REPENTANCE – By Dr. Robert Jeffress
What does it mean to repent?
In my years as a pastor, I’ve come to see that there’s a tremendous misconception about repentance. Most people think repentance means to turn from your sin. In other words, if you want to become a Christian, then you have to clean up your life to make God accept you.
But that is a lie from the pit of hell. Despite your best efforts, you cannot “clean up” your life enough to earn God’s salvation. It is absolutely impossible. That is not what repentance means.
Contrary to popular belief, repentance does not mean to change your behavior. The Greek word for “repent” means to change your mind. It means to believe something differently than what you believed before.
In other words, it has everything to do with the mind.
Paul alluded to this in Romans 10:2 when he described those who had “a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” Have you ever heard people say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere”? No, it makes a great deal of difference what you believe, Salvation begins in the head. Paul said these people were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong.
There are only two ways to try to have a right relationship with God. One way is through self-righteousness. Some people think the way to reach God is by keeping the law. Here’s the problem with that: Nobody can keep the law. Galatians 3:11 says, “That no one is justified by the Law before God because, “’THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’”
It doesn’t matter how much good we try to do; our good works are like a “filthy garment” to God (Isaiah 64:6). In this world, our good works count for something. But in God’s economy, our good works cannot save.
The other way to God – the only true way – is through His righteousness. We don’t earn this righteousness; God grants it to us. God’s righteousness is based on faith, not the Law.
Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” On our own, we don’t have enough righteousness to enter Heaven. The good news is God has plenty of righteousness? When you trust in Jesus as Savior, God wraps you in the righteousness of Jesus so that when God looks at you, He no longer sees your sin; He sees the perfection of His Son.
For an unbeliever to be saved, he must have a change of mind. Instead of staying on the dead-end road of self-righteousness, he needs a change of mind that leads to a change of direction.
But that’s not enough. An unbeliever must also believe in his heart. Paul said in Romans10: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (10:9-10). This is not an intellectual assent to a bunch of facts; it is a crying out in desperation.
13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Finally, an unbeliever must confess with his mouth. Romans 10:10 says, “With the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” There has to be a public declaration of faith. Jesus said, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). There’s no such thing as a secret disciple of Christ.
How does God call unbelievers to faith? He does it through you and me.
Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” When we share the gospel, we are sharing God’s invitation. And God’s Word will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11).
It is our responsibility to share the gospel; it is the unbeliever’s responsibility to repent with his mind, believe with his heart, and confess with his mouth; and it is God’s responsibility to save.
How will you respond to the gospel today?
Dr. Robert Jeffress
Pastor – First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas