An Underwhelming Change
According to one writer, “The sinner’s prayer is a Christian term for a prayer that is said when someone wants to repent of their sin, ask God for forgiveness and state belief in the life, death and saving resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Michael Hidalgo responds, “When I hear people speak about sharing the Gospel and inviting others to pray the “sinner’s prayer” it sounds completely underwhelming. At times, the way we talk about the Gospel makes it seem rather small and inconsequential.” The current state of pop Christianity is a state of salvation by underwhelming change. The “sinner’s prayer” and the gospel of easy salvation maximize man’s lip-service while minimizing the role of change, also called repentance, and the commands of God in the salvation process.
Salvation is an act of God’s love and is available to all with a stipulation which is called the Greatest Command; Matthew 22:37-38. While God loves all not all love God. Speaking words, even disguised as a prayer, is not what makes salvation available but it is following the greatest commandment. To be reconciled to God we must repent of our love of the false gods, whatever their name may be, and love only the one true God.
The word “repentance” is used extensively by the Old Testament prophets making prominent the idea of radical change in one’s attitude toward God. The New Testament writers and our Lord use it in respect to the change of heart of those who abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to follow a different and better path that embraces both recognition of sin and loathing for it. Far from mouthing a prayer, though that is necessary as a part of repentance, true scriptural repentance is about a deep, personal, spiritual change in a man’s heart, mind and soul.
The way of the heart
The way we lead our lives is based on the things we hold dear – what is important to mind and heart; Mark 7:20-23. Evil proceeds out of the heart and defiles a man likewise goodness can flow out of the heart and glorify a man.
What happens when the law is written on our heart? Jeremiah 31:33. The law is in effect the will of God writ large for all men to see. When on temporal surfaces it becomes an object to be obeyed for its own sake. When written on the heart it is the life-force of holiness displaying the love of God in words and deeds.
What happens when the law is erased from our heart? Turning to the ancient Israelites we see that though the Law of God was written on their hearts it can also be erased from the heart; 2 Kings 17:16. As a result they came to an end – they were no more; Isaiah 1:28. Once the people of God they changed [repented] and loved another god bringing to an end not just their life but their place in the Book of Life; Psalm 69:28 ; Revelation 20:15. Clear enough?
What does it mean to repent? A literal translation of repentance is “after thought.” In its secular usage it means “to note after”, often with the implication of “too late.” To change one’s mind; to adopt another view. Recognition that the earlier view was foolish or improper For the Greek philosophers repentance was merely changing the way you thought about something, it was a matter of the mind, with knowledge or understanding being the object that changed.
As used by the prophets and apostles the word takes on a deeper meaning. Repentance is seldom a function of the intellect alone. It expresses pain and grief at what has happened. It is a spiritual transformation initiated by the remorse over our sins. While having intellectual effects repentance is fundamentally a change of the heart where we see the sinful nature coming forth from us and accepting that we no longer “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”
A change of life
The remorse we feel for our sin is the catalyst for repentance. The outcome is a change in mind and heart and consequently soul. It is a change in life away from sin to God.
2 Corinthians 7:10 (NASB) 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Repentance is a change from eternal death to eternal life. Repentance is the regret for sin and a determined resolve to forsake those ways turning our life to the pathway of Christ.
What leads to repentance? The very first words of Jesus that Mark recorded are
Mark 1:14-15 (NASB) 14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
It is time to change from the trusting man to trusting the Gospel – the good news that the Messiah has come. It is time to return to loving God and away from loving the world – be a saint not a sinner in Paul’s vernacular.
There is no lesser or greater sin, God does not see just a little sin or accept “all I did” as an excuse; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in this list some are “major” sinners, thieves, some “minor”, drunkards, but all have the same outcome – they will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Within the concept of repentance is the repugnance of sin. To be truly penitent one must recognize that their deeds are abhorrent to God no matter what those around you may think of them. It is not the opinion of friends and family that open the gates of heaven but the approval and recognition of Jesus that your deeds represent a heart dedicated to God.
What does repentance lead to?
The nature of sin is such that it separates us from God ;Luke 16:13 . Through sin we are serving the god of wealth and forsaking the God of Heaven. In writing to the Corinthians Paul reminds them that we can be reconciled- in fact must be reconciled - to God; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Reconciliation is the renewal of amicable relations between two parties who had been at enmity or variance; usually implying forgiveness of injuries on one or both sides. With God being the injured party reconciliation is only possible if we change from a worshipper of flesh to a worshipper of God.
We are reconciled to God when we repent of our sins ; Acts 3:19. When our sins are wiped away the gates of heaven will be open for us; Luke 1:77 By turning from sin, the life of the flesh, we will be forgiven of our sins and life eternal will be granted us.
Therefore, our eternal life is dependent on our repentance for the forgiveness of sin through Christ so that we will be reconciled to God.