Jesus began His ministry with a command for people to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What was He telling His listeners to do? Today, Burk Parsons helps us understand what is involved in true repentance.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with the senior pastor of Saint Andrew's Chapel, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, how do Christians repent of sin?
DR. BURK PARSONS: The Westminster Shorter Catechism in answering that same question states, "Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience." Now, that is probably the best answer to that question. And what the Westminster Shorter Catechism helps us to see is that in our repentance of sin, we not only have to hate our sin, and as Christians, we ought to be praying that God would help us to hate our sin even as much as He hates our sin, which seems impossible. Yet we ought to continue to pray that we would truly hate our sin.
But it's not only hating our sin; it's truly being convicted by our sin, and that is a gift from the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit convicts us of sin, we ought to be grateful to God because it reminds us that we're children of God, and when He convicts us of sin, He also comforts us by His grace as we confess our sin, as we have a truly contrite heart, a broken heart, a humble heart over our sin. But it's not just that; it's not just having contrition over our sin. It's not just being convicted of our sin and it's not only confessing our sin. True repentance is actually striving to live in a new way, in a consecrated way, that we would be striving to change our behavior, change our actions, change our motives, and that we would pray that God would help us to do so.
And true repentance is not only asking the Lord for forgiveness, but it's also asking forgiveness from those that we've hurt. That we would strive in our repentance to seek true and full reconciliation with anyone we've sinned against. And so, real repentance is a repentance that leads to reconciliation, and it's a repentance that leads to true peace with those that we've hurt. And that demonstrates that we truly are Christians. Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it's the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And if we're truly repentant, it demonstrates that we are children of God and that we ourselves have been forgiven as well.
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