Repentance is a purposed decision to make a complete change of mind resulting in a turning from the ways of the sin nature with which you were born in favor of a new way of life … one filled with the innumerable blessings of obedient fellowship with Christ. Once you have done that, the next step is to live the new life you’ve adopted. And since you have been given a new life, your behavior is expected to be completely new also. Not some of the time, or when you feel moved to do so, or when you want something from God, but all of the time. However, walking continually in this new life is no cakewalk. It is fraught with the constant danger of being lured from your new Godly way by the temptations of your new arch-enemy, Satan.
Having repented, your desire is to be 100 percent obedient, but you find that the old ways of the flesh continue to press against you. This is most likely a new experience, and the lures of the enemy may even seem to hold some unexpected power over you. At times it might seem you are not able to withstand the pressure. Yet resist you must, and resist you can and will through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Standing firm against the enemy’s temptations and not carrying out his deeds, but instead choosing the way of the Spirit, is referred to as putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Paul said it this way:
“For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
Not giving in to fleshly temptations, and following the lead of the Holy Spirit is not just an idea … it is an obligation … it is the way of life rather than the way of death. Let’s look at verse 13 of Romans 8 in context with verses 12 and 14.
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—
13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14)
A modern-day example of repentance and sanctification would be a situation where you’ve worked for a company for twelve years. You were the top sales person the past eight years. You believed in the company and the product. But when you learned that the company was not trustworthy, and they were not going to live up to their end of your contract, it was time to change jobs. It wasn’t an easy decision. It would mean leaving behind everything you had accomplished. Yet, you had been loyal, and you expected the same from your employer. To your good fortune, there was an opening for sales a person with the company that had been you chief competitor. You apply for the position, go through the interviewing process, and get the job. The first day of your new assignment is weird … everything has changed … there are new rules and a new boss. You determine to be even more of a team player for your new employer, and you are more successful than your wildest expectations. BUT, your old boss calls you repeatedly and bombards you with email and text messages consisting of lucrative offers if you’ll come back on to their team. It seems you’re hurting their business in a big way. However, your obligation now belongs to another company. Being fully convinced of your new employer’s trustworthiness, you resist the offers, and continue to follow the ways of your new employer as a faithful employee.
Eventually, your old boss will quit calling, but this is not the case with Satan. He continues and continues on … sometimes easing up … sometimes leaning harder … but always pressing. And if he can’t get you to turn away from your new life, he will settle for any level of disobedience in order to make your life a living hell. Satan’s bag of tricks are as old as he is … his primary tools are lies, deception and accusation. You, however, have the Holy Spirit who will, not might but WILL, lead you to victory over any and all of the wiles of the enemy.
Participation in the Spirit’s work of sanctification in your life is not optional … it is an obligation you entered into when you chose to change employers, so to speak.
Confession and Forgiveness
While you remain on this side of eternity, there is virtually no chance you will walk in perfect sanctification. However, all is not lost. Your hope resides in God’s graceful provision of confession and forgiveness.
Confession of sin is a command of both the old and new covenants as the following verses show.
4 Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, in whatever matter a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty in one of these.
5 So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned. (Leviticus 5:4-5)
“Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives [this is sanctification].” (Ezra 10:11)
5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him [John the Baptist], and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan;
6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another [this is a command], and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)
Then there is this promise:
If we confess our sins, He [Jesus Christ] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Forgiveness is part and parcel of God’s nature. It’s in His DNA. Luke, the writer of Acts, and Paul, author of Romans and Ephesians, concur.
“Of Him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him [is united with Him through repentance] receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:38)
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered.” (Romans 4:7)
In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
We were sinners from before birth, because we are all descendants of Adam and Eve who entered into covenant union with Satan in the Garden of Eden. David said in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Yet, Jesus forgives us when we repent and enter into fellowship with Him. We are set free from sin, and released from its bondage which came through Adam.
It is in the heart of Jesus to forgive all. God’s plan is to populate the kingdom of Heaven with sinners whom He has forgiven. He forgives us of being a sinner to the core, and then He forgives the multitude of sins we’ve committed, even when the slightest of them is worthy of death. How can our heart, after we repent, be any less forgiving? Forgiveness is the covenant way.
We are commanded to forgive others. It is not an option for a follower of Christ.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.(Ephesians 4:32)
And there is a consequence for not forgiving. Jesus said:
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Repentance is the way to unity and fellowship with Jesus Christ. Sanctification is the way of walking through life as a person who has entered into union with Christ. Confession and forgiveness are the way of maintaining your sanctification.
Repent. Walk in sanctification. Confess your sins. Forgive others. This is the Biblical formula that leads to a blessed life in the kingdom of God, now and for eternity.