“Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” —Mark 1:15, KJV
My wife and I serve as pastors to an Asian Indian ministry in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In our ministry, we find frequent opportunities to interact with others and discuss our faith in Jesus with our non-Christian student friends on the college campus of the University of Texas. Most of these friends are Hindus. Normally, we share our Christian faith and the importance of repentance; they talk about their faith as well. The Hindu concept of repentance, which is called Prayascitta, involves accepting responsibility for the errors and misdeeds they perform in this life. They believe that by performing certain acts of atonement, they have figured out a way to undo their wrongs.
There is a vast difference between Hindu repentance and Christian repentance. In Wesley’s sermon, “The Repentance of Believers,” he explains repentance in a sensible way. Wesley’s emphasis is on the repentance of believers from the sins that remain in our hearts. After the initial step of justification, believers tend to see repentance as no longer needed. However, Wesley teaches that very soon the new Christian realizes that the sin of pride and self-will is in his/her heart. The sin that remains affects both words and actions.
In Christianity, guilt (or the conviction of sin) and helplessness are two very important sides of repentance. A believer should experience the conviction that he or she is not yet whole. Apart from a realization and an understanding of sin in our hearts, no matter what we do in our own strength, we are unable to deliver ourselves from its consequences.
My Hindu friends, on the other hand, believe that they can get rid of their past wrongdoings through their own strength and power. For them, repentance means they must either go on a pilgrimage, practice fasting, climb 100 steps of a temple, and/or offer fruits and flowers to their deities. As a Christian, I don’t have to perform any such works of repentance.
Both Hindus and Christians believe that there is a need for repentance. However, the question is, are we depending on our methods of repentance, or are we depending on God’s way?
Christianity has the answer—Jesus Christ alone can save us from our sins and purify our hearts.
As believers, even after being justified, we need renewal through repentance (Psalm 139:23-24). Is there a sin in your life that needs to be forgiven? Are you struggling to make atonement for your sin? Let’s not seek atonement through our own efforts; instead, let us find forgiveness through the Lord and repent of any sins that are rooted in our hearts!
Premal Awasarmal is lead pastor at Arlington Naya Jeevan Church of the Nazarene in Arlington, Texas, USA, and Asian Indian coordinator of the West Texas District.
To read the full text of the sermon, click here.
Written for Coffee Break.