From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17, NKJV

Repentance, to put it simply, is a change of mind. If after getting fully dressed in the morning I decide to change my shirt, I have repented of the choice I made regarding what to wear.

The message of repentance which Jesus heralded went far beyond such a simple change of mind. Those who heard Jesus would have been reminded of great prophets of the past who similarly proclaimed calls to repentance. Perhaps the words of Ezekiel would have come to their minds: “‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin'” Ezekiel 18:30, NKJV.

Now keep that change-of-shirt example in mind. The decision to change my shirt–my repentance from the shirt I was wearing–resulted in something, specifically the change of shirt. That is important. Just as faith which is not evident most likely is dead,:”(James 2:17.)”: so also is repentance which does not result in works fitting for it.:”(Acts 26:20)”:

That Jesus calls us to repentance ought to remind us that our God is a Holy God. To be holy means not only be to be sinless but also to be separate and dissociated from sin. Holiness is moral purity and righteousness, as well as contempt for sin.

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”

And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!” Joshua 24:19-21, NKJV

If we do not turn from our sins toward God, our fate is bleak indeed. Joshua responded to the people’s enthusiasm with further admonishment: “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel”:”(Joshua 34:23, NKJV)”:

The people again confirmed their repentance, which Joshua made final with a covenant and a monument for witness of the event. This was the importance of repentance to those who knew and revered the Almighty God. How small a thing repentance is viewed as by so many people, myself often included.

And what if we forget our repentance and commitment to our Holy God? Not only is Jesus holy, but He is also our Advocate.:”(1 John 2:1.)”: For those of us who have believed in Jesus, repented of our sins, and been made a part of His eternal family, Jesus is ever with the Father interceding on our behalf. When we sin, He is ready and able to restore us to fellowship with God. His advocacy is tied directly into the propitiation:”(Atonement; vicarious sacrifice.)”: He has made for our sin. On its basis, all of our sins are forgiven, and so Jesus can plead His own blood on our behalf, for He knows that when it is applied to a sinner’s account at conversion, all sins are forgiven.:”(Colossians 2:14)”:

As Holy God, our sins are numerous and terrible, but Jesus Christ the righteous is there to declare us forgiven.

Repentance can be a difficult thing for some; it can be hindered by that very tricky thing we call pride. Pride is the exaltation of self, and this stands in contrast to an attitude of repentance, which requires of us an admittance not only of wrong doing (as in a simple apology), but also of wrong thoughts, attitudes, and more.

Repentance requires a fundamental change of self image, that the exalted self was supremely wrong and that something exterior to us ought to be exalted. Jesus said that “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted,”:”(Matthew 23:12.)”: and the Proverbs declare that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit shall fall.”:”(Proverbs 16:18.)”: This is consistent with what Joshua declared to the people; failure to humble yourself and turn to God is very self-destructive behavior!

And that’s repentance. For the “big” sins, repentance is easy. I’ve never killed anyone, so turning from such an activity couldn’t get easier. Ditto adultery.

And yet, the so-called little sins are they which I so often overlook and neglect to repent of. Does my speech contain lies? Am I serving God and worshiping as much as possible? Am I obedient to my employer as if to Christ? Do I treat my wife as lovingly as possible? Have I turned a blind eye to someone in need?

Trust me when I say the list could easily go on, and looking at lists like that, I am again humbled that the Holy God would take time to act as an Advocate for me. Jesus, you truly are amazing!

May we all live life with a spirit of repentance, being ever sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. May we ask the Lord for pure hearts and pure hands, that we might follow after Him.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17, NKJV

Further reading: Psalm 51:1-4; Proverbs 1:23; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 3:19. You might also enjoy the Commands of Christ Pocket Guide, a curriculum upon which this material is based.

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