For many people, the word “repent” carries religious overtones. “You better be sorry! You better change!” It involves an element of fear and the possibility of eternal condemnation and separation. No doubt there are many people who have responded to a message like this: “Jesus loves you, but you better repent and believe, or else!” Many years ago, I was moved by such a sermon, one that I would now label “sharing and scaring,” or “turn or burn,” or “choose or lose.”
So what’s the deal? Is God, who is described by one word, “LOVE,” going to burn forever people whom He created if they don’t follow the preachers instructions and publicly recite a “Sinner’s Prayer?” Perhaps you have heard of such a prayer, which involves admitting that you are a sinner who is separated from God, declaring that you are sorry for your sins, then proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and inviting Him to come into your life.
Is this what repentance is? Does the act of reciting such a prayer qualify as “repenting,” and actually save one from a godless, fiery eternity? Plus, does Jesus either need or require my help in addition to what He already did on the cross?
Alternatively, might the truth of the matter be that Jesus already saved me, not just me but all of mankind, solely because of what He accomplished at Calvary over 2000 years ago?
Let’s consider the parable called The Lost Sheep. It includes the word repent, but so much more;
Luke 15:1-7 – Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man (Jesus) receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Our English word for repent comes from the Greek word metanoia. It means to “change one’s mind, to think differently.” Being sorrowful for sins is not a bad thing, it’s just not a required thing. By way of analogy, I don’t believe that a drowning person as a requirement, needs to request to be saved by a lifeguard. I don’t think these are the steps: “I admit that I am drowning. I confess that you are a lifeguard. Please save me.” The lifeguard…just…saves the one who is drowning and does so without their permission!
Here’s what I see in the all-important Parable of the Lost Sheep:
- Religious people (Pharisees and scribes) were irritated that Jesus “fellowshipped” with people whom they defined as sinners. Many, I repeat MANY of the parables, including this one, were squarely directed at showing these arrogant, so-called leaders, that they had it all wrong.
- The shepherd already owned the sheep. Did you hear that? They were already his property.
- One of the sheep wandered off. It got lost. The shepherd assumed responsibility and searched for it.
- When he found the lost sheep, the shepherd did not discipline it. He simply placed it on his shoulders and brought it home.
- Once home, he shared the news his pals and implored them to rejoice with him.
- The entire parable shows that it was completely the action of the shepherd that resulted in the sheep getting “saved.”
This is how I view “salvation” and more importantly, what I believe is the biblical view. I, like a helpless sheep or a drowning person, do nothing to effectuate salvation.
But what about the prayer. Am I against saying such a prayer? NOT AT ALL!
I believe the proper response it to be grateful that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has already saved me. Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), not, it is almost finished and your prayer will finalize it.
The Bible declares Jesus to be the Savior of the World (John 1:29, 4:42, 1 John 4:14) and His work has saved all of His creation. To repent is to change my mind and agree with this truth! My profession doesn’t effectuate the truth, it merely aligns with it.
Alongside gratitude comes another important biblical truth- assurance! My knowledge of what Jesus accomplished for all of mankind allows me to live with certainly of my eternal future, because of what He has done, without anything from me.
In closing, I believe that heaven rejoices when the Good Shepherd seeks and saves the lost (Luke 19:10) because they already belong to Him (Ezekiel 18:4). Repenting involves changing our thinking, understanding and aligning with who He is and what He has already done. “He is the propitiation (the atonement, the payment) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). It’s not the “sinner’s prayer” but rather, the “Savior’s plan,” that saved us. Be grateful for this. Be assured of this.
A YouTube video similar to this Blog is available here: Is the Gospel an Invitation or a Proclamation? FIVE MINUTE POWER MESSAGE #94
Phil Henry is a financial adviser and also an ordained minister who founded and produces short videos and blogs at Phil Henry Power Gospel.org