Conversion is a lifelong process. To become converted is to have God’s thoughts—rather than carnal thoughts and emotions and desires. We must think like God! That is very difficult to accomplish, and a deep subject to think on. We must constantly grow in our conversion. Baptism is only the starting point.
Here is how the Apostle Paul described it: “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Many people know why we must have faith toward Jesus Christ: We must believe on and accept His sacrifice in order to be reconciled to God and to receive the Holy Spirit. But how deeply do you understand repentance toward God?
The Goodness of God
“And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4). Obviously, repentance is of the Holy Spirit. But here it says the goodness of God leads us to it.
Do you realize how good God is? How good He is to you? How much He has given you? When we evaluate ourselves and compare ourselves with the goodness of God, we see how evil we are. Compare your goodness with God’s, and then you begin to see why we really need to repent toward God and not toward man.
How good is God? Just think about Christ’s crucifixion. Notice Genesis 22. After Abraham proved he was willing to sacrifice his son for God, the God who later became Jesus Christ said this: “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven …” (verses 16-17). God swore by Himself in making this promise to Abraham. In other words, He was telling Abraham, I’m going to give my life for you, or I’m going to die trying. Because you have done this deed, my death will pay for your sins and I’m going to bring you into my Family. I swear this by my own life.
Yes, when Christ came to this Earth, His life was at stake. He could, indeed, sin. Christ’s life was the greatest risk in the history of man. But He took it because He wanted people like Abraham in His Family—people who would go out and sacrifice their own son if necessary, knowing that God would resurrect him to fulfill a promise (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham had that kind of faith and trust in God, and God returned that love many times over. All people who can repent like you, Abraham—I will give my life for them. I know that if I don’t make it, nobody else will. But I’m going to do this so we can build the Family of God. That is the cost it took for us to receive God’s Holy Spirit.
If Christ had failed, God the Father would have been sitting in solitary confinement for the rest of eternity! That’s the kind of sacrifice these Gods made for us. We can forget that in our callous, carnal thinking. But God the Father and Christ did it—and they did it for you. They want you to be aware of that. Not out of their vanity, but so that you will recognize that repentance must be toward God! We must understand repentance if we are to enter the God Family.
Meditate deeply upon God’s goodness! It is contrary to everything we see in this miserable, evil world. His mind is in perfect accord with His law in every detail.
Godly vs. Worldly Sorrow
Here is a description of the repentance all of Israel will one day experience. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).
We must strive for this kind of repentance today. We are all Christ killers! We have killed the firstborn Son of our beloved Father! And if we are thinking the way God does, we will experience the same intensity of emotion over what we have done as we would over losing a firstborn son!
This is getting at the heart of the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The reason godly sorrow is “not to be repented of” is because it causes you to overcome your sin! Someone with worldly sorrow may feel bad for a while, but he will never overcome his problems. With godly sorrow, it may not be immediate, but you are not content until you overcome that problem. You get into contact with God and take the problem to Him, and you strive with all your being to become like God in that area. That is when you begin to make real progress.