For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – thus says St Paul in Romans 3:23.
Yes, each one of us has sinned and we know how often we have fallen. But the fact that we are all sinners does not mean we can continue satisfying our sinful desires by committing one sin after the other; nor does it mean that we feel hopeless and abandon God’s call to live a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:15). Going to both these extremes will ultimately lead to our spiritual death.
As St. Paul writes in Romans 6:23 – For sin pays its wage – death. But the sentence is not complete. He further goes on to add… but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23b). In other words, St. Paul is saying that although we have all sinned, God our Heavenly Father has still made it possible for us to be saved.
The offer of eternal life is made freely available to us through His Son Jesus who has already suffered the consequences of all our sins on the cross. All that is left for us to do is to accept this free gift.
Repent and Turn to God
Accepting the free gift of eternal life begins with repentance. Repentance is nothing but feeling sorry for what we have done. In Acts 3:19 St. Peter says: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19). Kindly note, Peter uses the word then; it means we have to know what was spoken in the previous lines. *”He was holy and good, but you rejected Him… You killed the one who leads to life…” (Acts 3:14-15)
All of us are responsible for the death of Jesus. In a way, we have killed Him by the various sins that we have committed till today and those which we will be committing in the future. Repentance therefore, is feeling sorry for going against the holiness and goodness of Jesus, who has come to lead us to life. In spite of all that we have done to Jesus, God Our Father is willing to forgive all our sins and give us the free gift of eternal life.
Repentance calls for humility where we acknowledge our faults before God.
When the prophet Nathan pointed out to David the serious offences he had committed against God, David admitted that he had sinned. “I have sinned against the LORD,” David said. Nathan replied, “The LORD forgives you; you will not die. (2 Samuel 12:13).
Forgiveness followed instantly. That is what happens when we humble ourselves. In the Psalm of repentance that David wrote, he says: My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. (Psalms 51:17)
Going back to the incident where Peter invited the people to repent, we are told that Many who heard the message believed (Acts 4:4). These are the ones who acknowledged their fault in humility and repented for their sins. There is no doubt that God forgave their sins. Therefore, when we confess our sins with a humble and repentant heart, God forgives our sins by means of His Son Jesus.
The apostle John writes *But if we confess our sins to God, He will keep his promise and do what is right: He will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. (1 John 1:9).
And Christ Himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone (1 John 2:2).
St. Paul, who at one time was persecuting the Christians mercilessly, repented for what he had done after coming to know Jesus. He acknowledges thus: This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
Live for Him alone as His people
Repent, then, and turn to God…”. Repentance is followed by turning to God, which is nothing but living for Jesus alone. The same Paul, who at one time was responsible for persecuting Christians, dedicated his entire life to Jesus and to proclaiming the Gospel. He writes about this saying: He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but only for Him who died and was raised to life for their sake (2 Corinthians 5:15). Thus, living only for Jesus becomes the sole purpose of life of a person who has repented sincerely.
The life of a person who is living for Jesus alone is characterized by two things:
1) He wants to know Jesus more and more and
2) At all times he wants to do what God requires of him.
That was how Paul began his journey with Christ. The two questions that he asked Jesus in Acts 22:8,10 at the time of his conversion characterize the life of a true Christian: ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘What shall I do, Lord?’. He writes in his letter to the Philippians: All I want is to know Christ. My deep desire and hope is that I shall never fail in my duty, but that at all times, and especially right now, I shall be full of courage, so that with my whole being I shall bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For what is life? To me, it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more. (Philippians 3:10, 1:20-21).
Living for Jesus alone ultimately brings about a change of heart and mind. We become God’s children, we become His people. We become new beings as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17- Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. The new way of life that we live is one that is different from that of the world. As St. Paul writes in Romans 12:2 – Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to Him and is perfect. St. John writes in 1 John 3:9 – Those who are children of God do not continue to sin, for God’s very nature is in them; and because God is their Father, they cannot continue to sin.
Living as His People by the Power of the Holy Spirit
In Acts 2:38 St. Peter says – Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Why was the Holy Spirit promised to us? God could have simply stopped at forgiving our sins because of our belief in Jesus. But He gave us the Holy Spirit as well. Why?
The Holy Spirit is given to us to help us obey the Word of Christ so that we become God’s children; we become new beings. That is why, in John 14:26 Jesus calls Him the Helper
Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we cannot become God’s children.
St. Paul says in Galatians 4:6- To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, ‘Father, my Father.’ Again, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot become new beings.
It is the Holy Spirit who produces in us the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control as enlisted in Galatians 5:22-23). All these are characteristics of a new being.
Therefore, having repented sincerely for our sins, let us then live our life by the power of the Holy Spirit, keeping in step with Him all the time as it is said in Galatians 5:25). The Lord Holy Spirit will help us live for God as His people.