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One who repents and trusts the Savior becomes a new creature; he is born again. God is a God of retribution, but also a God of compassion.
Sin is transgression (breaking) of the Law (I John 3:4), and repentance means to turn from sin. It is more than contrition (sorrow for sin); to repent means to confess sin and forsake it--to agree with God that it is wrong and to turn and go in the opposite direction.
Making a "u-turn" in your life. Once you repent and turn to God, He will give you a clean heart, and the desire to live a holy life that is pleasing to Him.
We cannot just "say a prayer" for salvation and go back to our old lifestyle of sin.
The Bible makes it clear that God is holy and man is sinful, and that sin makes a separation between the two (Isaiah 59:1-2). Without repentance from sin, wicked men cannot have fellowship with a holy God.
We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ.
The Scriptures speak of "repentance of life" (Acts 11:18). We must turn from sin and turn to the Savior. This is why Paul preached "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).
In his book, "One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven", Mark Cahill states that, "if there is no desire to walk away from sin, the person is not really making a true heart commitment to the Savior".
Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). If God is drawing you to Him, He will also be drawing you away from sin.
Jesus said that He came to call "sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9:13). The first word He preached was "repent" (Matthew 4:17).
John the Baptist began his ministry the same way (Matthew 3:2). Jesus told His hearers twice that without repentance, they would perish (Luke 13:3,5).
As Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he commanded his hearers to repent "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Without repentance, there is no remission of sins; we are still under God's wrath.
Peter further said, "Repent...and turn to God, that your sins may be wiped out" (Acts 3:19). We cannot be "coverted" or "turn" to God and have our sins wiped out unless we repent.
God Himself "comands all men everywhere (leaving no exceptions) to repent" (Acts 17:30). Peter said a similar thing at Pentecost: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you" (Acts 2:38).
Scripture says that the Lord is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Clearly, those who do not repent (turn from sin once and for all) will perish.
We need to understand that our sins are not towards man; towards others-- they are sins against God. When King David sinned with Bathsheba, he didn't say, "I've sinned against man."
He said to God, "Against you, and you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:4). When Joseph was tempted sexually, he said, "How can I do this thing and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9).
The prodigal son said, "I've sinned against heaven" (Luke 15:21). That's why Paul preached "repentance toward God" (Acts 20:21).
When a man doesn't understand that his sin is primarily vertical (against God), he'll merely exercise superficial, experimental, horizontal repentance (repentance toward his sins against man and not against God), and fall away when tribulation, temptation, and persecution come.