Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
The Christian life is characterized by transformation. This requires recognition of one's unworthiness before God's grace and true repentance or turning away from sin to Life in Jesus Christ.
Acts 11:18 speaks of how there is to be repentance unto life and that this is required of all people. "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
To continue in sin is to tolerate what keeps us in bondage. The Gospel proclaims liberation from bondage to sin and death through Jesus Christ. Consider these words from 1 John 1:3-9:
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Being Christ’s disciple means also to abide in His Word, that is, to “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32b).
Religious people often don’t recognize their “imperfections” as sin. Sin is excused as "just natural" or "just the way he/she is..." Some people think their church activities grant them special spiritual status. Jews didn’t think they needed to be made free from sin because they claimed special status as the children of Abraham.
John 8:31-34 tells us that some Jews recognized Jesus as Messiah and believed in Him. Others rejected Him, claiming that they did not need the freedom He offers.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." They answered him, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?" Jesus answered them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth [Greek: practices] sin is the servant of sin."Repentance unto life involves receiving the free gift of grace through the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul explains how when the believer keeps contemplating the treasures in Christ, the Holy Spirit does the work of transforming our character into the likeness of Christ:
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18; also Romans 8:28, 29).There is no salvation through attempting to follow religious laws and adhering to religious practices, as the Judaizers were encouraging the Galatians to do, as the Apostle Paul testified. He wrote: "know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
Repentance unto life is changes the way we think and feel because we are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:4).
Related reading: All Need to Repent; Evidence of Rebirth; Forgiveness and Restoration