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God promises complete forgiveness of our sins once we sincerely forsake them. Genuine repentance and God’s compassionate forgiveness work together to assure our ultimate salvation.
The Bible describes sin as the deadly enemy of mankind. Yet most of humanity remains in denial of this crucial truth. Our human nature has a powerful compulsion to sin, although the Bible clearly states "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
True repentance is the first step on our way out of sin—putting us on the road to eternal life. But without God's help and support, we cannot accomplish this difficult task. God must grant us repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25), and Paul explains that: "… the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4). The Apostle Peter made it clear that our repentance and God’s merciful forgiveness are both necessary for salvation: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Repentance has to occur before forgiveness. Paul emphasized the decision to turn away from sin had to be reflected in good works, stating that men and women "should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds" (Acts 26:20). John the Baptist also demanded "fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:8).
Procrastination—putting off God's clear command to repent and be baptized—gets us nowhere. We have to act on the truth God has already revealed to us. Then He will bless us by revealing more truth and helping us to follow Him. God views sin seriously, and holds us accountable for our thoughts and actions that defy His righteous way of life. David's sincere, heartfelt repentance is detailed for us in Psalm 51.
God has mercifully provided us a way out of sin—at great cost to Himself. Once we really grasp the greatness of God—and begin to see ourselves in comparison to our Creator like Job did—we are well on our way to genuine, heartfelt repentance. Notice what Job said in reply to God's personal revelation to him: "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted… My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:2, 5-6).
King David expressed God's gracious nature in Psalm 103: "Praise the Lord, O my soul... who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities...For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (verses 1-14).
Once we have truly repented of our sins, God's forgiveness is absolute, total and complete. He applies the sacrificial blood of His Son Jesus Christ to us personally. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Repentance, water baptism and receiving God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) begins a completely changed life for the true Christian. Our salvation is sure, provided we keep to the path of God's law, mirrored by obedience to the Ten Commandments. As the psalmist wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). Genuine repentance and obedience, followed by God's merciful and compassionate forgiveness, converges to impart true conversion—putting us firmly on the road to eternal life.
The Good News Magazine (Mar-Apr 2009)