“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” (Acts 3:19, NKJV)
God loves us and has a purpose for our lives; eternal life (John 3:16). We have a problem; we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). God is just so He must punish sin. The penalty for sin is death (physical and spiritual) (Romans 6:23). God has provided a payment for the penalty we owe for our sin; Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). Now, understanding those facts and even agreeing with them will not save anyone. We must extend an invitation for a personal response that must include repentance of sin and a commitment to personally and honestly trust Christ as Lord and as Savior.
Every person we engage with the gospel must know that it is the promise of a living Savior that we are offering them. He is inviting them personally so they must respond personally. (Matthew 11:28-30; Revelation 3:20; 22:17) We must connect with them to spark curiosity for the gospel. We have been commanded by God to communicate the gospel to them so the Holy Spirit can bring about conviction and for conversion to take place.
What is conversion? (Grudem) Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation. Simply said, REPENTANCE + FAITH = CONVERSION. The word conversion in essence means to turn. For the purpose of the gospel it means to turn from sin towards Christ. Turning from sin is called repentance; turning to Christ is called faith. Neither can occur without the other and they must occur together for true conversion to take place.
What is repentance? Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin that includes a renouncing of it and a sincere commitment to forsake it as we walk in obedience to God. We understand that sin is wrong agreeing with God’s word and arriving to a point where we hate it and make a decision to walk away from it while walking closer to Christ. Genuine repentance results in a changed life (called fruit of repentance). (2 Corinthians 7:10) Repentance and faith in Christ was Paul’s core message. (Acts 20:21) When Jesus encountered people personally he required them to turn from their sin before they come to follow him. (Ex. Rich young ruler; Luke 18:18-30, Zacchaeus; Luke 19:1-10, woman at the well; John 4:16, Nicodemus; John 3:1-21) What is faith? To place your faith or believe in Christ as Lord and Savior means to trust Him as Lord and Savior. To trust He is God and the one who will save us from the consequences of our sin.
Repentance and faith (trust) are two different sides of the same coin; two different aspects of one conversion. Therefore; it is impossible to have true saving faith without having any genuine repentance of sin. It is impossible to accept Christ as Savior but not as Lord. Now we understand why the preaching of the gospel has such inadequate results today. Without mentioning the need for repentance, sometimes, the gospel message becomes just “believe in Jesus Christ and be saved”. That’s why so many try Christianity and nothing special happens in their lives. They say it doesn’t work.
You cannot depend on Christ for your salvation and not commit to forsake sin and obey Christ from that moment on. This is not salvation by works; it’s works by salvation. Listen to Christ in Matthew 11:28-29. He said “Come to me…Take my yoke…” To come to Christ includes taking His yoke upon us being subject to His direction and guidance, learning from Him and being obedient to Him. If we are unwilling to make such a commitment then we have not truly placed our trust in Him. Isaiah reminds us of that. (Isaiah 55:6–7)
Maybe you prayed to receive Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Is that sufficient? Only if you meant it! A prayer does not save anyone; your heartfelt attitude does. Confession is the outward expression of your heart’s willing commitment. If you honestly sorrowed for the sin in you, committed to forsake sin from your life and committed to place all your trust in Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life then you have been saved.
The message of the gospel is as easy as ABC; the process of the gospel is a bit more complicated. Admit that you have sinned, believe that Jesus died for you and commit to accept his gift of forgiveness and eternal life by repenting from sin and trusting Christ as your Lord and as your Savior and you will be saved.