There is a significant shift in the church today to avoid controversial truths, such as sin and repentance. God's Word says to confront, confess, and turn from sin, whereas many encourage us to ignore, overlook, and continue in it. Silence about sin minimizes the cross and makes it less offensive. Silence about sin is also a sign of a false teacher.
If a pastor avoids difficult truths they are not a pastor; they are a motivational speaker, or a false prophet offering false hope (cf. Jeremiah 23). The cross only makes sense in light of the consequences of sin. "To convince the world of the truth of Christianity, it must first be convinced of sin. It is only sin that renders Christ intelligible" (Andrew Murray; 1794-1866).
Many mistakenly believe that Jesus didn't mention sin—after all, He was "a friend of sinners." However, Scripture reveals quite the opposite. For example, in John 5:14 Jesus exhorted a man to sin no more or a worse thing would happen to him. He also told the woman caught in the act of adultery to "go and sin no more." In Luke 10:13-14, Jesus reprimanded cities that did not repent and turn from sin, and in the fifth chapter of Matthew He said to remove anything that causes us to sin. It's clear that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Why, then, is there a move within the church to avoid mentioning sin? John 12:43 may reveal the answer, "They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God."
The one word that changes everything is: repentance. Richard Owen Roberts
is spot on, "You can be certain that at the forefront of every significant recovery from backsliding...the doctrine of repentance has been among the precious truths that God has quickened and used." Repentance is one of the first commands in the gospel and it may be the most important word that a person hears. "Wait a minute. What about love?" Yes, thank God for John 3:16, but love doesn't nullify repentance; it encourages it—the love of God leads us to repentance.
John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us life, freedom, and a relationship with God. Are you experiencing this abundant life? Or are you bound by sin, rules, compromise, or tradition? That can be changed: 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. The old has gone and the new is here. You must
repent, and trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
If you're a believer, but find yourself trapped in sin, misery, and depression, there is also hope. God's continually calls His people back to Him. If you return with all of your heart (repent), He will return to you. That's a gift of the greatest value...a promise that will never fail.
This article is not promoting a works-based religion; it's demonstrating, through Scripture, the importance of having a genuine relationship with Christ—a relationship that produces godly fruit. Genuine faith is reflected in a transformed life, a love for God and His Word, sincere humility, selfless love, true repentance, and a disconnect from the world. Does your life reflect these characteristics? As you can see, a correct definition of repentance and genuine faith is vitally important.
Believe it or not, many within the church are seeking to replace the word "repent" with "rethink." Apparently, we need to rethink our narrow view of the gospel and our restricted view of biblical hermeneutics, so they say. This re-scripting seems ridiculous, but it's true. They argue that "repentance" may not actually mean what we think. In reality, it's no surprise that they take this position. In order for Christianity to appear palatable and less intrusive to our culture, many feel that we need to rethink, redefine, and rename difficult truths, including repentance.
Whether the word for repentance is nocham in the Old Testament, or metanoeō in the New, biblical repentance involves turning from sin and turning to God—it's a condition of the heart. Acts 3:19 unapologetically confirms this, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." Jesus said that "unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). The influential Baptist evangelist, John R. Rice (1895-1980), said, "There is no way you can please God, no way you can have the sweet communion with Him to get your prayers answered if you are in rebellion against the known will of God." Failing to turn from sin and turn to Christ results in rebellion against God.
When Mark 6:12 records that, "they went out and preached that people should repent," Jesus wasn't suggesting that the disciples rethink their narrow-mindedness, redefine their view of sin, or reinterpret the meaning of repentance. He was saying that people need to turn from sin and turn to God. To suggest that everyone from the Old Testament prophets to Christ and the apostles, to the early church fathers and the reformers, to present day scholars and theologians, misunderstood the real meaning of repentance, is the height of arrogance and deception. I'd respect people more if they'd just say that they don't like the concept of repentance rather than trying to reinterpret its already crystal clear meaning.
Can you handle the truth? Here it is: Repentance is a true gift from God that affects everything in our lives. If our priorities, our passions, our goals, our dreams, and our desires resemble the culture around us, we are on the wrong path.
I only say this because so many today have religion and not a true relationship with Christ. They are simply going through the motions. They have never truly repented, and thus, they lack passion for God. It's been said that if your religion has not changed your life, change your religion. Of course there are hobbies, activities, and certain friendships that will continue, but if our overall nature is not changing, or at least heading in that direction, we should reassess our commitment—was it genuine: did we truly repent and turn to God? Do we truly "know" Jesus Christ (relationship), or do we only know "about" Him (religion)?
Repentance is the key.
My sermon, Warning: This Sermon Will Offend, is available on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/82531955.