"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish"  (Luke 13:3)

   One way in which the teaching of the way of salvation has become perverted has been by leaving out, by misdefining, or by giving little weight to the necessity of Biblical repentance.  This false message states that all a man has to do is to have faith in Christ, admit that he is a sinner and be sorry for it, and then accept God's free and unconditional gift of salvation.  If he does all that he has a home in heaven and he is safe for all eternity. 
   One-sided Scripture quotations seemingly justify this position, but only outwardly and superficially.  God's way of salvation is not unconditional; without repentance nobody can be forgiven.   The way of salvation is free in once sense, however it costs one everything in another sense (Matthew 13:44, Luke 14:26).


   A false gospel message hinders people from being able to be biblically "born again", since they believe that they are already saved.  The Lord Jesus says that "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. " (John 3:3)  As a result, the masses attending churches today think that they are saved and going to heaven, when in fact they are still headed for hell.
   The Bible speaks of "... repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).  The Holy Spirit reproves the world of "sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8)
and brings conviction to a sinner who doesn't harden his heart.  Then, God's grace brings such a person to repentance.  We are commanded to repent and to bring forth fruit meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8) and to believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).  Faith is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22) and applies only to a "born again" (John 3:3) believer, one who is "in Christ".  Someone who is not a "new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17) who is not "born again" (John 3:3) cannot have faith in the biblical sense.   
    God promised that one who searches after God with all of his heart will find God (Jeremiah 29:13).   Through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit one learns from the Bible that he does not measure up to God's Laws. He learns that as a result of this, he is under God's condemnation, and the subject of God's wrath, and as such, he is in eternal danger.
    He also learns from the Bible that God has a way to save those who want to be saved from sin and hell.  God's Word draws him to investigate further and he finds out that instead of sending a repentant sinner to hell, Christ Himself suffered the death penalty for his sins so that he could have life.  This infinite and boundless love stirs his heart and soul to be ashamed, conscience-stricken, and contrite. 
   Now he sees himself as God sees him:  Lost in sin, hell-bound, and unable to save himself.  This realization and admission leads him to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, where he stands in awe and wonder of God's great love.  Under the cross he becomes aware of the enormity and gravity of his sinfulness and sins, and asks Christ to forgive him, cleanse him and save him.  He wants to change his ways and he sets his will to obey God.  This turn-around is called REPENTANCE, and this is the first step on the way of salvation.     
   Love and gratefulness well up in his heart toward Christ for all that He did.  With his inner eyes he sees Christ on the cross and realizes that Christ is there where he, the sinner, should be as just punishment for his sins.   As a response to this kind of repentance and determination not to sin and to obey God, God grants the gift of repentance and the 'new birth' (John 3:3) happens.  The Holy Spirit comes to indwell the new believer, giving him faith, and the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).  He is now a "new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This is all in the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Every spiritual benefit that results from Christ's atonement is given to faith, and received by faith.
What is Biblical repentance?
    Biblical repentance is the first step on the way of salvation.  It is the determination of the will to turn one's heart from sin to God.  Repentance is sorrow for sin, a detestation of one's sins and a self abhorrence for being such a sinner.  Repentance is the change of the inward springs of one's very being, it is a penitent attitude, a changed mind-set, an admission that God is holy and right while I am a lost sinner.  Repentance is to start obeying God.  Repentance requires action:   it is sins acknowledged, despised  and abandoned.  It is making restitution for wrongs.  It is a change of heart that is demonstrated by a changed life.  Repentance is to surrender to God, it is a commitment to live a new life.  Repentance is a self declared sinner's cry to God for mercy.  Repentance is also granted by God (Acts 11:18).  When we repent this way God forgives us, and He will remember our sins no more. 
   Repentance always precedes being "born again" (John 3:3) and forgiveness of sins.  God's offer of pardon and walking on the way of salvation is conditional upon man turning away from his sins.  God's principle is:  "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13).  As the repentant sinner sets his will to follow God's way and strives to repudiate sin in his life,  God saves him and cleanses him, indwells him by His Holy Spirit, makes him a "new creature", implants the "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4)  into his heart. This is how a lost sinner is "born again" (John 3:3) according to the  Bible.  Assurance of salvation comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit.  "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit" (1 John 4:13) and "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

PRESENTATION OF A FALSE GOSPEL                       
   "Do you want to go to Heaven?  Just believe in Jesus, have faith.  He accepts you unconditionally.  If you tell Him in a prayer that you believe, and you admit that you are a sinner, then you are on your way to Heaven, eternally secure..." some say in an attempt to win souls, but is this true? 


   Neither the Lord Jesus Christ, nor His disciples ever called anybody this way!
   The faith they talk about is a 'mustered up' faith;  it is not from God.  Faith is a fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galations 5:22).  Trying to get to heaven without Biblical repentance is the self effort of a sinful man; it is a subtly deceitful manifestation of the old nature.  It is trying to enter Heaven  through some other way and not through the "Door"  (John 10:1).  It is the manipulation of God's way of salvation, and not a repentant man's cry to God for mercy.  It wants to keep the fallen man's self-composure, dignity, and respectability.
   C.H. Spurgeon explains:  "If you... believe a gospel which you have thought out for yourself, or a philosophical gospel which comes from the brain of man, it is of the flesh, and will wither, and you will die, and be lost through trusting in it... If the work in us be not the Spirit's working, but our own, it will droop and die when most we require its protection, and its end will be as the grass which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven."
Beware of the danger!
   The Bible declares that we are lost, hell-bound sinners and we cannot save ourselves.  From this hopeless predicament God offers us only one way out:   We can want it and cry out to God for it and start walking in it by repenting; or we can ignore it, but we cannot change it.  Tragically, modern gospel presentations have changed it, and are thus no longer presenting the true Gospel to a lost and dying world. 
   Nowadays, when people talk about salvation, repentance, is not mentioned.    Even if it is sometimes mentioned, it is usually only in passing, hastily and without explaining what Biblical repentance means, or a false definition is given. 
 No repentance = No forgiveness of sins
    There are two groups of people in this world: 


    One group consists of "born again" (John 3:3) Holy Spirit led people ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." --Romans 8:14), who repented and were granted repentance, and want to please God.  The Lord Jesus says "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."  (Luke 9:23). They "obey" (John 14:15, Hebrews 5:9), "abide" (John 15:4, John 15:6), "hold fast" (2 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 3:6, 4:14, 10:23), "mortify the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13), work out their  "own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) all in the power of the Holy Spirit, Who provides assurance of salvation (1 John 4:13; Romans 8:16), illuminates the meaning of the Scriptures for them (Luke 24:45), and teaches them (John 6:45).  They know that it is possible to depart from the living God, die outside of Christ, and perish(Hebrews 6:4-6; Mark 13:13; Mark 4:13-20; 2 Peter 2:20, 21; John 15:5-6; Romans 11:21-22; 1Cor. 3:16-17; Colossians 1:21-23; Ezekiel 21-30)


   In the other group are those who don't want to give up sin, and who want to please 'self'.  They are lost sinners, and the Bible teaches that at judgment day, they will be responsible for paying the penalty for their sins (which is death/hell). 


    Some of these lost sinners think that by being good they can get to heaven, while others think that religion will get them there; however many just don't care and won't necessarily be surprised to end up in hell.  However, there are others who at one time prayed a prayer to 'accept Jesus into their heart' and they think that they have an 'insurance policy'.  (They think that they are saved because they followed a 'plan of salvation' with a couple of steps and a prayer at the end.)  However, there is no such teaching in the Bible.  Some have gone further and have even gotten baptized, attend church, serve the Lord...  These are in for shock and horror:  "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  (Matthew 22:13).  They will be "speechless" (Matthew 22:12).  They "will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."  (Luke 13:24) because they tried to enter in some other way, not the way that the Bible says, which is:  "repent ye, and believe the gospel."  (Mark 1:15).  They will say "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?"  (Matthew 7:21).  And the Lord Jesus will answer them "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."  (Matthew 7:23)   This group is so sure of their salvation that they will march right up to the gates of heaven as it were, and demand and beg entrance:  "Lord, Lord, open unto us" (Luke 13:25); however the Lord will answer "I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."  (Luke 13:27)

   We all are born onto the way to hell, and to change direction 180° and be allowed/accepted onto the way of salvation,  (in order to make peace with God and to be saved from sin and hell), one must repent.  His desires have to be to turn from sin, and to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what God expects from every lost sinner:  Our first parents left God by their free will, taking us all along, and so, God commands every one of us to return to Him.  God "commandeth all men every where to repent"  (Acts 17:30).  Our repentance is that returning.  Without repentance it is impossible to be pardoned, or to be "born again" (John 3:3) and have the Holy Spirit in one's heart.  

    A.W. Tozer said:  "... the whole biblical revelation is addressed to the intellect and through the intellect reaches the will,.. if the will responds in repentance and obedience, the Holy Spirit illuminates the penitent heart and reveals Christ, the Image of God to it..."
What repentance is not?
    Biblical repentance is not human reformation, nor is it a change from unbelief to belief.  It is not 'penance', nor is it confession to a priest.  Repentance is not the acknowledgement of being a sinner, while continuing to live in known sins.   Repentance is not simply remorse for one's actions.    Asking for forgiveness is not the same as repentance.  One can be sorry for having to suffer the consequences of his sins, or his conscience can make him feel sorry for his sins, but this is not Biblical repentance.   It is possible to humble oneself before God but then continue to live in sin.   Repentance is not the same as believing, or as having faith.  It is not just a change of mind toward God.  One may even do some "works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20) without being penitent, or without forsaking sin.  Only Biblical repentance is "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18)  all of the above are not.
    When one repents and turns away from sin and sets his will to follow Christ it has nothing to do with what is understood today to be a 'works' salvation.  By His grace, God, the Holy Spirit, is working in our hearts to bring us to conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8) and to repentance.  It is our decision whether we respond or not and repenting/obeying involves as Matthew 3:8 says to "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
" or as Acts 20:26 says to "repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."  For example, when Zacchaeus (Luke 19) repents, he repays what he has taken from others.  God requires sincere repentance and a willing heart to turn from sin and by God's grace pursue living a new life.  The blood of Christ cleanses us from all iniquity; there is nothing man can add or do to pay for forgiveness and salvation.  Yet without repentance, salvation is impossible, for repentance precedes the 'new birth'. 

The Lord Jesus said:

"... repent ye, and believe the Gospel..!" (Mark 1:15) 
"I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32)
"I tell you, nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3)

 John the Baptist's message was: 

"Repent ye, for the Kingdom of God is at hand..." and "...bring forth…fruits worthy of repentance..." (Luke 3:8a) 

 The Apostle Peter said: 

"Repent, and be baptized... for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38)

 The Apostle Paul called for repentance:

"... the times of  ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men every where to repent..."  (Acts 17:30) 
*  Paul's message of salvation was that people "should repent, and turn to God and do works meet for repentance..."  (Acts 26:20)   

 Repentance was preached by Christ's disciples: 

"... and they went out, and preached that men should repent"  (Mark 6:12)

 The Great Commission includes repentance: 

"...that repentance and remission of sins should be preached ... among all nations" (Luke 24:47)

   A.W. Tozer said:  "I think there is little doubt that the teaching of salvation without repentance has lowered the moral standards of the Church and produced a multitude of deceived religious professors who erroneously believe themselves to be saved..."


  While the way of salvation can be explained to some extent, there is also mystery. 


   To start: Pray to have a hunger and thirst for the Word of God, pray to have your eyes and ears opened to His truth, pray that God would open the eyes of your understanding, pray that you would see heaven and hell, pray that God would show you your sins, pray that God would make sin exceedingly sinful for you, pray that God would make you hate sin and love holiness, pray that God would show you that you are lost and headed for hell and judgment, pray for salvation, pray with an obedient heart, pray for a willingness to obey, start obeying whatever the Lord shows you, repent - turn from known sin in your life, pray for the gift of repentance, put God on the throne of your life, make straight [your] crooked places, seek the Lord, read His Word (the Bible), and if you don't feel like it, set your will and seek the Lord anyway and pray that you would want to seek God and that the Lord would find you and that you would find the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Lord says "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."  (Jeremiah 29:13)


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