There is a story in the Talmud of a rabbi who taught his students a lesson on preparing for death and on repentance. One of the students asked, “Rabbi, when should a man repent?” The rabbi responded: “Repent a day before your death.” His students were confused: “How can a man know the day of his death?” they asked. His answer: “He cannot — and since he may die tomorrow, it is all the more necessary for him to repent today.”
Everyone thinks of changing humanity and noone thinks of changing himself.
In the theological and ethical sense, repentance is a fundamental and thorough change in the hearts of people from sin and toward God. Although faith alone is the condition for salvation, repentance is bound up with faith and inseparable from it. Without some measure of faith no one can truly repent, and repentance never attains it’s deepest character until the sinner realizes through saving faith how great is the grace of God against whom he has sinned. On the other hand, there can be no saving faith without true repentance. Repentance contains essential elements: A genuine sorrow toward God on account of sin. An inward revulsion to sin necessarily followed by the actual forsaking of it. Humble self-surrender to the will and service of God.
One thief on the cross was saved, that none should despair; and only one, that none should presume. In Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom of God is seen the truth that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin: By repentance, one turns away from sin; By faith, one turns toward God in accepting the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a twofold turning, or conversion, is necessary for entrance into the kingdom. “Unless you repent,” said Jesus, “you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5). The positive, or merciful, side is seen in these words: “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). We cannot put our new lives in our old wineskins!
If there are a thousand steps between us and God, He will take all but one.
He will leave the final one for us. The choice is ours. The man who knows his sins is greater than one who raises a dead man by his prayer. It is much easier to repent of sins that we have already committed than to repent of those we intend to commit.
Change is not easy! Look at the alcoholic, the smoker, the drug addict. The smoker can use medicine to reduce the effects of stopping. The alcoholic can use support groups to hold him accountable and to give support. Even the Church is a support group for sinners. A lot of things can be done, but it all comes down to taking the necessary steps.
When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bulls eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim – improve yourself.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells of a time in the Siberian prison when he was weary from hard labor, weak from a starvation diet, and in pain from an untreated illness. He was being forced to shovel sand hour-after-backbreaking-hour. Finally he felt he could not go on. He just stopped, knowing that the guards would beat him severely, perhaps even to death. Just then another prisoner, a fellow Christian, took his shovel handle and, right at Solzhenitsyn’s feet, he drew in the sand the sign of the cross. Then he quickly erased it. But when Solzhenitsyn caught the glimpse of the cross, all hope and courage of the Gospel flooded his soul and enabled him to hold on. He says that he was saved that day by the sign of the cross.”