Why We NEED to Repent (And Why It is Not Enough)
Why do you need to repent? Because you sin. He who does not sin has no need for repentance. Sin is wrong. (I John 3:4) Sin is bad. (James 1:14-15) Sin is evil. (Luke 6:45) Whether we want to philosophically classify it as small evil, inconsequential evil, or big and bad evil; guess what? It is still evil. Sin is wrong. Sin is bad. Sin is evil. And when we sin, we are wrong, bad, and evil. When we sin, we separate ourselves from the Holy God who created us, because He is good, and right, and holy. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
Sin is darkness. (Luke 11:34) When we sin, we are in darkness. (John 3:19) God is light. The Holy Spirit is rather blunt through this illustration, that darkness and light cannot cohabitate. There is either one, or the other, but they cannot both be together. Where light is, darkness is not. Where darkness is, light is not. Therefore, when we sin, we enter into darkness where God cannot be. Through sin, we separate ourselves from God. (I John 1:5-6)
And we all sin. (Romans 3:23) We all fall short of the (light) glory of God in our lives. None is perfect. No not one. (Romans 3:10) So if we all sin, and thereby separate ourselves from God; the big question then is, “How can I be restored in my relationship with God? How can I be saved from the sin, darkness, and death that I foolishly chose? How can I get back to the light?” (Acts 2:37; 16:30; 22:10) In the past few weeks, we’ve looked at part of this spiritual condition of man. We’ve noted that this is a spiritual (Bible) question, and therefore needs a truthful Bible answer. (John 8:32) We’ve seen that without Christ, we will die in our sins. (John 7:24) We have to believe in God, believe in Christ Jesus, and trust the Holy Spirit’s communication to us through the gospel. We have seen that we must confess because there is NO forgiveness of sins without confession that Christ is the Son of God (Romans 10:10; Acts 8:36-37) – and therefore our Lord whom we spiritually bow to in submission. But the problem is sin. Sin is what is condemning us, and the plain answer is – we can’t be free from sin if we are still committing sin. That is, if we are still committing our life to sin. (Romans 6:20)
Repentance means “to change” or “to turn”. And in relation to sin, that is what we have to absolutely do. We can’t be free from sin if we are still living in sin and daily choosing sin (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 26:19-20). You may have heard the old proverb before, “When you are in a hole… stop digging.” That’s the very principle that those who are lost in sin must comprehend. If you have dug yourself into a hole of darkness through your sin, you need to stop digging. You need to stop going further and further down the hole of darkness through your poor sinful choices. You can never be found if you continue to go into the darkness. You can never be found, if you are continually running away from the light – of God and His gospel.
So to be freed from sin, and the death that results from it, you must stop sinning. You must commit yourself to stopping rather than committing yourself to sinning. (Hebrews 10:26) God’s grace does not reach unto the unrepentant heart. It is not compatible with the unrepentant sinner. God’s grace is not for those who are seeking to live a life that dishonors, profanes, and disgraces His grace! And so that means, if you truly want the grace of God, you must be willing to make a choice. The conscious choice to stop subjecting yourself to the anti-gospel of sin and death; and instead, subject yourself to the true gospel of light and life in Christ Jesus. That’s repentance. That’s what it is. That “change”, that “turning” in your heart, away from the darkness and to the light.
This is a principle that spans scripture, and it is a principle that God is crystal clear on. Death comes from sin (Romans 6:23), God does not want us to die (Ezekiel 18:32), so we need to repent of sin (II Peter 3:9-1). It is not a difficult concept. It is as straightforward as can be. There can be no forgiveness of sins without repentance; and yet, repentance is not enough. It is not the end all and be all of God’s plan of salvation. It is a part of His instruction, but it is not the whole of His instruction. There is still a problem.
Why? Because, to carry our digging illustration further, when you repent, all you have done is stop digging your own grave. The problem is, you are still in the hole. You are still in the grave with no way out. Repentance doesn’t get you out of the grave. You can’t “work” yourself out of the grave. You are not in a position to “undo” what you have done. The best you can do is change what you do moving forward – which is what repentance is. And so you are stuck. You are stuck with the desire and will to do better, but in no position to do so. How do you get out of the grave?
By the grace of God, you trustingly accept His grace and you fill that grave with water. Have you ever seen that trick where you put a ping pong ball in an empty glass and have to get it out without touching the ball or the glass? The solution to the riddle is, fill the glass with water and let the ball float up to the top. In the gospel, that’s sort of the imagery we have, when we are in the pit of sin and death that we have dug with our own evil choices. The only way out, is to fill that grave with water, let the water cover us from head to toe, to be completely submerged in this now watery grave called “baptism”, and to be resurrected from that grave with our penitent heart, having buried the old self, having left him behind in that watery grave of baptism, as we are raised up… reborn… a “new man”… walking in the newness of life. (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:2-7; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 2:9-14)
Baptism washes away the old sins (Acts 22:16). God raises us up in the newness of life through baptism. Something repentance cannot do on its own! Repentance is necessary. God’s grace doesn’t lift us out of that watery grave without it. But repentance in and of itself is not enough, for the non-Christian – because it doesn’t take away our old sins… it only promises us a better future of living to walk in the holiness of God.