If you were to ask any person on the street, in the office cubicle next to you, or lunch buddy across the table if they know who Jesus is they would probably give you a satisfactory answer. However, if you were to probe around a little deeper and see if they really know Jesus, you might find out that there are many opinions on why Jesus came and how he deals with sin.
Pretenders, Posers, Rationalizers or Overcomer
There are many ways people respond to sin. Sin is deceptive. Sin lies to us, but it never quite follows through with what it promises to give. Therefore, the world is full of pretenders, posers and rationalizers who are still attached to their sin like an impenetrable umbilical cord feeding off its lies. How can I detect if I have been deceived by sin? Have you ever thought recently? “One sin is not going to hurt,” “I can hide my sin and know one will know,” “It is okay since everybody is doing it,” “It’s not my fault,” “It can’t be sin if it feels so right,” or “I’ll just sin, and ask God to forgive me later.”
These are common lies that pretenders, posers and rationalizers sing as their rock-anthems, but they are lies from the pit of hell and they will keep them in hell. How do we stop believing these lives and begin living in truth? What is the right response to sin and the gospel of Jesus Christ? How do I finally get on the road to overcoming nagging addictions, sin/confess cycles, and secret-closet sinfulness?
The 2-Pronged Response: Repent & Believe
Jesus began His ministry by preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [Mark 1:15] In other words, Jesus is saying, “I am the way. I am from God. I have fulfilled all the ancient prophecies. I am your promised Messiah who has come to forgive your sins. Trust me and turn from your sins.”
Throughout the OT, God and His prophets called people to believe in Him and repent of their sin. In the NT, the apostles called people to turn from their way and follow the way of the cross. Like Paul, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” [Acts 20:21] Repentance and Belief go together like green on grass. They are both distinctive of true followers of Christ.
You Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith
Faith is more than a cool 80’s song. Faith is not something you can simply muster up in your inner self through a mystical experience. You cannot buy it from the convenience store or put it on your North Pole wish list. Faith [and repentance] is a gift of God.
Faith is an active dependence upon the promises of God [Romans 4:18-5:1; Hebrews 11:1ff]. Faith is a belief in what you know to be true. People do not normal give themselves to something that they think is untrue. I believe the gospel is true and Jesus is the only Savior for man; therefore, I am all-in and no-holds-bard to following His way. I believe that if Jesus does not save me, I will die. I believe that I have no other hope but in Him. Salvation begins by believing Jesus is who He says He is and did what He said He did, “For what does the Bible say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” [Romans 4:3ff]
U-Turn or Burn
Repentance is a turning—from sin to the way of the Savior [Acts 11:18]. Repentance is not, “I will try harder or do better.” Repentance is not feeling really sorry or shedding a few tears over your sin; however, grief and guilt can lead to repentance [2 Corinthians 7:8-13]. Peter preached in his first sermon, “Repent and turn to God so your sins may be wiped out.” [Acts 3:19; cf. 26:20]. Repentance is changing your mind from living your way back to living God’s way. Repentance is a spiritual U-Turn.
What happens if I do not repent? “… Unless you repent you will perish.” [Luke 13:3] Jesus is saying, “Unless you turn from your sin you will go to hell.” [Romans 6:23] The alternative to not turning from sin to God is hell fire and brimstone. The Bible says we are like branches and Jesus is the Vine, “Every branch in Me [Jesus] that does not bear fruit He [the Father] takes away” [John 15:2] and, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” [John 15:6]
God is serious as a heart attack about sin. Sin is like the fat that clogs up your arteries, and repentance is the surgery that lets the blood flow again. This is how serious God is about sin, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” [Matthew 5.30] Sin is very serious and must be amputated radically before it kills you [James 1:12-15].
In summary, Repentance and faith go together like white on rice. You cannot have one without the other, or at least for the truly authentic follower of Christ. If you are really sorry about your sin you will do whatever it takes to make it right. The biblical way to make it right is by believing Jesus is the only forgiver and repentance is the means to forgiveness. The Bible is clear that Jesus came not only to save you, but also to change me from the inside you. Repentance is not as an excuse to live as you want, but as you were designed.
Quick Q&A on Repentance:
What should I repent of? [Colossians 3:5-9; Ephesians 4:17-31; Romans 1:28-32] One must repent of sin: pride [position, prestige, power], overindulging pleasures [immoral sex, substance abuse, stuff], and ungodly priorities [others, God, yourself].
How do I know if I have truly repented? According to 2 Corinthians 7, I grieve over sin , I am disgusted by sin , I am reconciled toward other people , I am having revival toward God , and I am looking forward not backward [8-9]. Also, I will perform the works in keeping with repentance [Acts 26:20; Luke 6:44; 3:8]. These fruits do not cause our salvation, but can give confirmation to it.
Why isn’t repentance easy? There are many reasons: It is humbling to submit to another authority. We love our sin too much. We do not have faith that God fulfills His promises. We do not like to experience grief [2 Corinthians 7:8-13].
What if I have already repented and I still struggle with sin? Repentance does not necessarily mean an immediate stop to sinning. It means I am taking sides with God not my sin. You chose to do war against sin rather than letting it rule you [1 Corinthians 10:13]. Temptations are still a part of this life, but in Christ we can have power to overcome.
What is your response to Jesus? Repent and Believe or remain dead in your sin [Mark 1:15].
 Adapted from the booklet How to Get Right With God. James MacDonald, Walk in the Word. Arlington Heights, IL. 2000, 4.