Any significant change in a person or process has an identifiable starting point. In Christianity that starting point is repentance.
Repentance is one of those “religious” words that most people sort of know but don’t quite understand. Simply put, repentance is recognition of a persons own faults and sins and the need to change.
This is not a particularly unusual concept as it has parallels in many processes of change. For example the starting point of the twelve-step process used by Alcoholics Anonymous begins with the need to recognise you have a problem and need to change. It is the same in other substance abuse, rehabilitation and gambling programs.
This first step though is quite important. We see in the New Testament that when the three major stages in the proclamation of the good news gospel began, they all began with a focus on repentance.
John the Baptist began his ministry to the people telling them to repent and to believe in him who was to follow after John (Luke 3 1-9, Acts 19:4). When Jesus had been baptised and began his teaching ministry, he began by again telling the people of the need for repentance, for the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand (Matthew 4:17). And finally after Jesus had died and was resurrected and the disciples had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples began their ministry through Peter teaching them to repent and believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38).
So we see in each case that the starting point of Christianity is repentance. But some may think and wonder what they need to repent from? They may wonder what is sin anyway?
Quite simply sin is the breaking of the law or lawlessness as John showed in 1 John 3:4. And under the law if a person breaks just one law they are guilty of it all, as it says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:10) You should bear in mind also that there are well over six hundred laws in the Old Testament and thus to break any of these would convict you as a sinner.
So let me ask the question, are you a sinner? Well here is a little test and if you answer “yes” to any of these questions you are a sinner, guilty of failing the whole law, and thus in need of repentance. Now I could pull out some of the really obscure laws in the bible that hardly anyone knows about, but that would be unfair. Rather than do that let’s look at a few of the most well known of all the bible laws, the Ten Commandments.
- Question 1 – Have you ever told a lie? This includes cheating on your tax returns, taking a day off work claiming to be sick when you weren’t and any of those myriad excuses people use like, the dog ate my homework or the cheque is in the mail.
- Question 2 – Have you ever stolen anything? This includes stationery from a workplace or public utility buildings.
- Question 3 – Have you ever taken the name of God in vain? Many people use the name of Jesus as a curse these days and it is quite common in television, books and movies. Have you ever done that?
- Question 4 – Have you ever worked on the Sabbath day (that’s Saturday)? This includes travelling any significant distance, preparing food, mowing the lawn, doing the gardening, home maintenance, shopping and so on.
At this point I’ll stop, as there are few people that could honestly answer “No” to even this short list of questions. And so far we have looked at only four of the Ten Commandments, let alone the other six hundred plus commandments in the Old Testament.
Who is not a sinner? The bottom line is that everyone in the world has sinned and is convicted by the law of God. He is aware of this for he said in the bible, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) There is not a person on this earth that does not need to repent and take that first step towards Christ.
The good news is that when we come to Christ he offers us a way to be set free from sin, not just forgiven. His grace toward us in releasing us from the bondage to sin is without parallel. God has established his process through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so that we can come to him and be saved from our sins and the destruction that will come upon all who refuse to accept his truth. There is much to say about this but space does not permit. If you care to visit my website, this matter is covered in greater detail in the “Foundation Teachings of Christianity” free eBook. Just follow the link below.
I hope that you found something here to help you or add to your own knowledge. If you have any questions, then please feel free to contact me.