Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Miracle of Repentance

Last night a pastor posted on Facebook defending his practice of limiting any teaching on repentance in his sermons.  His defense was that repentance is a part of his life and the life of every believer and so there would be no point.  The metaphor he used was that it would be like teaching how to get pregnant to a room full of pregnant women.  He is not alone, many pastors avoid any idea of teaching repentance.  They all have their own ideas as to why they do not but very few use any actual scripture to back up their practice.  In fact, I have attended a church where teaching repentance is almost seen as anathema, that any kind of teaching on how to live as a Christian somehow turns the gospel into one of works.  I have no argument for not teaching repentance, but I will give several reasons why a preacher should.

The first reason is simply because God told you to.
Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:46-47 NKJV
Furthermore, we have Paul recounting his commission directly received from Jesus Christ.
Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and [then] to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. Acts 26:29-20 NKJV
Repentance is part of the Gospel.  Not that we repent in order to be saved, but salvation leads to repentance.  To say you are teaching the Gospel and not mentioning repentance is to not teach a complete Gospel.  Jesus commands us to not just teach remission of sins but also repentance.  Paul was told to teach the gentiles not only of the salvation found in Jesus but also to repent and do the works befitting repentance.  To not teach repentance is to be disobedient to the direct command of Jesus Christ. I don't care how many pregnant women are involved in a metaphor or what aversion you have to the mere mention of any kind of works associated with faith, the fact is that Jesus commands us to teach repentance.  The failure to teach repentance leads to a failure of the church to repent.  This leads to today's glut of worldly Christians doing worldly things and failing at any kind of witness. 

The next reason is that it is in the example of Jesus and the apostles. 
 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"  Matthew 3:1-2 NKJV

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  Matthew 4:17 NKJV

So they went out and preached that [people] should repent.  Mark 6:12 NKJV
And lest you think that this was some kind of preaching only applicable before the death and resurrection of Jesus:
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38 NKJV
 And less you think that this repentance is not in any way associated with sin, I will add this oft-forgotten passage.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."  John 8:10-11 NKJV
We do not forget the whole passage, just the part about going and sinning no more.  In other words, Jesus saved her from condemnation, but also empowered her to repent of the sin that was in her life.  

You should also go back and read Acts 26 where Paul was commanded to and did in fact preach repentance.  You should also read Jesus' letters to the churches in Revelation where he preaches them to repent of the things they have done wrong.

The fact it is in the example of not only the apostles and John the Baptist, but our Lord Himself to preach repentance.  To decide to not teach repentance is a rather prideful stance as you are saying that you know better than our Lord and those who were taught directly by Him. This fact is indisputable and is probably the reason why those who refuse to teach repentance do not often use Scripture to support their decision.  They can not as Scripture is clear.  If we are to follow the example of our Lord, we must teach repentance as part of the Gospel. 

The arguments of those who do not teach repentance are predictable.  They will say that I am teaching some form of salvation by works.  I can assure you that I am not.  Repentance does not lead to salvation, but it is a result of the Holy Spirit living in our hearts.  I am not teaching that we need to repent to be saved, but what I am saying is that salvation leads to repentance.  Just as faith without works is dead so is salvation with no life change.  Some like to talk about speaking in tongues or other great signs and wonders of salvation.  Tongues are easily faked and signs and wonders can be duplicated by Satan.  The greatest sign and wonder is a changed life.  The greatest miracle is not someone babbling strange words but in a serial killer repenting of his evil Satanic ways and devoting his life to Jesus.  That is a sign and wonder.  Others will accuse me of preaching repentance because I need to repent.  They are right.  I do need to repent.  I am not sin-free.  Nobody is sin-free.  Their implication is much more insidious, though.  Their implication is that one who preaches repentance is someone who is really worse off than anyone else.  Of course, they make no mention of the obvious implications of the life of someone who preaches the lack of need for any kind of repentance.  On one hand, I preach a message that convicts my own heart of the wrong in my life.  On the other hand, they preach a message that excuses the wrong in their own lives or in the lives of the ones they love.  They hide the sin-problem growing in those around them whereas preachers who preach repentance expose it. 

In the end, it is the message of grace without repentance that has lead to the watered down church we have today.  We have people looking for great signs and wonders and banking on promises God never made all the while ignoring the greatest miracle that can happen in their own lives.  That miracle is repentance. That miracle is turning from their sin and living full on for Jesus.  Any charlatan or magician can create signs and wonders.  Only God can change hearts.  Please do not ever think that the Gospel is merely that Jesus died so you can live however you want and go to heaven.  If that is your heart, then you need to be sure Jesus is even your Lord because you certainly are not living like it.  Jesus died for so much more than that.  Jesus died to transform you, to give you a new heart, to give you a new life, and to give you a new direction.  Joseph Prince likes to teach that preaching the "do"'s and the "dont's"'s is the lowest form of preaching (repentance of course is a large part of that).  If that be so, then I join the Old Testament Prophets, Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, James, Paul the Apostle, The Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Father who spent much of the Word of God sharing and inspiring others to share how we are to live victoriously in Christ.  Do not look for a miracle, be a miracle by repenting of your old wicked ways and living victoriously in the power of the Holy Spirit available to us by way of the faith we have put in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  That is the miracle that will change the world.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

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