Question: Will God give up on me? If I keep praying for Him to open my eyes, to lead me to repentance, will it happen? The Bible says God has mercy on whom He chooses, so what if He just chooses to be done with me and leave me in my self-righteousness?
Answer: Your questions about repentance are common ones. Many people struggle with how to take this first step into Christian faith. You are right to see repentance and faith as the entryway into genuine Christian faith. There are a number of ways people can get tripped up. Having a good definition of repentance is a great place to start. Theologian J. I. Packer’s definition is a helpful one:
Repentance is turning…
from as much as you know of your own sin,
with as much as you know of yourself,
to as much as you know of God.
Let’s think about this together in four parts.
1. Repentance is turning.
Repentance involves an act of the will. That means you must come to the conclusion that you would be happier if you turned away from your sin to follow Jesus Christ. This is where all repentance begins. Reread the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-32) and you will see how he concluded that his father’s servants had it better than he did. Do you believe the servants of Jesus are in a better place than you are right now?
2. Repentance is turning from as much as you know of your own sin.
Notice, you cannot turn from a sin that you are unaware of. In God’s kindness, He doesn’t show us all of our sin at once. He shows it to us over time. Think of it like God turning the flashlight of the Holy Spirit on some area of your life. He doesn’t use a floodlight. That would completely overwhelm you. This means that over time your repentance will deepen as God shows you more sin in your life.
3. Repentance is turning with as much as you know of yourself.
This is also progressive. In other words, it deepens over time. You were created in the image of God, so that means you will get to know yourself better as you get to know God better.
4. Repentance is turn to as much as you know of God.
If you are married, you will know that you found out a lot more about your spouse after you got married than before. The same is true of God. If you’ve yet to repent and place your faith in Christ, then you do not yet know Him. Once you repent and commit yourself to Him, you will come to know Him much better, but this happens over time. As you walk with Christ, you will know Him better, including what is pleasing to Him, and what is not.
Your repentance will never be perfect in this life. But the Christian life begins with this single, imperfect step. Take it and see how Jesus welcomes you to Himself, with all your imperfections and flaws. I too am a sinner, and He received me with open arms.
I want you to think about Jesus’ words: “All that the Father gives me will come to me…” (John 6:37). Now, I suspect your first question will be: What if the Father doesn’t give me?
Listen to how Jesus finishes this sentence: “…and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Jesus says, “whoever comes to me…” That could be you today. If you come to Him, then the Father has given you to Him. That’s how you know who is given. So, go ahead and come to Christ today. These words from Jesus are your invitation to come.
Notice who Jesus is addressing. “Whoever” includes anyone and everyone. You’re invited! So, don’t hesitate. Don’t delay. Just come to Him now in repentance and faith, and Jesus Himself has said, “I will never cast you out.” Take Him at His word. Believe and trust in Him today.
Warmly in Christ,