Called to Repent
The ethos of every religion, operating outside the gospel, is to add many good deeds to outweigh the bad record of our lives. Religious piety and rituals, praying, personal discipline and asceticism, charitable actions to help the poor, pilgrimages to sacred places, and giving money … all these are universal characteristics of religion, whatever the belief system. The principle is to do enough to be accepted by God, and the belief that if we try hard enough we can achieve it. It is, however, a fool's errand. Nothing we can do will ever make us acceptable before the true God, whose majesty we have so greatly offended (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus sent six pairs of men to preach in different towns and villages, without Him (Mark 6:6-7). It was their first experience of mission; the prelude to a lifetime of proclaiming Jesus. Unlike the moralistic preaching of religious sects, Jesus set His disciples a tougher challenge: to preach repentance. Jesus taught that it is utterly foolish to try to build a good structure on bad foundations (Matthew 7:26-27). First of all, sin must be repudiated. Sin, and not just sins. It is easy to find a few faults which we know that we should confess - but to admit that sin has taken a hold of my nature and that I am incapable of shaking it off without repenting and welcoming Jesus as Saviour and Lord - that is another matter (Romans 7:18-20). But to preach repentance is the task of the church (Luke 24:45-47).
To preach the love of God without repentance is sentimentality; the cross without repentance is mysticism; healing without repentance is narcissism; and exorcism without repentance is dangerous (Luke 11:24-26). John the Baptist preached repentance (Mark 1:4), Jesus preached repentance (Matthew 4:17), the disciples preached repentance (Mark 6:12), the apostles preached repentance (Acts 26:20) … and the church grew strong and true despite much suffering (2 Timothy 2:9). But when today's church affirms what God detests, or prioritises health and wealth over suffering and sacrifice, there is no appetite to hear any call to repent, and no reason to stand for Christ when all is stripped away.
Jesus is the Saviour from the punishment of sins and the slavery to sin. But without admitting that I am a slave to sin and need to be ransomed from its power by Jesus - I cannot be forgiven or enter the Kingdom of heaven. That is why we must explain the desperate future for sinful humanity if they refuse to repent and then receive forgiveness through the grace of Christ (Acts 3:19). Advertising good news where there is no bad news ... is a recipe for indifference. Perhaps that is why our friends see no urgency to consider the gospel - they are fine as they are. If we were fine, there would have been no need for the Creator to enter the squalor of His spoiled creation, be abused by those He loved and to suffer on that blooded cross. No: the gospel (good news) is no news at all unless we first explain that in God's sight we are far from fine - and under His wrath (Ephesians 2:3). That is why repentance is essential if we are to be forgiven. It is as radical a message, and as radical a change, as driving out demons.
© Dr Paul Adams