By Don Willis
Cicero proclaimed hundreds of years ago: “Man is his own worst enemy.” Lying deep within our bosom is that deceivable self. By nature, all are selfish. Solomon affirmed, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).
One must learn to “rule his own spirit,” the inner man. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus said . out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mt. 12:34). Further, “. . . those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Mt. 15:18-20). James even said that one should be consistent in speech, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same time sweet water and bitter?” (Jas. 3:10f).
The first word in the earthly “Repentance is preaching of Jesus is “Repent.” “From that time Jesus begin to mind that
preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17). John the Baptist had also preached, “repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2).
What did the Lord mean by “repent”? Jesus gave an illustration, “A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went” (Mt. 21:28-29). What is repentance? Apparently it means a change of mind that results in a change of life! One cannot be in the kingdom of heaven without this repentance.
John the Baptist told men, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance… And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?” (Lk. 3:8,10). John said, if you have two coats, impart to the person who has none. John told tax collectors, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.” Soldiers were told, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (see context in Luke 3).
The heart must be changed! That is what repentance accomplishes. Petrarch said, “Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: viz., avarice, ambition, envy, anger and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” All of these lie within the heart.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn., 3:3); a man must be born of the water and of the Spirit (v. 5). When a believer repents of his sins and is baptized into Jesus Christ, he becomes a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17); a new man is raised from the waters of baptism (Rom. 6:3-6). But, it begins within the heart when one determines that Jesus is the Son of God, and repents! Until one repents of sin, he cannot enter the kingdom, regardless of how many times he is baptized!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 4, p. 99
February 21, 1985