959. What Ever Happened to Repentance?

Why have we allowed a cheap substitute for repentance? 

IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING

When was the last time you heard about or thought about repentance? Chances are good that it’s been a while. In our feel-good society, repentance sounds too negative. It conjures up pictures of the weird guy on the corner yelling, “Repent for the end is near!” We forget that repentance was the theme of John the Baptist’s message, and Jesus referred to him as the greatest of men.

Why then have we dismissed repentance as a relic of the past? Why have we tucked it away along with fearing God in a place where it can be forgotten? In case you think I’m exaggerating, when was the last time you heard someone come forth in church and publicly acknowledge his or her repentance? On the other hand, we all can recall numerous times when someone publicly rededicated his or her life to God. On the surface, rededication sounds like a good thing until you realize that the Bible never speaks of a person rededicating oneself.

We like rededication because it sounds so positive. We applaud the person for wanting to return to God. But God isn’t impressed with a wishful resolution to be more faithful. He is looking for a decisive change. He is looking for repentance. Rededication never admits the sin that caused the problem in the first place. It simply implies a desire to change, a new attitude. It falls short of an admission of sin and an active change of direction.

AS I SEE IT

I think we have the wrong idea about repentance. It’s not negative at all. It’s very positive when you consider its purpose. To repent is to turn and go in the opposite direction from where we had been headed. The reason for it is that we were heading into dangerous territory. The consequences of the decision that led us on the wrong path was about to catch up to us. God wants to deliver us from what awaits us.

That doesn’t sound negative to me. That sound like a loving God who is looking out for us and is trying to keep us from self-destructing. When we stop short of repenting, as in rededicating our lives, we are saying that we’re going to stay on the same course, but we have vowed to be more careful. All we are doing is delaying the inevitable.

John the Baptist wasn’t alone in his message of repentance. Jesus also preached it. He commanded His disciples to do so. Both John and Jesus preached that repentance was the requirement to enter into the coming kingdom of God. During Jesus’ brief ministry, He told many parables about the kingdom of God. It wasn’t some optional, hypothetical, or mystical state of being to be entered into some day in the distant future. One commentator refers to it as a society in which the will of God is done just as it is done in heaven.

This is a description of the normal and expected Christian life, and the prerequisite for entry is still repentance just as it was in the day of John the Baptist. No wonder Jesus said that the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it (Mt. 7: 14).  Perhaps our lack of repentance is a major reason why.

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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE

These notices actually appeared in church bulletins:

– The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”

– Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.

– Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.

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