Jesus began his ministry saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17) And, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus says of his ministry, “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in [my] name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47) And when Jesus sent out his disciples, it is said of them that, “They went out and preached that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12)
So it would seem that repentance is something we need to understand and take very seriously if we call Jesus our Master.
To repent means that we decisively act to turn away from our old ways and embrace a new path. Jesus teaches that this path, this “Good News,” is the way of God, and the way of Righteousness.
“If any man will come after me,” says Jesus, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)
The Gospel writers used the Greek word “metanoeó,” for “repent,” which means to “change one’s mind,” and (in a deeper sense) to “turn around.” This is consistent with Jesus’ call for us to change our minds – literally, to think differently about our lives – and to turn it around, to turn our face to God and to obey His will for our lives, using the life of Jesus himself as a template.
Repentance it is not merely feeling bad for past sinful acts (though it is that) it is a commitment to act righteously, and in accordance with God’s will after repenting. Only those who practice righteous actions are righteous.
Righteousness is an act, not a thing that can be claimed without effort (1 John 3:7.)
Jesus calls us to repent, to change entirely, to dedicate our lives to serving other human beings and God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30.) He assures us that we can do the will of God (Matt. 7:21) and that it is our duty to do it, and that we will be judged by God according to our acts (Matt. 16:27.)
Jesus did not come to praise the righteous among us, but to save those who were sinning, and to call them back to Godliness. (Luke 5:30.) Repenting is the starting-point of our journey towards God with Jesus as our guide, our template and our mentor.
And then, we must continually rely not only on the God-given gifts which we already possess, but also seek God's face daily in prayer to strengthen us and help keep us from sinning.
No one who claims to have Jesus as their Master will knowingly and recklessly keep sinning. (1 John 3:6) And if we fail to agree to stop sinning by repenting of our past sins, God cannot forgive us and we cannot fully follow God.
The Hebrew Scriptures instruct us that God takes no pleasure in our sins and wishes us to turn to Him, and save ourselves. “In repentance and rest we will be saved; in staying calm and trusting will be our strength,” says the Prophet Isaiah (30:5) and again, “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.” (1:16)
“Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall,” warns Ezekiel, speaking for God. “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (18:30-31)
Let us, therefore, commit ourselves to conforming our walk of faith to that of Jesus, the servant of God and our guide in all things.