The gospel calls upon every man to repent: “Truly, the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). To repent is to change one’s mind toward God (Acts 20:21) away from sin (Acts 8:22). Repentance is produced by Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Both the goodness of God (Romans 2:4) as well as the knowledge of coming judgment (Acts 17:31) motivate men to repent. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). Repentance cannot simply end with a change of mind – it is not simply a mental activity. Repentance must produce a change in living – “works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).
Because repentance requires a change of the will from my will (what I want) to God’s will, as well as a change from doing my will to doing God’s will, it may be the most difficult thing to get a man to do in order to be saved. One may be willing to hear the gospel and agree with much of it, or he may claim he believes it to be true. And he may even understand that he must confess with his lips that Jesus is Lord and Christ and then be baptized. But will he repent? That’s just as necessary as every other part of God’s plan to save man.
Why will some who acknowledge the truth not repent?
Some love what they are doing so much that they are unwilling to give it up. They choose the “passing pleasures of sin” over “the reproach of Christ” (Hebrews 11:25-26). But they are choosing eternal punishment: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mark 8:36-37)?
Some convince themselves that they will change at some later time. That’s foolish: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). Meanwhile, they will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and unready for the day of the Lord: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
Some are unwilling to admit wrong, to admit their sin. Repentance means one is admitting he is guilty of sin. Perhaps it is immorality or perhaps it is false religion. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Repentance requires humility, but pride will stand in the way. There’s shame in sin alright, and there’s shame in staying in sin. But there is no shame in repenting of it! Heaven rejoices: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Some will not repent because they are concerned with pleasing others. If they leave the false religion of their family or their friends, what will others think? But every man must choose who he will please, and it better be the Lord. Hear Paul: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
And still others will not repent because they believe they will be casting disrespectful judgment upon those who’ve gone on before them, such as their parents, who taught them what they believe. While we are taught by God to love and respect our earthly mother and father, we are also taught by Jesus, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). And if one’s loved ones who’ve died are now in torment, they would want their loved ones to repent. Jesus’ teaching about the rich man and Lazarus tells us so. The rich man in torment begged Abraham to send Lazarus from his place of comfort back to the rich man’s brothers in this land of the living in order to testify to them that they ought to repent. But hear what Abraham replied: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.…If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29, 31). God’s present, revealed truth is exactly God’s way of getting people to repent. Hear it and respond!
If you are not saved, what is your reason for not repenting and being baptized into Christ? On the day of judgment, there will be no acceptable excuse, for Jesus said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Jesus spoke in strong, unmistakable language. Won’t you repent and be converted?