Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Repentance That Leads to Life

I would like to explain repentance, because it is a critical aspect of our salvation that is neglected and misunderstood. Human nature is to either not repent at all or else to repent insincerely. Yet the only way we can receive forgiveness from God is by genuinely repenting. In fact, this is one of the basic, fundamental teachings of our faith.

Paul said, “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” (Heb 6:1). Repentance from dead works and faith in God are the essential first steps to becoming a disciple of Christ, but they must also a daily part of our ongoing walk with Jesus all throughout our lives.

So let’s look at the two Hebrew words for repentance.

In the Old Testament, the most frequently used Hebrew word for "repent" is “shub” meaning “to turn back (hence, away)…literally or figuratively (not necessarily with the idea of return to the starting point); generally to retreat; often adverbially again:..bring (again, back, home again), call [to mind], carry again (back), cease…come again (back) …convert, deliver (again), + deny, draw back, fetch home again…go again (back, home)…pull in again, put (again, up again)…restore, retrieve, (cause to, make to) return, reverse… slide back…(cause to, make to) turn (again, self again, away, back, back again, backward, from, off), withdraw.” (Strongs).

Turning Back and Reversing Your Direction
For example, the word “shub” is used in this passage in Ezekiel about repentance:

"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct," declares the Lord GOD. "Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions, which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live." (Eze 18:30-32). If you want to live, you must repent. Otherwise you will surely die. But when you repent, you must turn away from all your transgressions and cast them away from you.

The word “shub” is also used to refer to the way man returns to the ground from which he was taken (Gen 3:19; Job 10:9; 34:15).  It is used to refer to the way the water receded from the earth after the Great Flood (Gen 8:3).  It is used to refer to the dove returning to Noah while the waters were still upon the earth after the flood (Gen 8:9). It is used to refer to Hagar the slave woman returning to Sarah her mistress (Gen 16:9). It is used of the Lord returning to Abraham one year later (Gen 18:10,14). It is used of Moses returning to his father-in-law Jethro (Exo 4:18). It is used of  the waters of the Red Sea returning and covering the Egyptians who had gone after the Israelites (Exo 14:28; 15:19). It is used for the Israelites desire to return to Egypt (Num 14:3-4). It is used to refer to the Israelites turning away from following the Lord (Num 14:43; 32:15; Jos 22:23,29; Jdg 2:19; 1Ki 9:6; 2Ch 7:19). It’s used of the waters of the Jordan returning back to flood level after the Israelites crossed over (Jos 4:18). It’s used of the Israelites returning from exile (Ezr 6:21). It’s also used of the Israelites returning to the Lord (Deu 4:30; Deu 30:2,8; 1Ki 8:46-50; 2Ch 7:13-14; Neh 1:9). It’s also used of sinners turning to the Lord (Psa 51:13).

Turning to the Lord and Obeying Him Again
Repentance is turning to the Lord and obeying Him again, as used in the following passages:

“And you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons,” (Deu 30:2)

"And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.” (Deu 30:8-10)

Repenting With All Your Heart And Soul
When you repent, it is important to repent with all your heart and with all your soul, as it says in the following passage:

"When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly'; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them.” (1Ki 8:46-50)

"If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2Ch 7:13-14).

Being restored to God is conditional, based upon you repenting, which is returning to Him, and removing unrighteousness far from your tent like it says in the following passage:

"If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent, And place your gold in the dust, And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks, Then the Almighty will be your gold And choice silver to you. For then you will delight in the Almighty And lift up your face to God.” (Job 22:23-26)

There are serious consequences, if you do not repent. “If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.” (Psa 7:12). God will sharpen His sword and use it on you. This verse depicts God aiming an arrow at you with a bent bow, ready to shoot, unless you repent.

David spoke of sinners repenting to the Lord. “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.” (Psa 51:13)

Being Truly Sorry
There is also another Hebrew word for "repent," which is “nacham” meaning “properly to sigh, that is, breathe strongly; by implication to be sorry, that is, (in a favorable sense) to pity, console…or comfort (self), ease [one’s self], repent (-er, -ing, self).” (Strongs).

It is used of the Lord being sorry He had made man on the earth (Gen 6:6,7). It is used of the Lord relenting from sending calamity (2Sa. 24:16; 1Ch. 21:15; Jer. 18:8; 26:3; 42:10; Lam. 1:21; Eze. 14:22; Jon. 3:10; 4:2). It is used of the Lord changing His mind about the misfortune that He had pronounced against Judah (Jer. 26:13,19). It is used of the Lord comforting those who mourn (Jer 31:13,15). It is also used of man repenting (Job 42:6; Jer. 8:6; 31:19)

Job said to the Lord, “Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."  (Job 42:6). This speaks of laying on one’s face, prostrate before the Lord on the ground in self-abasement. See my article on Bowing Low in Worship.

God doesn’t need to repent, since He is not a man. "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Num 23:19). This passage speaks of the fact that God will do what He said He would do. When He said He would punish the wicked, He meant it and He will surely do it, unless they repent.

There is a passage in which both the Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” are used together as synonyms. In the following passage, note how the word “shub” is used to mean both “turning away” from the Lord, as well as “repenting” and “returning”, and “nacham” refers to the aspect of repentance in which one shows remorse by “grieving” and “being sorry.” It states:

"You shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD, "Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away (Hebrew, shub) and not repent (Hebrew, shub)? "Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away (Hebrew, shub) in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return (Hebrew, shub). "I have listened and heard, They have spoken what is not right; No man repented (Hebrew, nacham) of his wickedness, Saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turned (Hebrew, shub) to his course, Like a horse charging into the battle.” (Jer 8:4-6)

We learn from this passage that if a person is truly repenting and remorseful, God expects him to have an attitude that is described by the words, “What have I done?” If a person continues in his sin like a horse charging into battle, after he has said he repents, then his repentance is not sincere.

The New Covenant Repentance of Ephraim
In this next passage about the New Covenant (Jer 31), the Lord prophesies of a future time when His people will weep in repentance and turn back to Him. In the following verses, both the Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” are used, along with other words that describe the actions that accompany genuine repentance:

"I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back (Hebrew, shub) that I may be restored (Hebrew, shub), For You are the LORD my God. For after I turned back (Hebrew, shub), I repented (Hebrew, nacham); And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated Because I bore the reproach of my youth.' Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.” (Jer 31:18-20).

In this passage, in addition to the two Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” we also have Ephraim’s grieving, which the Lord says He heard, so it is audible, and the words of Ephraim in his grief are recorded. The word “grieving” comes from the Hebrew word “nud” (pronounced like the English word nude), which means “to nod, that is, waver; figuratively to wander, flee, disappear; also (from shaking the head in sympathy), to console, to take pity...deplore...bemoan, flee...mourn...remove, shake...be sorry.” (Strongs).  So when Ephraim repented, this word vividly describes how. This word may refer to the nodding of the head in acknowledgement that God is right to punish him, the shaking of the head in remorse and sorrow, fleeing from sin, deploring his sin, bemoaning himself, mourning for what he has done, shaking, and being sorry.

The words of Ephraim grieving are, “You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back that I may be restored, For You are the LORD my God. For after I turned back, I repented; And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated Because I bore the reproach of my youth.” Let’s look at these words he spoke in his grief as he repented.

He acknowledges that the Lord has chastised him for his own sin. The word “chastise” is the Hebrew word “yasar” meaning “to chastise, literally (with blows) or figuratively (with words); hence to instruct: - bind, chasten, chastise, correct, instruct, punish, reform, reprove, sore, teach.” (Strongs). So he acknowledges that he has been properly beaten with blows, punished by God, and he is sore now. He has been corrected, reproved, and instructed. He has learned his lesson. He is saying, “Lord, You beat me and I deserved it.” We are supposed to accept hardship as discipline, and endure it as being our Father’s punishment (Heb 12:7). That’s what Ephraim did.

He compares himself to a young calf that has acted in an untamed manner and needs to be brought back. He asks God to bring him back that he may be restored. The words “bring back” and “restore” are both the same Hebrew word “shub.” We can’t even repent unless God grants us repentance, so Ephraim asks for God to do so and bring him back to the Lord. When we are sorry for our sin and grieving, we must do the same, asking God for genuine repentance and to bring us back to Him, as Ephraim did.

He says, “You are the Lord my God.” This is an important statement that reestablishes his rightful relationship with the Lord. It is no longer idols and foreign gods whom he serves. Rather it is Jehovah who is his God. Everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved (Rom 10:13). His name is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephraim says, “For after I turned back, I repented.” So he first turned back to God (Hebrew, shub), from whom he had gone astray. Then he repented (Hebrew, nacham). It’s similar to the prodigal son, who first returned to his father (Lk 15:20), and then expressed to him his sorrow for what he had done to sin against heaven and in his sight (Lk 15:21). We need to do the same as the prodigal son when we repent. That’s what Ephraim did.

He says, “After I was instructed, I smote on my thigh.” So once he realized his mistake, he struck himself on the thigh. The word in Hebrew for thigh is “yarek” meaning “by euphemism the generative parts; figuratively a shank, flank, side: loins, shaft, side, thigh.” (Strongs). So where exactly he struck himself is uncertain, whether it was on the buttock, or the side of the thigh, or the loin (generative parts), but it was probably painful. The Hebrew women would also sometimes beat their breasts when they repented, and I am sure that was also painful (Isa. 32:12; Nah. 2:7). That’s like the sinner in the temple did, as recorded in Luke 18:13. Jesus said, "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' That’s what the apostle Paul did. For he said, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1Co 9:27, NIV). Also see my article, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian.

According to the statement Ephraim made while he was grieving over his sin, after he smote himself on the thigh, he “was ashamed and also humiliated” because he bore the reproach of his youth.  Let’s look at these words, too.

The word for “ashamed” is “bush” (pronounced “boosh”), meaning “properly to pale, that is, by implication to be ashamed; also (by implication) to be disappointed, or delayed: - (be, make, bring to, cause, put to, with, a-) shame (-d), be (put to) confounded (-fusion), become dry, delay, be long.” (Strongs). To be ashamed is to be affected by shame, abashed or confused by guilt, or convicted of sin. Shame itself is “A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal. Shame is particularly excited by the disclosure of actions which, in the view of men, are mean and degrading. Hence it it is often or always manifested by a downcast look or by blushes, called confusion of face.” (Webster’s). This is what Ephraim experienced, which is one mark of genuine repentance. He was ashamed, because of his sin and disgrace.

He said he was also humiliated. The Hebrew word for humiliated is “kalam” meaning “properly to wound; but only figuratively, to taunt or insult: - be (make) ashamed, blush, be confounded, be put to confusion, hurt, reproach, (do, put to) shame” (Strongs). This is very similar to his being ashamed. He felt the pain of the emotional wound caused by his sin. This is an excellent picture of true repentance.

And let me remind you how God responded to this. "’Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 31:20)  You see, God is so full of love and mercy that He yearns for us to repent sincerely, so that He may show us mercy. He remembered Ephraim when he repented genuinely and He promised He would surely have mercy on him. 

Tearful Repentance
The following is an excerpt taken from Baptized by Blazing Fire by Yong-Doo Kim, Book #2:

”For a pastor and his wife, it would be much more difficult for their spiritual eyes to be opened, a very painful process. There are many different types of prayers, but the most powerful prayer that will speed up the process is one of tearful repentance.”

”Compared to others, I don’t shed tears very often. It may be because of my strong personality. No matter how hard I’m praying and calling out to the Lord, I can’t cry, even though I have tried. I asked the pastor for help and he said I lacked a contrite spirit. He encouraged me to ask the Lord for a contrite heart.”

“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

”All afternoon I prayed with a contrite and repenting heart and the Lord poured onto me the blessing of tears of repentance. The Holy Spirit covered me with tears and sweat. I was choked up with tears as I cried uncontrollably. Speaking through Joo-Eun, God told me my tearful repentance was acceptable to Him.”

”Jesus took me to visit Heaven. I always love and enjoy visits to Heaven. When I got there, Yae-Ji and I began dancing before the Lord. We asked him, ‘Lord, please pour down the tears of repentance on Deaconess Shin Sung-Kyun, and Joseph. They both desire to pray the prayer of repentance tearfully but can’t cry.’ But the Lord replied, ‘I can only give the tears of repentance when people are sincerely praying for repentance with their hearts.’”

The Gospel
I have read some who think that the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ does not require repentance, because repentance requires work or action on the part of the sinner, and we are saved by grace, not by works. This is deception from the devil to keep people from repenting. One thing God cannot do for you is to repent. He can grant you repentance, but He will not repent for you. You must repent yourself.  There is no other way to receive His forgiveness for your sins.

Jesus taught the two men on the road to Emmaus about this after his resurrection. “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luk 24:45-47)

Jesus said we must proclaim repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations. These days, you usually hear preachers say that you only need to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved. They tell people that all they need is to accept Jesus into their heart, but they don't mention repentance. However, the true gospel we are commanded to proclaim is one of repentance for forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. This is what Jesus preached, as well as John the Baptist and the apostles of Christ.

It says of John the Baptist that “He came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luk 3:3; cf., Act 13:24). He preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 3:2). So did Jesus.

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" (Mat 4:17). Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mar 1:15)

The Greek word for “repent” is “metanoeo” meaning “to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): - repent.” When you repent, you will reconsider what you have done, you will feel moral compunction. It is in complete harmony with the Hebrew words “shub” and “nacham” that were used in the Old Testament. The act of repentance has not changed, just the covenant and the terms of it. The shed blood of God’s Son Jesus, not the blood of animals, has made atonement for us. Paul said, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” (Act 13:38-39).

Repentance is an essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it's a core component, so let’s look at some of the New Testament Scriptures on repentance.

Calling All Sinners
The purpose for which Jesus came was not to call righteous people to follow Him, but to call sinners to repentance. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luk 5:32)

Repent or Perish
There is no other way to have eternal life. Repent or perish. "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luk 13:3)

Repentance Leads to Life
“When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’" (Act 11:18)

Joy in Heaven Over a Repentant Sinner
"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luk 15:7)

"In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luk 15:10)

The Unrepentant Are Denounced
“Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.” (Mat 11:20)

Paul said, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” (Rom 2:5)

Paul said, “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.” (2Co 12:21)

Jesus Commended the Repentant
Jesus commended the men of Nineveh for repenting at the preaching of Jonah. "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Mat 12:41; cf., Luk 11:32)

Rebuke Your Brother if He Sins
The fact that repentance is a condition for forgiveness is why we must rebuke our brother who sins, so that he may repent. "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him.” (Luk 17:3-4)

The Apostles Preached Repentance
When Jesus sent out his disciples, they preached repentance, too. “They went out and preached that men should repent.” (Mar 6:12)

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Act 2:38)

Peter said to Simon the sorcerer, "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. (Act 8:22)

Paul said, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” (Act 17:30)

Paul was “Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Act 20:21)

Times of Refreshing
Peter said that repentance is the only way to receive times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Act 3:19)

God Grants Repentance and Forgiveness
Speaking of Jesus, Peter said, "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Act 5:31)

His kindness leads us to repentance. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4)

Paul said, “With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” (2Ti 2:25). Notice that true repentance leads to a knowledge of the truth.

Bearing the Fruit of Repentance
It is not enough to simply say we repent, we must bear the fruits of repentance.

John the Baptist said, "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (Luk 3:8)

Paul, “Kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” (Act 26:20)

The Danger of Continuing in Willful Sin
If we do not bear the fruit of repentance after we come to Christ, and we continue to sin, this is very dangerous. We risk getting to the point where we are no longer able to repent.

Paul said, “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Heb 6:4-6)

Don’t sell your birthright like Esau, who sold his for a single meal. “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Heb 12:17)

Also see The Dangers of Disobedience.

Sorrowful to the Point of Repentance
It’s not enough to have worldly sorrow, which only produces death. We must be sorrowful to the point of repentance, which leads to salvation. Paul said, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.” (2Co 7:9)

“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.” (2Co 7:10). It’s a repentance without regret, once you are forgiven.

God Wants All to Come to Repentance
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9)

Repentance is for the Church, too!
It seems to me that some Christians must think repentance is just for “those sinners out there.” They think it’s for other people outside the Church. But it is most certainly for those in the Church, too.

“Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” (Rev 2:5)

“Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Rev 2:16)

“I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. (Rev 2:21-22)

'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” (Rev 3:3)

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19)

Turning Sinners Back
As we have just seen in the book of Revelation, the call to repentance even goes out to the Church. We are not only trying to reach those who have never known the Lord, but trying to turn back our brethren among us, who have strayed from the truth into error.

James said, "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20)

The Greek word for the expression "turn back" and "turn from" in these verses is "epistrepho", meaning "to revert (literally, figuratively or morally): - come (go) again, convert, (re-) turn (about, again)." (Strongs). This means the same as the Hebrew word "shub" that we have examined in this article. In fact, "epistrepho" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "shub" in some verses of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint.

So this same notion of "turning back" that we see in the Old Testament is also found in the New Testament, such as this passage in James. Any time you are able to turn away a sinner from the error of his way, you will save his soul from death.

Returning to the Lord
Other New Testament passages where this word "epistrepho" is used for "turning to God" or "returning to God" include the following:

"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." (Act 3:19)

"For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." (1Pe 2:25)

"And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord." (Act 11:21)

"But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." (2Co 3:16)

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luk 22:31-32)

Also see Mat 13:15; Mar 4:12; Luk 1:16-17; Luk 17:4; Act 9:35; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18; 26:20; 28:27; 1Th 1:9.

Putting it All Together
Repentance is not a bad word; it's a good word! It means turning back and reversing your direction. It means turning to the Lord with all your heart and soul and obeying Him again. It includes being sorry and sometimes even weeping in repentance.

We can’t even repent unless God grants us repentance. When we are sorry for our sin and grieving, we must ask God for genuine repentance and to bring us back to Him. You may even ask Him for tears of repentance. He can only give the tears of repentance when people are sincerely praying for repentance with their hearts. It’s not enough just to be sorrowful; you must be sorrowful to the point of repentance

First return to the heavenly Father, and then express to him sorrow for what you have done to sin against his sight. Allow yourself to be sincerely ashamed and humiliated before the Lord, so that He may show you mercy.

This is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of salvation. The gospel we proclaim is one of repentance for forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. This is what Jesus preached, as well as John the Baptist and the apostles of Christ. You yourself must repent, since nobody else can do it for you.  There is no other way to receive His forgiveness for your sins.

This gospel is for all sinners, both inside and outside the Church. God is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. You will surely perish, unless you repent. There is no other way to have eternal life. The Scripture teaches that repentance leads to life, when combined with faith in Jesus Christ.

There is joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, but the Lord denounces those who are unrepentant. Just as it was with the Church in Corinth, there are today those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the sin which they have practiced. If you are unrepentant, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

If you want to experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, then repent. Once he shows mercy and forgives you, He will comfort you and restore you. But it is not enough to simply say we repent, we must bear the fruits of repentance. If we do not bear the fruit of repentance after we come to Christ, and we continue to sin, we risk getting to the point where we are no longer able to repent.

A daily life of repentance is the shortest path to God's mercy. Repent immediately not later. Repent immediately after sinning. You cannot wait a day or even a minute. You must repent immediately. One of the biggest traps of the devil is to say, “later, later,” because he knows that would create a gap in your life, which would gradually widen up.

If you want to know what you should repent of, ask the Lord to expose anything in your life that is hidden, and to convict you by the Holy Spirit. Then please read Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ask for the Ancient Paths, and The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The image of the water color painting, "Abraham and the Three Angels," c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902).

Author's note: I also recommend reading Bowing Low in Worship, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ask for the Ancient Paths, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Should you fear the Lord?, Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, The Judgment Seat of Christ, Tattoos and Body Piercing, Divorce -- Three Divine Revelations, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Six Divine Revelations, Godly Attire & Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, and The Book of Life. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

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