If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. –Matthew 18:15
The word “repentance” comes from a Greek word that means “to change your mind.” It is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. It means realizing you are going in the wrong direction and deciding to turn around and start going in a new direction. That is biblical repentance. And there are a few instances in which the Bible says repentance is necessary.
First, repentance is necessary for receiving God’s forgiveness. God took the first move in saving us when He sent Christ to die for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God made the first move, but we must repent in order to receive that forgiveness. Only when we say to God, “I’m tired of arguing with You. You’re right; I’m wrong. I’ve been going in the wrong direction. I’m ready to turn around. I’m ready to receive Your gift of forgiveness”–only then are we truly forgiven.
Second, repentance is necessary for reconciliation with another person. While God requires me to forgive the business partner who cheats me, He doesn’t require me to stay in business with him. There’s a difference. I can forgive that business partner for cheating me. But I don’t have to stay in business with him until he acknowledges that what he is doing is wrong. In fact, I would be a fool to continue to stay in business with an unrepentant cheat. Forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with reconciliation.
Third, repentance is necessary for restoration to a position that we have lost. In Matthew 18 Jesus describes two kinds of sins: sins against the body of Christ and personal sins. When Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” (v. 21), he was asking about personal offenses. Jesus told him to forgive. He didn’t say, “Demand repentance first.” He said to forgive. But earlier, in Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus addressed sins against the body of Christ. What do you do with a Christian whose life is being destroyed by sin and whose sin is hurting the church and hurting the reputation of Christ? Do you just let it go? No. Jesus gave a fourfold process of how you handle that person. First, you confront the sinning Christian. If he repents, you have won your brother. But if he doesn’t repent, Jesus said, step two is you take one or two other Christians to talk to him about this sin. If he repents after that warning, great. But if he doesn’t repent, you go to step three, which is telling it to the entire church. You say, “Church, we have a fellow Christian who is living in sin and hurting the reputation of Christ. Let’s pray for him.” If that’s not enough to get his attention, then step four, Jesus said, is to turn him out of the church. The only way a sinning Christian can be restored is by repentance. Repentance is necessary if you have fallen and are trying to be restored to a position that you have lost.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why the Words “I’m Sorry” Are Highly Overrated” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.