In Luke 13:3 Jesus said, “I tell you nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” When Peter and the other apostles were asked by those on Pentecost who were pricked in their hearts what they must do, the first thing they were told was to repent. No one can be saved except he repents of his sins. Not all will repent of their sins in order to come to the Lord in obedience. Why will they not? There are essentially three things one or more of which may stand in the way of one repenting.
The first hindrance to repentance is a failure to understand what it is. I was once told by a sister in Christ her understanding of repentance was to admit one has sinned. No, that is confession. Some others say repentance is being sorry for sin. There is a sorrow involved in repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Without one being sorry for his sin he will not repent, but repentance goes beyond merely admitting to or being sorry for one’s sins. Repent, from the Greek metanoeo means a change of mind. That change of mind means one has decided to quit sinning and do what is right. His repentance is manifested by his future actions. Preacher brethren used to refer to repentance with the statement that, “repentance is a change of heart which results in a change of life.” One can be sorry he has sinned without repenting because he is sorry for the last act of sin he committed but has not made up his mind to avoid the next one. Ignorance of what repentance is stands in the way of some repenting of their sins.
A second barrier to repentance is a lack of knowledge that what one does is a sin. This is exceedingly dangerous because a failure to recognize sin as sin does not make one guiltless of it when he has committed it. Ultimately, one can go to his grave believing he is in a saved condition but is not because he never studied, reasoned enough, or made the necessary application of the Scripture to identify sin as sin. Many members of the church we fear will find themselves lost on the day of judgment because while they say I would not commit the sins of fornication or foul language, they fail to avoid entertainment sources wherein those sins are prominent. I admit to focusing on the issue of corrupt entertainment in much of my writing. I do so because it is a huge problem among members of the church, many of them not recognizing it is sin, but it is.
It is quite possible Simon the Sorcerer did not know that his attempt to purchase the ability to lay on one’s hands and impart the miraculous gifts of the Spirit was a sin because when Peter told him it was, he immediately asked Peter to pray for him (Acts 8:24). In this context, it would not hurt any of us to have the attitude Simon did when he learned what he tried to do was sinful.
The third thing which interferes with one coming to repentance is an unwillingness to do so. Sin carries with it certain pleasures as Hebrews 11:25 points out. One who loves the world more than he loves God will be attracted to the things of the world which are encapsulated in the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and pride or vainglory of life (1 John 2:16). Verse 15 states that if one loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. The lack of that love is manifested by his unwillingness to repent. One may be given to holding on to sin by the attraction of the world’s offer of wealth or fame, or purely because he loves things which are evil. There is no question that this third thing standing in the way of repentance is the most difficult to deal with because it involves a stubborn heart which must be changed before repentance can take place.
We must understand what repentance is, be knowledgeable as to when repentance is needed, and be willing to leave the grips of sin in order to have the desire to repent and be forgiven.