There are two aspects to repentance which normally show up in a dictionary definition: sorrow and change. Sorrow is for the sin we have committed; change is reforming so that we don’t commit that sin again. Both are important but the second is more important. If we’re sorry about sinning, but keep sinning – what good is that? On the other hand, if we simply stop sinning, it’s not as if God is going to complain that we didn’t cry enough first.
The kind of repentance God is calling for from us is not merely that we should repent of this or that sin. Rather, He is calling us to repent of our entire lives. He calls us to turn (that’s another word for repentance) to Him. The implication, of course, is that we have been living turned away from Him. Thus the call to turn to Him.
Turned away from God means that we live according to what we can see in the world, trying to protect ourselves, trying to accumulate for ourselves – even if we periodically mention God or call out to Him. Turning to God means living life entirely in His presence, serving Him in everything we think, say and do.
God did not call us to this sort of repentance until He had lived life on the earth Himself as Jesus. For only then could we know enough about God to turn fully to Him. In Jesus we know that we have forgiveness with God and that He will always accept us. Prior to what we saw in Jesus, we might have hoped that (though it’s unlikely we’d have had that much nerve), but we certainly couldn’t have been confident about it. Now, however, we see in Jesus how generous the love of God is. We can turn fully to Him in confidence that He will accept us. He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for all our sins. Though He may seem harsh to those who do not repent, He is gentle to those who do.
Why did I add the word “early” to the title? Because everyone is going to turn to Jesus eventually. Everyone. That is, when we die we will know without a doubt who Jesus is. Only then it will be too late to repent. Oh, yes, everyone is going to heaven. God is not going to deny anyone resurrection. (For more, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven .) But the way we lived on earth will determine at least to some degree our experience in heaven and it will certainly affect the way we look back at our life on earth.
Once we die, there’s no way to change how we lived. Only now – while we’re still here – can we make those changes.
Everyone you know will turn to Jesus. Everyone you know will give Him reverence and honor. Some will do it early – here on earth. The rest will do it later. Some people who turn to Jesus only at death will be able to say that they were never told about Him during their time on earth. Not everyone, however, will have that excuse. And our individual judgment will take into account our individual level of knowledge. The more we know of God’s will, the more that is expected of us.
Since you are part of a human race which will fully acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the world, why not do it now? That way you can be among those who face Him with no excuses and no more regrets. If you have already begun that repentance, be aware that the only thing that distinguishes you from all those who have yet not acknowledged Him is that you have done so early. Your repentance doesn’t make you better than anyone, but it does make you better off than you were.