The Mercy of Repentance

Jan Steen - John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness (Image source: WikiMedia Commons)
Jan Steen - John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness (Image source: WikiMedia Commons)

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Mt. 3:1-2

John the Baptist was the one who was to announce the coming of Christ and to prepare people for his coming. How did he do this? He did it by calling people to repentance. But this was not unique to John. When Jesus came, he also came preaching repentance (Mt. 4:17). And when the apostles went preaching after the Lord ascended back into heaven, they went preaching repentance (cf. Acts 3:19).

The reality is that there is no receiving Christ and no receiving the blessings of God apart from repentance. What is repentance? It is turning from our sins and turning to God (Acts 3:26; 17:30; 1 Thess. 1:10). The fact that this is the message of Christ and his apostles to every age and to all people means that we cannot escape the reality that this is a message we need to hear. There are sins of which we need to repent. If you cannot think of any, I would encourage you to read the Bible and to examine your life in light of its commands.

And repentance is not a vague and general attitude towards sin in the abstract; it is a turning away from specific sins. Moreover, repentance is something which we will continue to need to do, for there will never be a time this side of heaven when we have attained or become perfect. Our life is to be a life of repentance and faith.

Finally, repentance is a mercy from God. Have you ever thought about it like that? It is an indication of his blessing and grace, for God did not have to call us to repentance - he could have simply left us to perish in our sins (cf. Acts 3:26). But he doesn't; instead, he calls us and empowers us through the grace of the Holy Spirit to turn away from the destructive and soul-killing habits of sinful lust and practice. When we obey, we will find our repentance to be a truly freeing and joy-creating reality, for in it we not only turn away from the corrosive power of sin but we turn also to the enlivening fellowship and communion with God. Thank God for the mercy of repentance!

By: Jeremiah Bass