Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Mark mention repentance: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). Christians have long looked at passages like this one to summarize what it means to be converted. You must repent and you must believe. To repent is to turn your back to your sin, to believe is to turn your face to Christ.
Years ago when I taught on this subject, someone asked me “what do I do first, repent or believe? Can I do one without the other?” John the Baptist helps us understand...
Matthew 3:1-2—In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John makes it clear that we repent because we believe. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. Genuine faith is repentant faith. Genuine repentance is believing repentance.
Imagine you’re at the edge of a cliff with an angry mama grizzly barreling towards you and nowhere to run. You notice a precipice below the cliff’s edge holding a mighty oak tree. In a split-second you decide to jump from the cliff and grab onto that tree. Now what did you do first? Did you turn away from the ground you were standing on, or did you trust that the branch would hold you? Both! In fact, you wouldn’t have done one without the other.
You’re not prepared to meet the King unless and until you repent. But you will never repent unless you believe, and if you believe you will repent!