May 29, 2012

Acts 20:20-21 “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

The message of repentance is lost from many churches today. I read of mega-church pastors who don’t use the word “sin” because “it makes people uncomfortable.” I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes at the Judgment Day! John the Baptist and Jesus both preached repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2) “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Not surprisingly, Paul seems to have expressed it much as Jesus did, preaching repentance and faith. Too many today just preach faith, and repentance is forgotten. The problem is, that cannot be saving faith, because it leaves out the need for a Savior. We can hardly claim that Jesus died for our sins if we don’t acknowledge that we have committed sins worthy of death! Preaching repentance is foundational to every other sort of preaching, that is, “anything that would be helpful (of benefit).” We tend to avoid the subject for two reasons, first that we don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable, and second that we don’t want to keep our own repentance up to date. God’s grace is sufficient, but we have to acknowledge that we need it.

Ouch! As I comment not infrequently, I like the Japanese term for repentance, but I still don’t preach it all that much. I have a humanistic desire not to be a “negative” preacher, conveniently forgetting that the result of genuine repentance is the most positive thing ever. If I want people to come from death to life, from darkness into God’s light, then I need to lead them into repentance. It is indeed the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, (John 16:8) but I need to be fully available for Him to use me to that end. Without the message of repentance and forgiveness, telling people they are sinners is simply judgmental. Some people retreat behind “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned,” (Luke 6:37) thinking that liberates them from calling people to repentance. We can call people to repentance without being judgmental if we are fully aware of our own need for repentance. Saying, “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23) is not being judgmental, it is simply stating fact. Repentance is the way out of that death, and I’ve got to make that clear to as many people as possible.

Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. Help me stay up to date with my own repentance, and faithfully call others to do likewise. I delight to teach others to build them up; help me not forget this necessary foundation, so that what is built may stand firm, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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