly need to come before The Lord as soon as possible, dumping all before Him, if need be asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and then praise Him for His salvation in our lives!
Real repentance has, is, and in the future will always hold top priority with God but, in all honesty, how important is real repentance to you?
 Stringfellow, Alan, B. Great Truths of the Bible, Virgil W. Hensley Inc. Tulsa Oklahoma, 6116 East 32nd St. Tulsa, Ok. 74135