Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"
And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Even the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin.
From the third chapter of Matthew, we can learn a few lessons on repentance:
1. Repentance comes before Forgiveness (v. 2,3)
Repentance involves the changing of one's mind about sin and turning to God. God sent forth a message of repentance so that people will be ready to receive His Son. Before we can come to receive Jesus as our Saviour, we must first realise why we need Him to save us, and that is because we are sinners who deserve only God's wrath.
John, Jesus and the apostles all preached repentance. So must we. Preaching against sin might seem hard but it is necessary because if a person does not realise his need for forgiveness, he is not going to seek it and be saved.
2. Repentance comes with Confession (v. 6)
Confession is simply agreeing with God about our sin - that it is wrong and that it goes against all that God is. God takes a very serious view of sin. So must we. And the expression of it on our part is confession.
Confession comes with forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9). God has promised the Christian that if we confess our sins to Him, He will surely forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The failure to confess is evidence of the presence of pride, and "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
3. Repentance must be Evident (v. 8)
Whether a person is truly repentant or not is evidenced by the way he or she lives. We can come and be baptised, and even confess our sins publicly, and yet still be unrepentant. Repentance is a heart attitude that is expressed through one's deeds. It is not the deed. We need to examine ourselves if we are truly penitent people by the way we live our lives.
4. Repentance is required of Everyone (v. 9)
John destroyed all thoughts that the Pharisees might have had that they have certain rights before God because they were "children of Abraham". God is not a respecter of persons. Everyone is a sinner, therefore everyone has to repent. Whether we are Jews or Gentiles, young or old, born into Christian homes and brought up in church or not, we all need to repent before we can come and receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
Has God revealed to you any need to repent and confess a particular sin? Wait no more, and make no more excuses. God's forgiveness is free to those with a penitent heart, and He forgives instantly to those who confess their sins to Him (1 Jn 1:9).