“But declared first to those in Damascus and Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. Acts 26:20
What is the difference between repentance before being born again and repentance as a response to being born again? The Scripture firmly explains that everyone must repent and turn to God. This is what it means by repentance that will lead us to the new birth, where we change 180 degrees from our old ways and turn to God. After that, those are born again must live their lives as those who have repented! Our Christianity doesn’t end with repentance and us being born again. It doesn’t mean that after we have been saved, then everything is taken care of – that we can go on with our lives normally as we did in the past and we don’t need to make the effort to please God’s heart.
Our response after being born again is, first, to bear fruits worthy of repentance. In other words, we must live and start to do things that reflect our new status. Before being born again, our status as sinners, a potential inhabitant of hell. When we are born again, we are justified. We receive a new status as righteous people of God. Thus, if we live a new life with a new standard and it doesn’t mean that we live under Law or spirit of legalism. We must be watchful as we live a new life in Christ; “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13.
Secondly, our response is to live in repentance. We might have heard an idea that says that repentance just happens once, i.e. when we experience the new birth and that God has forgiven our sins in the past, present and the future. Does it mean that believers cannot sin anymore? Does any action that violates the Word of God after a person becomes a believer not count as sin anymore? Take a look at how Jesus rebuked the church in Ephesus: “I know your works…and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelations 2:1-5.
The church in Ephesus received a harsh rebuke from Jesus because they had left their first love, so they were asked to repent! Weren’t they believers who had repented? Why were they asked to repent again? In our journey with Jesus, we certainly have experienced the spiritual highs and lows as a result of our struggles, problems, and even spiritual routines that caused our love towards God to turn cold. Sometimes it even causes us to have the feeling of giving up and leave God. Even our emotions and being too comfortable with God’s blessings can cause us to go astray from the will and plan of God. At this point, we need to repent and turn to God. Therefore, it is crucial for us to always live in repentance and always be on fire with God. Amen!
Source: GBI Gatot Subroto’s Article, Jakarta