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After God calls us by opening our minds to the truth of the Bible, our repentance is the beginning of a relationship with Him. At its core, repentance is change, turning from our previous self-centred way of life to serve God and focus our life around Him.
The willingness to repent comes from God and Jesus plainly stated, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). Upon repentance we realise we have missed the mark (Romans 3:23) and must be willing to let God’s Word change our thinking.
Sin is defined as breaking God's commandments and laws (I John 3:4). We readily consider such acts as murder, theft and adultery to be sin, but Christ made it clear we also sin by our very thoughts. Hatred and lust violate God's commandments against murder and adultery just as surely as the physical acts themselves (Matthew 5:22-28; 1 John 3:15).
Crowds followed John the Baptist asking for baptism, but not everyone was welcomed by him. He admonished them to “...bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3: 8), and the examples he gave of real repentance are very revealing: “'He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” He told the tax collectors “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” and the soldiers, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:11-14).
John the Baptist described personal sacrifice, giving willingly and showing genuine concern for others as fruits of true repentance. He urged his listeners to look inside themselves and examine the motives driving their attitudes and actions.
The change God wants in us can often appear so overwhelming that repentance and conversion to God's way of thinking seem impossible, which is really the point. Without God's help, this transformation is impossible! When Christ compared entering the Kingdom of God to passing a camel through the eye of a needle, the disciples asked in amazement, "Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:25-26). Jesus replied, "With men it is impossible, but... with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27).
To truly repent, we must learn to trust and rely on God more than on ourselves. Jesus promised, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). If you sincerely want to follow God’s commandments and instructions from the Bible, tell Him. Faith in God is a key part of the entire process (Hebrews 11:6). We are to act on faith, then trust God to answer our prayers.
Ultimately God wants all to repent and become His children (2 Peter 3:9) but, although God "desires all men to be saved"(1 Timothy 2:4), He doesn't force anyone to repent. God’s kindness and goodness lead us to repentance as mentioned in Romans 2:4, but He doesn't make the choice for us. The decision is still ours.
Bible Study Guide - What You Need to Know About Baptism