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Just what do you mean — repentance?

You have always heard you should repent — BUT HOW?
Where does repentance come from? How do you get it?
Read, in this article, the steps to true repentance.


WE ARE told daily that a great moral awakening, a renewed religious fervor, is sweeping the English-speaking world. But awakening to what? Renewed religious fervor for what?

Certainly not to a new standard of conduct, a new code of morals or a new way of life! Just look at the fruit of our "Christian society"!


Why the Boom in Religion?

The United States is building one thousand new churches a year, approximately one every eight hours. Yet that's not enough to keep up with the demand. According to the National Council of Churches, America needs five thousand new church buildings each year to meet the growing needs of our new religious interests.

One noted evangelist has drawn record-breaking crowds in his campaigns in the United States, Great Britain and Australia. People around the world profess a deep interest in religion.

Religion has become fashionable. Do you know why?

Why, with all the renewed religious interest, isn't the Western World becoming more law-abiding? The answer is partially revealed in a recent surprising report: "But increasingly people are becoming disillusioned with churches — so many conflicting, confusing denominations. Religion seems so unrelated to real life. Today many people are disillusioned because they can't see the difference between the churchgoer and the non-churchgoer; between the BELIEVER AND THE NON-BELIEVER." (Emphasis mine throughout article. Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16, 1962)

Man wants religion, but he wants it — HIS WAY! He doesn't want to give up the way he lives. At the same time, he doesn't want to run the risk of paying the penalty for living that way. As a result, people by the thousands pour into their churches, donate time and help in worthy causes in the vain hope that God will accept their "good deeds" in place of their obedience to Him. Yet their way of living doesn't change.

Church membership and attendance for many is actually a means of making up for their shortcomings and sins. It is something they can DO without changing. It is an act of penance in place of REPENTANCE. This is the real reason for the astonishing numerical growth in today's churches.

Our renewal of religious interest hasn't made any real difference in our way of life. What possible good does it do to belong to a church, to any one of the "many conflicting, confusing denominations," if no one can tell the difference between the churchgoer and an agnostic?

Jesus Christ said: "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16). The Bible speaks of a true Christian as being a light to the world. But apparently in modern-day Christianity this is no longer true. The light has not just grown dim — IT HAS GONE CLEAR OUT!


A Christian Society?

Church membership in the United States continues to reach new plateaus with over 118,000,000 people. That is nearly 63 per cent of the population, claiming church membership. And it is reported that nearly half the adults of the U. S. A. can be found in church every week-end. Yet in spite of church membership figures, crime among young people under eighteen years of age increased for the fifteenth consecutive year at the frightening rate of ELEVEN PER CENT during 1963. Experts claim that only a slight difference can be seen between the families of the average churchgoer and the average non-churchgoer. No wonder ". . . the annual cost of crime in the United States is now conservatively estimated to be TWENTY-SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS!" So says a report released by the U. S. Department of Justice, July 20, 1964.

All this while church attendance records are being broken!

This is the fruit of our "Christian society." Unbelievable? Incredible? Astounding? The facts are down in black and white — easily accessible to anyone.

When considered in relation to our population growth, crime is increasing — FIVE TIMES FASTER THAN OUR POPULATION! And this is not the result of more accurate reporting methods!

Today's great moral awakening and renewed religious fervor doesn't go very deep. It doesn't seem to affect the way people live. There is a reason why!


What Is the Problem?

What is the answer then?

What does religion have to do with the way you live? Most people would tell you: "Nothing!"

Listen to this: "A clergyman-professor at George Washington University said: 'In a period of our history when we are witnessing the greatest revival of interest in religion . . . never has Christianity been so INEFFECTIVE AND IRRELEVANT. Our Christian faith is equally distant and out of touch with the really perplexing and knotty problems of modern society. The distance between our PROFESSED FAITH AND OUR DAILY PERFORMANCE IS ASTRONOMICAL' " (Gazette and Daily of York, Pennsylvania, March 19, 1960)

Today's renewed religious interest is reflected only on paper. It only shines out from the church roll books. It doesn't show its light in human lives!

The problem lies with the people themselves. Jesus Christ said — in speaking of the religious leaders and people of His day: ". . . This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:6-7).

People attend evangelistic campaigns, talk of all uniting in the brotherhood of Christianity. But NO ONE seems to want to live the way Jesus Christ commanded.

Most are willing to honor Him with their lips, but they DON'T WANT TO DO the things He taught.

The world-wide interest in religion is simply a façade. The problem is that we haven't, as nations, and all too frequently even as individual persons, deeply repented.

What Is Repentance?

If an increase in the interest in religion around the world doesn't show repentance, what does? If the great evangelistic campaigns aren't producing it, how do you get it? Where does it come from? What does it mean?

The dictionary definition of repentance is: "To feel self-reproach, compunction, or contrition for past conduct, to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better" (The American College Dictionary).

The Bible definition means all of that AND MUCH MORE!

Godly repentance means to stop sinning, to turn and go the other way TO CHANGE YOUR WAY OF LIFE! It's not always easy to say, "I'm sorry." But it's even harder to MEAN IT. Godly repentance has to come from the heart.

In speaking of Great Britain — God's people Ephraim — whom He's going to punish for their lack of repentance, God says: "And they have not cried unto me WITH THEIR HEART, when they howled upon their beds: . . . they rebel against me. Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me. They return, BUT NOT TO THE MOST HIGH" (Hosea 7:14-16).

Your Bible says people have made an outward show of returning to Him or repenting, but they haven't done it WITH THEIR HEARTS! Ephraim's — Britain's — repentance, and for that matter, that of the rest of the world, is the outward, superficial, worldly repentance with no real sincerity or deep feeling.


Repent of What?

What is it you repent of or feel sorrow for? To some it is one thing and to others — from another society or religion — it is something altogether different. What does GOD say actually constitutes sin? What would GOD have you repent of?

"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4).

What is sin? SIN IS BREAKING GOD'S LAW — not human customs!

Any time you break or disobey any one of the holy, righteous commandments of God, YOU HAVE SINNED. You need to repent. No one is excluded. No man, woman or child has ever lived who hasn't disobeyed and broken God's law (Rom. 3:10,23). Therefore, every one of you needs to repent deeply and bitterly with all your heart. You need to turn to God for forgiveness. You need to begin to obey Him and keep His commandments — all His commandments — with zeal. For "He that saith, I know him (I am a Christian), and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4).


Where Repentance Comes From

We can't just drum up the deep feeling of abhorrence for our sin and our own utter wretchedness. It has to come from God.

"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).

II Timothy 2:25 tells us, "If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."

It is God who helps us to see our own wretchedness and shortcomings. He opens our minds and starts us on the way toward repentance.