I'm trying to come up with a clear cut way to help people understand what the true meaning of repentance is, and what it means to leave everything behind. We know that repentance isn't just saying a prayer asking God to forgive you of your sins, although that action could be involved in the act of repentance. We have seen many, many people asking God to forgive them of their sins, yet, they turn around and continue to practice these same sins. These people sadly are 'happily on their way to hell'.
Another thing we have tried to avoid is to make repentance sound like a work that a person has to do in order to receive salvation. From what the Bible says, we also know that repentance is necessary, if a person is to truly be converted.
Repentance basically means to have a change of mind. We have to be careful here, because we know that having a change of mind does not necessarily result in having a change in our hearts. We can believe all the facts of the Bible as being true, yet still miss heaven.
Maybe another way to help us understand repentance would be the act of 'leaving everything behind'. Although that is not in itself the act of repentance, I would think repentance involves leaving everything behind.
Of course, we don't want to make that into a form of a good work that can enable us to achieve heaven. Some people are very pious and have taken a vow of poverty. It is hard to say whether a person who has done this action really understands repentance. There may be valid reasons for taking a vow of poverty, but earning salvation is not one of them.
So, with that in mind, here is an example of what came to my mind this morning, concerning leaving everything behind:
Think of a woman who grew up in a rich home. Her parents had wealth. She had plenty of clothes, food, toys, music, cars, etc. She never lacked or wanted for anything while she was growing up. Any medical care she needed, was available to her. She is indeed very blessed.
When she is in her early 20s, she meets a man, and they fall in love. They decide, over a period of time, that they want to marry. There is a big problem though. The man makes very little money. It would be very little for them to live on, let alone when they have children.
But they really love each other. Should this woman marry this man, knowing that she will never have the goods that she had growing up? Or, should she stay with her family until she is old, and have anything her heart would desire? If she marries this man, she will leave behind all the possibilities of having wealth and everything that goes with being rich. She will not have money to buy nice clothing anymore. She will not have money to buy a new car (or even a good used one) if her car breaks down. They might never even live in a house. What about medical care? Would she be able to continue to pay for the medical prescriptions she desperately needs?
Will she leave her wealth behind for this man, or, will she choose to stay with her family, and live off the provisions she had all her life?
I know this is a made up story and there are a lot of unfinished details that can be added. The point is simple though. We have to leave the world's goods behind us in order to receive the Pearl of Great Price. We don't 'stop sinning' so that we can go to heaven one day. But, we leave our lives of sin, whatever those sins are, to be part of another kingdom. We can't live a lifestyle of sleeping around and believe in our hearts that God is ok with that. If that is how we live our lives, we have to let that go in order to receive the kingdom of God.
What about good things though? There are even good things we have to leave behind. Why? Because they are idols to us, even though we might not think so. Remember when Jesus was explaining how hard it was for rich people to enter the kingdom of God? Those who have wealth and material blessings will have a harder time letting go of their wealth than those who are poor. When you have something, it is hard to give it up. Whatever you give it up for, must be of highest importance.
Jesus continued to explain that there is no one who has left house, wife, parents, children or brothers, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more, in this life, and in the life to come , eternal life (see Luke 18:28-30).
In John chapter 8, we read about the woman who was caught in adultery. She was brought to Jesus by some self-righteous people in order to try to trick Jesus. They wanted to see how He would work through this one. And they found out. They brought the woman to Jesus because she was caught in the act of adultery and according to their law, she needed to be stoned to death. After they brought the woman to Jesus, He wrote in the sand, then, He asked the people there to throw the first stone, if they were without sin. No one was able to do that, so eventually, they all left. When the accusers were all gone, Jesus asked the woman where her accusers were. He also told her that He doesn't condemn her, but listen to the very last words He spoke to her: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin". He was telling her to repent. Some versions say 'Go and sin no more'.
What was the woman required to leave behind? Her life of sin. What are we required to leave behind? Our lives of sin. We leave our lives of sin behind, and we walk in the newness of life.
Repentance isn't saying that you believe in Jesus, but you can do whatever you want. Repentance involves letting go, or leaving behind, our sins, and our idols. We must let go of anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God.
Finally, what are we feeding on and holding onto? In Isaiah, we read about where the Israelites were feeding upon ashes and in their right hand, they were holding onto a lie. God was dealing with the Israelites about their idolatry. They were being fed the lies of the Enemy of their souls, and they were holding onto those lies, in their right hand. We are no different today. We hold onto many things that we think will make us happy and successful. Do we realize though, that these things get in the way of our relationship with God?
"He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:20 ESV