From that time Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, esv).
Repent is such an Old Testament word, right? We picture grizzled prophets, screeching at guilty sinners.That couldn’t be the heart of our sweet Jesus, could it?
Actually, we’d be so wrong to think repentance isn’t of vital importance to Jesus. In some of His first recorded words in Scripture, Jesus appealed for people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As He sent out His twelve disciples into the towns, villages, and countryside, “they went out and proclaimed that people should repent” (Mark 6:12).
The message of His first followers, preached repeatedly throughout the book of Acts, was to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20).
Even in some of Jesus’ last words we find in the Bible, where He delivered His revelation to John the apostle, we hear Him saying to the churches, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5). “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Over and over He calls to those who will hear, Repent. Repent. Repent!
So repentance—this recognition of sin for what it is, followed by a heartfelt sorrow culminating in a change of behavior—sounds very much like the heart of our Jesus. And it’s not just a central message of the Bible; it’s the message of the Word Himself, coming to you today, urging and inviting you to repent.
Perhaps you sit in church, week after week, delighting in the salvation of lost people who are turning from their sin and receiving God’s forgiveness and redemption. You watch God move. Yet it’s hard to truly rejoice in an amazing grace that you don’t really think you need anymore. It’s hard to experience the reality of being forgiven for all eternity when you’re not keeping yourself cleansed and refreshed through the sacrifice of a repentant heart.
The windows of heaven are bursting with the grace and mercy that God showers upon the repentant. Heaven is leaning over the railing at this moment, wanting you to come to a fresh place of true and total honesty before God. The very thing you tend to push off and hold off—not wanting to deal with your sin, whether from being resistant to forsaking it or simply resigned to being defeated by it—is what heaven is longing to see and celebrate.
Listen, believer: The awareness of personal sin, laid before Him in repentance, is what keeps the gospel glorious in your life.
Repentance is not a place to visit when you get saved. Repentance is where you’re supposed to live as a believer, returning again and again to the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ—the only power that can overpower the sin that even now seeks to control you.
Jesus’ heart is still very much about calling you to repentance—and through it, to freedom.
Lord, I repent. I don’t want to delay any longer. I admit my stubborn, willful heart. I’m sorry for my secret sins. I’m sorry for being unkind and unforgiving toward others. I still need changing, and I still need You. Thank You for making humility and repentance the only gateways to spiritual victory. Thank You for not abiding my self-righteousness without calling me to account for it. I come today in the same frame of mind that I desire to come to You every day—in repentance. In Jesus’ name, amen.