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How to Preach Repentance

Repentance is one of the most positive words in the Christian vocabulary. It refers to turning from a destructive path and moving instead into God’s plan for your life.

“Repentance is the vomit of the soul.” —Thomas Brooks

So, what is it? Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, specifically, an inward turning from sin to God. It is hating what you once loved and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ.

“It is turning from the sins you love to the holy God you’re called to love.” —Mark Dever

Is Repentance Necessary?

Well, repentance is required in order to have a relationship with God and go to Heaven.

“Repentance does not mean achieving perfection. We don’t clean ourselves up on our own efforts and then try to get God to accept us. Rather, it is choosing a different attitude toward sin.”

Repentance does not mean achieving perfection. We don’t clean ourselves up on our own efforts and then try to get God to accept us. Rather, it is choosing a different attitude toward sin. We will still sin on occasion until God calls us home to Heaven, and will have to ask for forgiveness of sin until we die, but God gives His children power and strength to battle against it.

“Sin forsaken is one of the best evidences of sin forgiven.” —J. C. Ryle

“[Repentance] is not a merely an intellectual change of mind or mere grief,…but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which results in ‘fruit in keeping with repentance.’” —D. A. Carson

“Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change.” —J. I. Packer

Christ isn’t asking us to clean our lives up, He’s commanding us to lay our lives down. There’s a world of difference.

IsnThis Lordship Salvation?

We don’t make Jesus Lord; He is Lord. What we do is recognize Him for who He really is.

“Repentance needs to be as loud as the sin was.” —John MacArthur

Second Timothy 2:25 tells us God grants repentance. It says we are to be gentle and patient, “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.”

“People need to repent of their lack of repentance.”

People need to repent of their lack of repentance.

“The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of Fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.” —A. W. Pink

Repentance is simply being sorry enough to stop.

“If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer. I must arouse myself to love and serve Him who has redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil that killed my best Friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?” —C. H. Spurgeon

A person who truly repents and trusts Christ alone for salvation is a Christian. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Should We Preach Repentance?

We should preach repentance only if we want to be biblical. Mark 1:15 records the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He began by commanding: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Again, in Luke 13:3,5 Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Peter, one of the twelve apostles, ended his most famous sermon by telling his hearers to believe in the name of Jesus and repent and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

The apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, explained in the book of Acts that people must turn to God in repentance and have faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

Repentance is God’s required response to sin. It’s worthy to note, repentance is more than feeling sorry for your sin. Of course, you should feel sorry for your sins; you have done wrong.

“To forsake sin, is to leave it without any thought reserved of returning to it again.” —William Gurnall

“There can be no peace between you and Christ while there is peace between you and sin.” —C. H. Spurgeon

“You and your sins must separate, or you and your God will never come together.” —C. H. Spurgeon

What Does Preaching Repentance Look Like?

Often, when it comes time to call people to repent, I will say as much of the following as they allow me to say:

If you are putting your trust in anything other than Christ, then you need to “repent.” That word means “to change your mind.” You need to change your mind about what/whom you place your trust in for salvation. Your faith must be in Christ alone.

I urge you today to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. I urge you to repent. I urge you to cry out to God to have mercy on you. If you place your trust in Jesus today and repent of your sins, you will receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life and will have the assurance of Heaven.

God is willing to be gracious to you today and give you what you don’t deserve. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Jesus warned, “Unless you repent, you will perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance is more than feeling sorry for your sin. Of course, you should feel sorry for your sins; you have done wrong. The question is, are you willing to turn from your sins and turn toward God, to place your faith in Christ and surrender your life to Him today?

“God does not dismiss His wrath against sinners by the wave of a magical wand. Salvation is a free gift, but it cost the Son His life.”

God does not dismiss His wrath against sinners by the wave of a magical wand. Salvation is a free gift, but it cost the Son His life. So, either Jesus Christ is your substitute who suffered and died on the cross in your place, and in so doing satisfied the demands of the Law, or you must suffer the punishment yourself…in Hell.

Please, repent today. You may not have tomorrow. Now is the time to prepare for what could be your last day; tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

Illustrations on Repentance

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

#1
Imagine coming home one day to find your spouse committing adultery. When you confront your spouse she says, “Hey, I am sorry, I guess I let you down. I don’t know what the big deal is or why you are getting upset. I know lots of people who have made this mistake. They understand. It is not a big deal. But, I guess it is a big deal to you. So, I’ll try not to let that happen again.”

Is that the kind of apology you are looking for? How much forgiveness do you think you would grant? Would you desire a restored relationship after that? I don’t think so. However, what if you truly saw the awful hurt of unfaithfulness in your spouse? What if she understood that she had broken the coveted trust between the two of you and came to you humbly saying, “I am so sorry that I have done this terrible thing. I am begging for your forgiveness. Even the very thought of intimacy with someone else is wrong. I realize how hurtful and how wicked I have been for betraying your trust and ruining our relationship. Please forgive me.”

Does this sound like genuine sorrow for sin? This true repentance would make the situation entirely different because the person’s attitude is different.

“If we don’t see ourselves as truly lost in sin, then there is no reason to believe that you need to be found by Christ.”

#2
The only way to call on a lifeguard to save you is to admit that you are drowning. In the same way, the only way to call on Jesus Christ to save you is to admit that you are drowning in your sin. This can only happen when you see your sin as God sees it. Let this thought sink in for a moment. If we don’t see ourselves as truly lost in sin, then there is no reason to believe that you need to be found by Christ.

The biggest evidence that a man has been born again will be a change of life. If the man does not live differently than he did before he came to Christ, then his superficial “repentance” needs to be repented of.

Mark Spence

Mark Spence is the Vice President of Outreach at Living Waters and the Dean of the online School of Biblical Evangelism, with over 18,000 students enrolled since its inception. A popular speaker at conferences and universities, he also cohosts season five of the television program “Way of the Master,” engaging skeptics and equipping Christians in evangelism and apologetics. A former assistant pastor, Mark is the Producer and Editor of several Living Waters films, and he and his wife, Laura, homeschool their five children.

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