Commentary: Repentance is essential to entering and living in the Kingdom of God


“After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:14–15, CSB)

Repentance is a change of mind and attitude that results in a change of life and actions. Repentance is necessary after hearing and understanding the previous six essential elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. These have all been expounded upon in previous blogs. For the sake of context I’ll list the six previous essential elements. They are:

  1. All are accountable to God.
  2. Our problem is that we have rebelled against God.
  3. The Kingdom of God is now available.
  4. Jesus is the Messiah.
  5. Jesus suffered and rose from the dead.
  6. Jesus will return, reign, and rule.

These elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom challenge our thinking, our behavior, our autonomy, our decision making and our future plans. Repentance is both for those already in the Kingdom of God and for those who want to be.

The process of repentance is much like someone who has been driving a car and just discovers they were headed in the wrong direction. The natural reaction is to stop the car and find out what direction they need to go, turn to it and start moving in that right direction. There will also be some emotional reaction. The amount of emotion will depend on how much time is lost, when the person needs to be at the destination, and the amount of resources spent. I’ll admit that if this were me, I would likely be upset in proportion to the amount of time and resources I had expended before realizing I was headed in the wrong direction. Notice this “car” example fulfills the previous definition of repentance: A change of mind and attitude that results in a change of life and actions.

Many have viewed repentance of sin as a negative experience. But as Dr. Kerry Skinner writes, “Repentance is the most positive word in the Bible and brings life, not death, to those who embrace it. While the process of repentance is sometimes painful, the result of being back in fellowship with God brings great joy” (Skinner, The Joy of Repentance, p.21). Joy, and in many cases, true revival comes out of genuine repentance.

According to Drs. Henry Brandt and Kerry Skinner, repentance is a five-step process (see the books The Heart of the Problem and The Joy of Repentance). Sin can be in our lives and fester in our hearts for years, but God cleanses us through repentance and gives hope, joy and welcome change to our lives in a moment. The five process steps of repentance are as follows.

First, admit to God that you are wrong. You need to admit to him all the wrongs that come to mind: wrong thinking, wrong speaking, wrong beliefs, wrong attitudes and wrong behavior. This is a time of humbling yourself before God. Admission of wrong is not repentance but it is a necessary part of repentance. You can admit you are wrong and not repent. Confession is the place to start, not the ending point.

Second, have godly sorrow for the sin. This is more than regret. It is an anguish of the soul before God that we are not who we should be. That we have done what we should not do or failed to do what we should. Worldly sorrow leads to despair but godly sorrow leads to repentance and joy. Judas later regretted betraying Jesus, but fell into despair and committed suicide. Peter’s denial of Jesus was also a betrayal, but instead of despair he worked through his sorrow and became a man who found renewed purpose and joy in ministry to Jesus and to His church.

Third, ask God to forgive the sin. God is a forgiving God. He gave his only begotten Son so that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:9). Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask for forgiveness as we forgive others who have sinned against us. God will grant forgiveness based on the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As it reads in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7, CSB).

Fourth, ask God to cleanse the sin. David prayed, after he was confronted with sin by Nathan the prophet, for God to “completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). Only God can cleanse us from our sin. We may be able to manage sin. We may be able to even stop certain sins, but we cannot cleanse sin. Only God can do that. Dr. Skinner often says, “If sin is the problem, there is no human remedy.” But God has a remedy. It is not sin management, but a thorough cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on your behalf on the cross.  “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7–8, CSB).

Last, ask God to empower you with His Spirit. After God cleanses you, you are now a vessel that can be used for His honor and glory. But you cannot operate successfully with merely human strength. You need to be empowered. God has made provision for you to be filled and empowered by his Holy Spirit. Look at what Peter wrote:

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire” (2 Peter 1:3–4, CSB).

God has given you everything you need to live for and in the kingdom of God today. You are able to do this because you “share in the divine nature.”

Jesus made similar statements on empowerment but focused on our abiding in Him. He said “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5, CSB). This abiding is remaining in Jesus’ teaching, His will and way. When we ask the Lord to empower us, we are asking to stay in fellowship with Jesus every moment of every day. If we draw our nourishment from Jesus, then the fruit of Jesus will naturally come forth. It will be the fruit of the Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23 but also much, much more. We cannot do this spiritual work without Him. We must always be drawing our strength, nourishment and as Peter said, “Everything that is required for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3a, CSB) from Jesus.

When we look at repentance in relation to the Gospel of the Kingdom, here are some specifics related to these essentials.

First, we need to repent of our self-directed and self-oriented behavior. We are accountable to God. All of us will appear at the judgment seat of Christ at the end of the age. But we are also disciplined in our thinking and behavior today. God knows what is going on in his church. He knows what is going on in your thoughts, not to mention your deeds. We have authorities that we answer to in this life, but all authority is from God.

“Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, CSB).

“For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness. Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:7–8, CSB).

We answer to God. That is why we call him “Lord,” because He is Lord.

Second, we need to know and accept that the evil and sin in this world is due to our rebellion against God. This world is the way it is because of sinful fallen humanity; it is because of us. While everything that occurs in our lives that is bad, such as cancer or a tornado, may not be due to our personal sin, it is due to sin. God created this world good. We have made it bad. Our problem is that we are rebels against God. We will continue to multiply our problems as long as we remain in rebellion. A part of repentance is to counter sin with righteousness, the righteousness that only comes from God.

Third, change your thinking about living now in the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is eternal and it is present through Jesus the Messiah. A kingdom is the reign and rule of a king. God has always been sovereign over the earth, but he has also given us authority to rule and subdue the earth. Each of us has our own little kingdoms. If each of us will seek to align our kingdoms with the Kingdom of God, we will get to experience a foretaste of heaven. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33, CSB)

Fourth, honor Jesus as the full expression of God to us. If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus. He is the Messiah. He is the anointed one. He is our example that we should walk in his steps. He is our savior that we should offer eternal gratitude to. He is our Lord, for he is the King of heaven and earth and his reign will never end. Here’s what Paul said about Jesus:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15–20, CSB).

We need to repent when we make Jesus too small and familiar. We need to repent when we make Jesus our buddy. We need to repent when we just think of him as a baby in a manger. We need a new vision of who Jesus the Messiah is. He is our good shepherd, but he is also our master. He has all power and authority. He commands us and we are to obey. We need to repent of our lack of obedience. We have ceased to be in awe.

Fifth, acknowledge the price Jesus, the Prince of Heaven, paid when he left His throne and came to earth. He emptied himself of his privileges and power in the godhead and became man. He lived on this earth as a man, but also as a sinless man. He never gave in to temptation of any kind. He drank empty the bitter cup of sin. He who knew no sin became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him (see 1 Cor. 5:21). He reversed what Adam and Eve lost and more. He was the second Adam. He, the eternal God, died in our place on that bloody cross. He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

Then he arose from the dead, the resurrection it is called. That was the beginning of the great reversal. He was not resuscitated. A new order of creation was begun on that first Easter Sunday morning. Sin, death and the devil had been defeated. Victory is won. This is our power. We need to repent of not seeing the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. It changes lives now and forever.

Sixth, therefore look up! Remember our time of redemption and accounting is coming soon. Jesus came the first time for sin. He comes the second time to reign and rule. With Him will come the full expression of the Kingdom of God. We need to be ready for it. We need to repent and not just look after our own interests but that of our master.

“The Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and sensible manager his master will put in charge of his household servants to give them their allotted food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,” and starts to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will and didn’t prepare himself or do it will be severely beaten. But the one who did not know and did what deserved punishment will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected” (Luke 12:42–48, CSB).

We have been given much, perhaps more than any other people in the history of the church. What in your life needs to change? Where do you need to repent? Entrance into the Kingdom of God is through repentance. Repentance is required to live in it as well.

Jimmy Kinnaird has been the associational mission strategist for the Fairburn Baptist Association since August 2021. He's served as a pastor for 21 years and in various denominational and consulting roles for 14 years.