And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Biblical repentance is a verb. It is more than a feeling of regret. It is more than crocodile tears, like Esau shed (Hebrews 12:16,17). Biblical repentance is a change of heart which produces a change of mind and ultimately a change of behavior. In the midst of one of Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:8-11), we find one of the clearest fundamental differences between godly sorrow, which results in salvation, and the sorrow of the world, which ends up in death.
Wherever the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, there will be a call to repentance. The very first words of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) When the crowd heard Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, they were pricked in their heart and asked, “What shall we do?” The reply? “Repent” (Acts 2:37,38).
Repentance is not only the pathway into the body of Christ; it is also a way of living until we arrive in glory. Any time we confess our sin and turn from sin to God, we are repenting. Any time we find ourselves patching things up with others and changing the way that we think about them and interact with them, we are repenting. Biblical repentance is that gift from God whereby we keep our hearts in harmony with Him and one another. The very center of all repentance is the cross of Jesus Christ. The sight of my bleeding, dying Savior on the cross for all of my offenses against The Father is the basis of all repentance and remission of sin. A holy congregation is not one where perfection reigns; rather, it is a place where repentant sinners find forgiveness and mercy with God and one another. Selah