REPENTANCE THAT LEADS TO LIFE
Acts 11:18 ¶ When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
I prayed “the prayer” many times before, this time was different. This time I was aware of my sinful condition. This time I was aware of why Jesus died. It was my sins that brought Jesus to the cross. I could finally see it. The Lord had granted me repentance that leads to life. Instead of just feeling guilty, I saw the mercy and grace offered to me in Christ. It was a combination of incredible sorrow and joy beyond compare. My sins were forgiven and I had been changed.
Jesus taught that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit was to convict us of our sins. Until He opens our eyes to our sinfulness, we may feel remorse for the consequences of our sins, but we have no ability to repent. Repentance is the combination of God moving on our hearts and our yielding to His touch. repentance is more than feeling sorry, it is the God given ability to change. Here is Martin Luther’s thoughts on repentance.
“When unbelievers say they’re sorry for their sins, their sorrow is really the expression of disappointment that they will no longer be able to do what they want. They don’t really want to change their behavior. When thieves express sorrow, they mean they’re sorry they can’t steal anymore. Laban (in dealing with Jacob) is portrayed in this same way. Deep down, he didn’t really repent. His sorrow was only an outward show. Those who are truly repentant aren’t afraid of anything except God’s anger and displeasure. They aren’t concerned about being humiliated and disgraced in front of other people as long as they know that God is on their side.”
I can remember witnessing in the bars in Fresno, California during my years in Bible School. It was common for drunks in the bar to cry and talk about old church songs and experiences but the next week you could find them at their same old spot in the bar. Repentance really has two parts to it. It starts with a guilty conscience about our sin and turns into a hatred for sin. Next, repentance turns us to the Lord. He becomes “altogether lovely” to us. Without the attraction to Christ we will be like the drunks in the bar crying in our beer. We may be sorry for what sin has done to us but still have no power to change, still ensnared in the lure and attraction of sin itself. It’s the power of Christ’s love and the attraction to Christ Himself that makes repentance a possibility. Until we fall into the arms of His matchless love, we are helpless, unable to change ourselves. When Jesus steps into our lives everything changes. Then, and then only, we can understand what Luke meant when he wrote, “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”