“Repentance,” the Movie, and the Gospel

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch the movie, “Repentance”, starring Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, and Sanaa Lathan. This psychological thriller was originally titled “Vipaka”, which is a Buddhist term for karma — the idea that we reap what we sow and the need for repentance to make things right.

In the film, Thomas Carter (played by Anthony Mackie) is a life coach and a jack-leg psychologist who became popular from a bestselling book that he wrote after his experience in a car wreck five years before. A man, Angel Sanchez (played by Forest Whitaker), is deeply troubled by the “untimely,” strange death of his mother which, unbeknownst to us at the beginning of the film, Thomas and his brother, Ben (played by Mike Epps), have something to do with. Angel goes to Thomas for counseling to help him come to terms with the death of his mother.

Somehow, Angel becomes convinced that Thomas has something to do with the death of his mother.

One day, Thomas visits Angel’s home to tell him that he was going to leave for a while and that he needed to seek counseling from someone else. Angel reacts negatively, ties Thomas up, and kidnaps Thomas’ wife and his brother, Ben. Angel begins torturing Thomas to get him to confess the sins of his past, sometimes comically using Thomas’ own teachings from his book against him. Angel, of course, is waiting for Thomas to confess his involvement in his mother’s death. Thomas begins confessing every sin that he can think of until he gets to the one that apparently relieves Angel’s burden.

The lesson of this film reminds us of a Biblical truth — “be sure your sin will find you out.” Every wrong thing that we do, no matter how well we think we may have hidden it, will eventually be brought out into the open. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Jesus Christ also said in Luke 12:2-3, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

As the original title of the movie suggests, each of us will eventually have to face up to our sins and suffer the consequences for what we have done. Some of these consequences will be physical and temporal — for example, going to jail for a period of time for robbing someone, or paying a fine for speeding. Other consequences are spiritual and eternal. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” If we die in our sins, we will also suffer eternal punishment in Hell unless we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 21:8 says, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

We may not be able to avoid the physical and temporal consequences of our sins, however, we can avoid the eternal consequences of our sins. God does not want any of His creation to go to Hell and be separated from Him forever. (The Bible says that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”) He made a way for us to escape that punishment. He wants us to repent and trust Jesus Christ as our Savior. He did this by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth. Jesus lived a perfect life while He was on Earth and willingly went to the cross to die for all of our sins. On the cross, God poured out His wrath on His Son so that He would not have to pour it out on us.

On that cross, Jesus Christ died a death that we should have died and paid a debt that we should have paid but never could have paid. Because of His sacrifice, we do not have to suffer the eternal consequences of our sins in Hell which we deserve.

What DO we have to do?

We have to admit that we are sinners and we need to repent and believe the Gospel that Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. We must believe that He died, was buried, and rose again on the third day.

In the Book of Acts, Paul said, “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.“

There is much confusion today about this word “repentance” and salvation. So, allow me to share something with you from Michael Houdmann. He says this about this powerful and important word, “repentance”:

“Repentance and faith can be understood as ‘two sides of the same coin.’ It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done [for you about your sin on the cross]. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ. It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation.

No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God’s longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, dear friend, God wants us to repent. Then we must place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin, death, and Hell. Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you want to place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, if you want to repent of not believing on Him in the past, and accept the salvation that is available to you through His shed blood on the cross, you can do that right now. Believe that He died on the cross for your sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again. You can pray a short prayer to let God know about your decision. Repeat after me and mean it from your heart:

Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins and I repent of my sins today. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and will follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! I want to congratulate you on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

Believe by faith. Share the faith. And keep the faith! God Bless You!