Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
"Repent" is a theological term that means CHANGE. Everywhere you look today the cry is for change. Scientist, educator, politician, doctor, minister, rabbi or priest, all would like to see some changes made in this world. The cry of the long-haired dissident is "change." Everyone, it seems, wants change! How about you? Are YOU satisfied with the way you are? Would you like to see some changes in your life?
MANY men to quit know it and women would like smoking because they is harmful to their health. It is a sickeningly bad habit they have developed, and they would desperately like to CHANGE the bad habit for a good one. But they simply are not willing to make the necessary effort to change. A famous television star recently pleaded with his audience to kick the smoking habit before it was too late for them. He said he would have quit — changed — if he had known continuing would have brought on the terminal cancer of which he was dying. But for him, it was too late. It seems everyone talks about change, but few really understand what real change is.
Change Is for Today
What does change mean? Is changing, or seeking change, just theological terminology that should be relegated to a specific area of a by-gone age? Not at all! It is a constant part of everyday modern living. This is a term for the most modern, up-to-date society. One current saying goes, "There is nothing more permanent than change." It seems everyone can agree that change is for today. But what about repentance? To most mods, repentance is an archaic word found only in Bible dictionaries or outdated books of the past. Repentance seems to be something you do on your deathbed to satisfy dear old Grandma or the preacher. To the "now" generation, what we need is change all right, but not repentance. But if change is the need, then what we need today more than ever is wholesale repentance. Because change means repentance, and repentance means change. The words Christ littered hundred of years ago are as relevant as tomorrow's newspaper. He said: "Except ye repent [change) ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). There is a greater need today for sincere, heartfelt worldwide REPENTANCE THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME IN THIS WORLD'S HISTORY. Repentance isn't just an archaic term of the past. Rather, it is a modern, up-to-the-minute, desperate need for NOW! Jesus said, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Paul said, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth ALL MEN EVERYWHERE TO REPENT" (Acts 17:30). Why does God command all men everywhere to repent? Because it is for the good of all men. Everyone wants to be happy, but most simply don't know how. The normal, carnal mind stands in the way of the necessary changes all of us need to make. Here is where repentance comes in. It's a vital key to happiness and everything good we all want. Let's understand — what is repentance? How do we repent?
Repentance is a complete, unconditional surrender of the self! To repent means to turn around — to make an about-face. It means to change everything — the way we dress, look, act and think. It means rooting out all preconceived ideas about God, Christ and self. It means to actually change in mind and direction. Repentance is also a profound sorrow for the wrong deeds committed and an actual turning to God with no reservations. It is an actual changing of the thought processes. Repentance is turning from sin and self to the great Eternal God in unconditional surrender. A man who has repented will hate sin as God hates it. To repent is to hate what you are and love God and what He stands for. Repentance is a process that continues throughout your entire life. It is a threefold process that grows and grows.
Keep the Letter of the Law
First of all, every truly repentant believer must repent of breaking the letter of God's Law, the Ten Commandments. God's Law says: "Thou shalt not bear false witness." That means if YOU have been lying, exaggerating, stretching or coloring the truth, falsifying your income tax report, or in any way bearing false witness, you have been breaking the letter of God's Law. To repent of breaking the letter of this Law means you must STOP. Stop lying, exaggerating, coloring. Stop falsifying your income tax report. Stop every act that breaks this cardinal point of God's Law in the letter. God's Law says: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." To repent of breaking the letter of this Law means to stop the act of adultery. If you have been cheating on your wife (or husband), you had better STOP! Quit committing the act of adultery. Quit breaking the letter of God's Law. "Thou shalt not steal" is another cardinal point of God's Law. To repent means to quit cheating people on the job, at home, or on the golf course. It means to never lie down on the job or take your paycheck without really earning it. It also means to quit walking away with office pencils, factory tools or petty cash. Simply DO NOT STEAL! If you steal in any way, you are breaking the letter of God's holy Law. Review every one of the Ten Commandments God gave to man, and begin to live by them. This wonderful Law of love God gave to mankind is the raii3.e of happy, brimful and abundant lives. Breaking God's Law is the cause of miserable, unhappy lives. To repent is to change from your way to God's way — to keeping God's Law in the letter. You can do it, even in this age of lawlessness. But that alone is not enough!
Keep the Spirit of the Law
When you repent, you must stop breaking the spirit of God's Law. But what is meant by "the spirit of the Law"? How do we keep the Law in the spirit? Christ gives us the answer. When Jesus came to this earth over nineteen hundred years ago, He came with a purpose. Part of that purpose was to "... magnify the law, and make it honourable" (Isa. 42:21). To magnify the Law DOESN'T mean to do away with it, It means to make it more applicable than ever! The Law of God "... is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." It is a spiritual Law (Rom. 7:12, 14). Jesus Christ came to reveal the spiritual application of God's holy, just, and good Law. He came to explain what it means to keep the Law in the spirit. He revealed that we should repent of breaking the spirit of the Law as well as the letter of the Law. Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:27-28). Perhaps you haven't actually committed the act of adultery. But if you have looked on a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery with her in your heart. You have broken the spirit of God's Law. Jesus further explained, in magnifying the Law, that to have anger and hatred was tantamount to murder. He said: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. 5:21-22). To keep the spirit of the Law as magnified by Christ is to follow His teachings to "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). You see how Christ magnified the Law that says: "Thou shalt do no murder." You may never have actually murdered anyone, but does that mean you have no need to repent of breaking that specific commandment? Not if you have been fighting mad, extremely angry, or had hatred in your heart. YOU need to repent of breaking the spirit of God's Law. Lust, envy, and hate are all ways in which you may be breaking the spirit of God's Law. To repent means to actually control your thoughts. You, and you alone, control the door of your mind. Simply don't allow lust to enter in and cause you to sin. To lust after a woman is a sin. To hate is a sin. To have another god before the true God is a sin. Any form of breaking the spirit and intent of God's Law IS A SIN! (I John 3:4.) But does repentance end here? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Repent of WHAT YOU ARE!
What are you? By God's standards, you are NOTHING and LESS than nothing and vanity (Isa. 40:17). David said man at his very best state is altogether vanity (Psalm 39:5). God makes it plain that the heart of man (that is, the faculty of the mind we call the heart) is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). Look at the fruit of man's rule on this earth. Consider the fact that we have reached the brink of cosmocide. Study history and current events and see how man's inhumanity to man has been, and is, almost unbelievable. Realize that man by himself is absolutely rotten to the core. Realize that man is a deceitful, desperately wicked being. I don't mean just some men — but ALL men. Every man is foul, evil, and despicable by nature! Somehow it is hard for us to believe man is inherently evil. But the Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth NO GOOD THING" (Rom. 7:18). Even Job, in all his righteousness, had to come to the place where he saw himself as he really was. Job thought he was pretty good. He became self-righteous. It became so bad that God allowed Satan to afflict Job with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Job had to sit in abject agony on a pile of ash with a potsherd in his hand and scrape the pus from his boils. Finally, after untold suffering, Job came to see himself as he really was. He was finally able to say before God: "I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee... I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I KNEW NOT... I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I ABHOR MYSELF, and REPENT in dust and ashes" (Job 42:2-6). You, too, must come to the place where you see yourself as you really are. If you do, you will realize you really are despicable by nature. And finally you will be able to say with profound conviction: "I ABHOR MYSELF!" That is what repentance is all about. It is seeing yourself, abhorring yourself, and repenting of SELF! Repent of what you are, not just what you've done. This is the true repentance. Until you have come to this point, you simply HAVE NOT REPENTED!
The Need for Today
The cry for change quite often falls on deaf ears today. In spite of this, the cry continues to echo everywhere, The need for change is evident. Most people see and understand this fact. But most people don't see and understand the most urgent need in the lives of each of us. In this chaotic world, the need for true repentance has never been greater. Without it, there is no hope for us individually, or for the world as a whole. In this chaotic age, the beginning of the message from Jesus Christ is very modern and up-to-date: "Repent — the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Never before has that statement been more true than today. Today we hear statesmen, politicians and philosophers saying, as with one voice, that something must be done, changes must be made, or there is no hope for mankind. Never before have we faced the possibility of human annihilation. Never before have virtual madmen had within their grasp the power of atomic and hydrogen bombs. What is the answer? The answer is "Change!" The answer is "Repentance." The answer is "Turn to God with all your heart — NOW!" The answer is summed up in a statement made by the late General Douglas MacArthur when he said before the combined Congress of the United States: "It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh." Unless changes are made on a grand scale, there is no hope for mankind. What mankind needs more than anything is wholesale repentance. You can't repent for all mankind, but you can repent for yourself. The most important need in your life right now is true repentance. It is a matter of life and death — eternal life! Don't ignore this need. Now is the time to repent! You need to know how. Write for our article entitled "What Is Real Repentance?" Also, enroll immediately in the Ambassador College Correspondence Course and study every lesson thoroughly. If you feel you need personal counsel from one of God's ministers, write and ask for one of our representatives to call on you. You must make a personal request. IT'S UP TO YOU!