February/March 2018 - Vol. 96

 man humble before the cross
Through Repentance to Faith

by Derek Prince

Faith follows Repentance
The whole message of the Bible is in this order: repent and believe. There are lots of people who might say they are struggling for faith. The truth is not that they are struggling for faith, but that they may have never met the condition of repentance. Repentance is the first of the six foundation doctrines. If that foundation stone is not in place, the building will always be wobbly.

Over the years, I have counseled hundreds of people, hundreds of Christians who have come to me with their personal problems. After a lot of experience, I came to the conclusion that at least fifty percent of the problems of professing Christians are due to the fact that they have never truly repented.

They have never really changed their mind. They have never really made the decision to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives. They are still making decisions based on this point of view: “If I do this, what will it do for me?” If someone has truly repented, that is not the way they think. Instead they think, “If I do this, will it glorify Jesus?”

So we have multitudes of people
– especially young people, but not limited to young people – who are double-minded. The Bible says a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. (See James 1:8.) He does not have a solid foundation. He cannot produce a stable building.

Right now, quietly reflect on what you have just read and ask yourself: “Have I ever really, truly repented? Or am I still double-minded? Is it my aim to please Jesus on Monday, but please myself on Tuesday?” If that is the way you are thinking and living, in actual fact, you have the worst of both worlds. If that is your mindset, you would probably be better off just living in the world, living for yourself
– because you are a double-minded person, a split personality.

But if that is, in fact, the way you are thinking and living, take steps now to truly repent and live instead to glorify Jesus.

The Nature of Repentance
There is one parable that Jesus told which is the most vivid and perfect illustration of true repentance. It is the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Somebody once said it should be called “The Caring Father.”) The story is found in Luke 15. The second son of a wealthy family decided to get all his inheritance from his father on the spot so he could go off to a distant country and live it up. He did all sorts of sinful things. But then, when he had spent his whole inheritance, a famine came and the only job he could get was feeding pigs. (We must remember that he was Jewish, so for him to feed pigs was just about as low as he could go
– without any slight to present-day pig farmers. It just so happens that for the Jewish people, the pig is one step below a rat in their society.)

So here is the wandering son, in rags, feeding the pigs, hungry, wishing he could fill his stomach with the husks that the pigs are eating. Then this is what happens.

“But when he came to himself, he said …”
Luke 15:17
That is the point each of us must come to. It is what I call “the moment of truth.” You have to see yourself as you really are. You have to see yourself as God sees you.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ And he arose and went to his father.”
verses 17–20
True Repentance
Do you see the two elements? He made a decision and then he turned around. That is repentance: making a decision and carrying out your decision.

Repentance means going back to the father whom you have offended, to the God who loves you, and saying, “I’ve made a mess of my life. I can’t run my own life. I need You. Will You take me back?”
It’s wonderful to see how completely he repented and how eager his father was to receive him. He planned to say to his father, “Make me as one of your hired servants.” But when he started back from where he had strayed, his father was watching for him. That is how God is. When we begin to turn, He is watching for us and waiting for us. I think this is so beautiful.

The father saw him from a long way off and ran to meet him. The father kissed him, and he never let his son say those last words, “Make me as one of your hired servants.” Instead he said:
“ ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry.’ ”verses 22–23
This is the result of true repentance. And it is worth repenting to be welcomed like that by God.
Just think about that picture for a moment. The prodigal son came to himself. He said, “I’ve made a mess of my life. I’ve wasted everything my father gave me. But I’m going to make a decision. I’m going to turn around, I’m going to go back to my father and say I’m sorry.” He turned and went. Think about that. That is true repentance, repentance in action.

False Repentance
We need to understand that there can also be a false repentance, which we call remorse. Judas experienced that kind of false repentance, as described in Matthew’s gospel:
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:3–5
Judas had remorse, but he never changed. In fact, I believe he had passed the point where he could change. To me, this is a solemn thought. In this life, people can pass the point where it is possible for them to change.

The most significant moment in any human life is the moment when God begins to deal with you about repenting. If you shrug your shoulders and say, “I’m not interested. Maybe later,” there is no guarantee that God will ever give you the opportunity again. The most critical moment in any human life is the moment when God says, “Repent. I’m willing to take you back. I love you. I want you.”

What Makes Gods Angry?
Considering what I have seen in people’s lives and in the Bible, I have come to the conclusion that one action that makes God really angry is despising His grace. He freely offers us His grace, but if we despise it He turns in anger.

One person who despised the grace of God was Esau, and his action is described in Hebrews 12. Let’s look at that passage, because there is a lot of Esau in people like you and me. We want to be careful that the Esau in us does not make our decisions.
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully [diligently] lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane [godless] person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
Hebrews 12:14–16
We have no record whatever that Esau ever committed fornication. But in God’s eyes, his attitude was just as bad as fornication. What was his attitude? For one little bowl of soup he despised his birthright. He had the birthright as the elder son – all the inheritance could have gone to him. But just because he was physically hungry and could smell that delicious soup that Jacob had prepared, he gave it up.

This is very vivid to me, because I lived among the Arabs for some time. They make the exact same lentil soup that Jacob made. It has the most delicious smell that permeates the whole house. I can just picture Esau, coming back from his hunting
– tired and hungry – and he smells this delicious soup. And Jacob, bargainer that he was, says, “Listen, you sell me your birthright and I’ll give you the pottage, the soup.”

I suppose Esau thought, What good will my birthright do me now? I’m hungry. I’ll just take what was offered to me.

The Bible says Esau despised his birthright and he made God extremely angry. Later on, through the prophet Malachi, God said, “Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2–3). That is a very solemn thought: If you deliberately despise the grace of God and the inheritance He offers you in Jesus Christ and turn away to pursue some cheap, temporary pleasure of this world, you make God very angry.

Avoiding the Point of No Return
Going on with the message about Esau from Hebrews:
For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected [by God], for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
Hebrews 12:17
The Greek makes it clear that he was not seeking the place of repentance, but he was seeking the blessing. He was rejected because he found no place – no way – to repent. I believe that in this life, a person can pass the place of repentance and never be able to get back. I want to urge you to consider this, for it is a very solemn thought.

Far too little is said today in congregations and many denominations about the need for repentance. But without true repentance there can never be true faith. You will always have a wobbly, up and down experience
– in one day and out the next – because you have not laid the first foundation stone – repentance. Repentance involves a decision of the will to turn away from self-pleasing and doing your own thing to turn back to God. Face up to God and say, “Here I am. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

Some of you reading this have never truly repented. I want to suggest to you it may well be the source of many of your problems. You feel good one day, have a wonderful meeting in the church, and you think everything is wonderful. The next morning something bad happens and down you go. The problem is that you have never really laid the first foundation stone. All you have is a wobbly edifice that one day will collapse.

Repentance, Then Faith
I want to emphasize that repentance must come before faith. There can be no true faith without repentance. This is emphasized all through the New Testament.

In Matthew chapter 3 we read about the ministry of John the Baptist who was sent to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. In one word, his message was: “Repent.” John the Baptist taught that repentance was essential before the Messiah could come. Repentance prepared the way for the coming of Messiah. Until God’s people, Israel, had been through the experience of repentance, they could not be ready to meet their Messiah.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.’ ”
Matthew 3:1–3

How did John the Baptist prepare the way of the Lord? By calling God’s people back to repentance. Repentance is the only way we can prepare for the Lord to come into our hearts and lives.

Jesus Continues the Message
Later, when John had finished his course and in fulfillment of His own prophetic word, Jesus Himself came to continue the ministry of the gospel. It says in the gospel of Mark:
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.”
Mark 1:14–15
Repent and believe. You cannot truly believe unless you have first repented. The first word of command that ever came from the lips of Jesus was not believe but repent.

I remember being in a meeting in Southeast Asia where a certain preacher had preached a message on healing. He had spoken very eloquently about God’s will and His plan to heal. He had quoted many of the promises about healing. But he had not said one word about repentance before he called the people forward.

Most of those who responded to the invitation came from a background of idolatry and they had no idea what they had to do to receive what God was offering. I know, because Ruth and I were both involved in counseling those who came forward. It was such a lesson to me. With all his good intentions and his sweet language, the preacher had totally confused those people, because he gave them the impression that they could come to God without repenting. He never used the word repent once in his message.

I say this not to criticize a preacher, but because I learned a lesson. I believe there are many people in many “gospel” churches who are confused because they are only being told what God will do for them without being told what God requires from them. The first thing He requires is for us to repent
– change our mind, turn around, make an 180-degree turn. We must face God and say, “Tell me what to do, and I will do it.” That is repentance.

If we look on to the end of Jesus’ ministry, His message never changed. After His resurrection, Jesus gave instructions to His disciples. (Remember, this was just before Jesus left this world.)
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ [Messiah] to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Luke 24:46–47
Notice the order of the message: repentance first and then remission (or forgiveness) of sins. There is no forgiveness without repentance – and that is the message that was to begin in Jerusalem and be preached to all nations. Repentance, then forgiveness, through His name.

[This article is excerpted from Through Repentance to Faith, from unpublished materials in the Derek Prince archives, (c) 2009 Derek Prince Ministries International, Charlotte, NC]

Derek Prince (1915–2003) was born in India of British parents. Educated as a scholar of Greek and Latin at Eton College and Cambridge University, England, he held a Fellowship in Ancient and Modern Philosophy at King’s College. He also studied Hebrew and Aramaic, at Cambridge University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While serving with the British army in World War II, he began to study the Bible and experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Out of this encounter he formed two conclusions: first, that Jesus Christ is alive; second, that the Bible is a true, relevant, up-to-date book. These conclusions altered the whole course of his life, which he then devoted to studying and teaching the Bible.

Return to Table of Contents or Archives  (c) copyright 2018  The Sword of the Spirit