Somewhere along the way, has the church taken the word “Repent” out of its vocabulary? Has the doctrine of “Repentance” become passé, and maybe even politically incorrect, in our modern liberal society in which everything goes?
If what is deemed “right” is now in the eyes of the beholder, is it then even permissible for the church to ask another to repent? Has the church become essentially a “feel-good” club for its members, scared to upset the status quo of the society in which it finds itself, and scared of the possibility of being labeled intolerant morality judgers? Has it become more concerned with the gaining and retention of new members than it has with the grass-roots call to repentance that the early church knew and preached?
The Greek word from which we most often get our English word Repentance is the word “metanoia.” Basically it speaks of the making of a decision to change one’s mind and attitude from an evil way of life to a way of holiness. It is the making of a U-Turn from the direction of a self-willed life to a God-willed and directed life. It is agreeing with God and essentially saying, “Yes Lord, you are right; I am a sinner worthy of death. Here and now I accept the atonement of Jesus and commit myself to walking my life according to your ways and precepts.”
Though many of the old-time preachers of yesteryear regularly preached that message - such as Charles Spurgeon, Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, and a host of others - it seems to me that few today do likewise. Instead we often hear messages from the Christian community of almost everything else except the need for repentance. At the risk of digressing too far, I’ve actually heard sermons on the merits of Harry Potter (I kid you not) and discussions of someone’s post-doctoral studies; neither of which, if I recall correctly, had even one verse of Scripture or Christian principle in it.
If repentance isn’t preached, then is that not the same as essentially saying that we no longer believe it to be a requirement for the church? If so, then isn’t that also the same as suggesting that God must have changed His mind about calling people to repentance? Consider this thought from the Apostle Paul:
“Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and longsuffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)? But by your callous stubbornness and impenitence of heart you are storing up wrath and indignation for yourself on the day of wrath and indignation, when God’s righteous judgment (just doom) will be revealed.” (Romans 2: 4-5; Amplified)
Let’s consider a few of the parts of those verses:
About what? About “the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and longsuffering patience.” Have we done that? Have we forgotten or taken for granted the message of the cross of Christ? Certainly Paul’s not talking about us today, is he? Hmm, I wonder.
Sound harsh? Who, us? About what are we unmindful and ignorant? “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent.” Yes, God is kind and loving; it’s a part of His nature. But He is also so that we might REPENT. Have we forgotten that? Hmm, I wonder.
Consequences? You’ve got to be kidding! What consequences? “Storing up wrath and indignation for yourself.” Ouch! When was the last time we heard a message on the wrath of God? (I can almost hear the objections to this now) I bet it’s been a while. Do we still believe that part? Some don’t. Is there really going to be a day of judgment? Hmm, I wonder.
The truth is, however, that those of us who are in Christ Jesus, have nothing to fear.
“Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1; Amplified)
That is the Good News … for you and me … IF we know Jesus and walk in the Spirit. So where does that leave the preaching of repentance? Let me ask a pointed question: Do none of us in the church today have unsaved neighbors, friends and relatives? If so, then ‘maybe’ we’re excused from preaching repentance. But if that is untrue in our circle of acquaintances, then to not preach repentance is to either not believe in the literal existence of hell, or it is to be self-centered and unconcerned with the eternal destiny of our neighbors, friends, and relatives.
Alternately, maybe we’re just too scared of being labeled intolerant by our neighbors, friends, and relatives. One final thought:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10; NIV)
Something to think about.