At least that’s what Jesus says: Mark 1:15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
It’s all kind of a joke, isn’t it? At least those funny cartoons would lead us to believe that.
Repentance is so 1st Century. It doesn’t really mean anything today, does it? Isn’t today’s Christianity more of a feel-good religion? I mean, really, how can we draw people to Christ if we’re always harping on their sin? In fact, the more popular churches (and isn’t popular the way to know what is right…like we take polls on everything today and if it’s the majority, then it’s got to be right!) are reaching out to people with the message that God loves us and wants to make us happy, wealthy, and prosperous and live a life that’s centered around me and my feelings and how I fit into the world and blah, blah, blah.
Seriously though, isn’t that how our culture thinks? Yesterday, in the USA Today section of the Sunday paper, this person says, “Easter tells us love is stronger than even death because we find life in love — the love of God and the yearning for the good is always available.”[i] Okay, I know this sounds good, and truthfully love is a very powerful motivator. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6; 13 that, “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” But throughout most of this whole article, there is no mention of Jesus and His sacrifice or the cross! Thankfully, there was one voice of reason in Christian writer Anne Graham Lotz. The article admits that, in contrast to many peoples’ perspective, the “emphasis on Christianity's joy, acceptance and social justice, with no mention of sin, atonement or church sacraments, doesn't sit well with more traditional-minded believers.”
And if that isn’t bad enough, then you have those in the church who are teaching this health and wealth gospel. According to one website, “Here’s how it is sold: God wants you to be rich (and/or healthy), but He can not bless you unless you first send money (also known as a “seed-faith offering“) to whichever televangelist or teacher tells you about this scheme.”[ii] Another puts it this way, “The health and wealth gospel is a seductive teaching because it proclaims that not only does God want to bless you in the future (Revelation 21:1ff.), he wants to bless you right now with the best health and the best things money can buy. These perversions of the gospel are illustrated by such statements as, “If you are truly a disciple of Jesus, he will give you what you want. . . . If you are sick, it is because you are outside of God’s will.” The wealth gospel worships materialism, and the health gospel’s idol is the human body.”[iii]
Repentance is really lost in today’s culture. But isn’t it interesting that one of the first things that Jesus mentions in the gospels is on the subject of repentance? Why should we feel good about ourselves? In fact, our sin should make us grieve. It’s our sin that puts us at odds with God. Colossians 1:21 says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Can’t we see from God’s Word that repentance is important? I tell you it’s desperately needed.
I’m not saying all this because of some holier-than-thou attitude. I need to repent! Big-time! In lots of areas. My attitude, my eating habits, my anger, lots of stuff. The thing is is that I’m concerned that our culture is minimizing or even twisting the truth in regards to repentance. We need to realize that although Jesus did come to give us abundant life, He also died for our sins. Sin is serious! We needed Jesus to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Romans 5:10 says, “For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
So if Jesus died for our sins, why do we need to repent? Because that’s where our part begins. Jesus said in Luke 13:5, “5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 3:18-20 says, “18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” So you see, there is a need to repent. Until then, we can’t expect to have that abundant life He offers.
The question now is, “What is repentance? How do I repent?” Part of that is explained in the last paragraph. One definition is explained like this: “The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.”[iv] A fuller explanation is followed: “Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.”[v]
So you see, initially, we need to repent from rejecting Christ’s authority over our lives. But even after a person receives His gift of salvation, a believer still finds himself dealing with sin over his lifetime. It’s those areas in our lives that God continues to work with us through what is called sanctification (another subject, another time). But suffice it to say, repentance is still key if we want to draw near to God and have a relationship with Him, even as a believer!
But today, if you find yourself never having taken the first step and repenting at all in regards to your sin, may I suggest the following: Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!