The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. Acts 17:30 (ESV)
Preachers rarely preach on repentance these days; it seems almost taboo. The message of repentance is seen as condemning and uncaring, maybe even bigoted. Whereas, the message of the love of God seems compassionate and inviting. In order to keep people from feeling uncomfortable and make them “feel at home” in our church services, many pastors shy away from the call for repentance, be it for saints or yet unrepentant sinners. Often unrepentant sinners are told that God loves them no matter what they have done and are encouraged to “invite” Jesus into their hearts (which a dead heart cannot do: Ephesians 2:1). Rarely if ever are they told that the wrath of God abides on them and that the only way they will gain relief from it is to come to Christ in repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People love to be told they are loved, but the vast majority doesn’t want to hear that they need to repent of their ungodly lifestyles and come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Though the message of the love of God has validity, it is the message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins that is the main call for sinners in the New Testament.
The ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, consisted of proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). Jesus preached repentance. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV) And just before his ascension Jesus met with his disciples and told them that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations (Luke 24:45-47 ESV).
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus didn’t say that the love of God should be proclaimed to all the nations? You might argue that the love of God is demonstrated in Christ’s death and in the forgiveness of sins. And you would be correct. However, a person can believe Christ died and believe that God loves them and not have their sins forgiven. The only way their sins are forgiven and they come to salvation is through repentance and belief in the gospel. What is equally eye opening is that the word love is not found in the Acts of the Apostles. On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed to the crowd that they were the ones who had crucified Jesus and called for them to repent (Acts 2:36-38). The call for repentance is consistent in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 20:21; 26:20).
Repent means to think differently or reconsider. Repentance means to have a sense of guilt for doing something wrong or to have a reversal of decision. These definitions leave no doubt that repentance is necessary not only for those who have never believed on Christ but also for the Church. In the Revelation, Jesus commanded the churches to repent of their unrighteousness (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19). God desires that all his chosen ones come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Have you come to Christ in repentance for the forgiveness of your sins? How long has it been, Christian, since you have shed tears of repentance for your sins?
Scriptures for meditation:
2 Corinthians 7:10