“Repent!” – The Forgotten Message
The offense of Christianity is not Jesus. Most everyone will agree that He’s a pretty good guy. The offense of Christianity is not that He is the only-begotten Son of God. Yes, many will oppose this on theological grounds or as being incompatible with their particular religion, namely, Jews and Muslims. But altho this claim is offensive to some, most could care less. They aren’t interested in following Him, so who cares who He is.
No, the real offense of Christianity is that to become a “Christian” involves repentance from sin and no one believes they are that guilty so as to really need a Savior. “Repent!” “From what? Are you saying that you are better than I am? Are you judging me? Why is your religion better than anyone else’s?” And so quickly and angrily come the protests whenever anyone suggests that we ALL need to turn from our sins.
But is this just a suggestion? Here I will posit my theological conclusion: If it’s really a requirement, it’s really Christianity; if it is something we are “encouraged to do”, it’s not. And this condemns many Christian denominations at this moment in history. Western culture has made it altogether unfashionable to say “Repent!” and much of the Church has changed their vocabulary accordingly to avoid condemning or judging or criticizing.
But here is a faithful, altho non-biblical, saying: If it’s anything but sin, anything but repentance will take care of it. And if Christians are indeed concerned with sin, then repentance will ever be proclaimed from their pulpits and part of their private prayers. It is the Christian way. Confessing our sins is the Christian way.
And not just to God. An authentic Christian is all about saying ‘I’m sorry’ whenever they are in the wrong. They even say it when they are only partly to blame. If we are daily in touch with God with petitions and confessions and thanksgivings, our daily confessing in prayer must inevitably spill over into our daily relationships of family, friends, and work. This is unavoidable if we are daily in touch with God.
I am tempted to elaborate on the transforming power found in confession. I’ll save that for a later meditation. Sufficed to say, it’s value for maintaining our humility and it’s unexpected and altogether winsome effect on others is of supernatural import.
But that’s the Christian way. Who wants that?? Not so many, I think. We all are pretty happy the way things are. Most of us have jobs, can eat out once in a while, and have a pretty good selection of entertainments on TV and the computer and the internet. “Repent? From what? What good is it? I’ll have to change and I don’t really want to.”
The ‘I don’t really want to’ says it all.
The message of the Gospel says come to Jesus just the way you are… but don’t stay that way!! Repent! From what? Examine yourself. What needs to change in your life? Where have materialism, pride, sensualism, and indifference staked a claim on parts of your soul and your daily living? (see below)
Better still, ask God. Ask Him why you need a Savior or how terrifying it must be to stand in the presence of a Holy God who is a consuming fire and abhors even the taint of sin.
Sad to say, the only ones for whom the message of repentance usually resonates are those who are in catharsis or are at the end of their ropes. For them it’s like pulling the “Help me, God” rescue cord. They are willing to do anything including repent. ‘Just get me out of this mess I’ve made of my life.’
How it must grieve the heart of God that we will only consider His way in our hours of distress. How oppressively sad it must be for a heart that loves us so. Nevertheless, this is the human condition. Consider ancient Israel. When times were good, they worshiped other gods. When trouble came, they repented and cried out to the LORD. This is the message of the Book of Judges and the recurring theme of all the OT prophets. Small wonder that confession became the Christian way.
Are we then to be perfect, sinless? I’m sure not, nor have I met one yet who is so, aside from Jesus. But remarkably, this is the evidence of true conversion (being born again), namely, that we desire it. What God loves, we love. What God hates, we hate. Do we fall short of His righteousness a lot? And how! Do we have a friend in Jesus? My goodness, yes, and how we need Him so. And so we go on confessing our sins.
I hope we all will repent of our sins. I hope that all Christians will embrace confession as a lifestyle and a resource for divine healing, indeed, transformation. And for those who are non-Christians or non-religious, I hope and pray that God will reveal the cure for this incurable condition in the person of His Son.
I probably need to expand on the above cited sources for sin. Some people need help with ‘implications’. Note: None of
this is meant to be all-inclusive. Sin has more sources than just the four mentioned above and more manifestations than the few listed below.
Materialism – Striving for money; buying more ‘things’ when we already have too many ‘things’; greed; maintaining our self-worth by what we wear, what we buy, what we drive, where we live, where we go out to eat, and working and worrying and planning lest any of these things should diminish.
Pride – Whenever we feel we are better than others; having a talent that sets us apart and above; avoiding those who are poor or less educated or old; believing only good things about ourselves and our opinions.
Sensualism – Preeminently lust, but also anything that justifies sex outside of marriage; being unoffended at TV, movies, or fashions that defraud decency; dieting for ‘looks’ more than health; condemning modesty in others like Islamists or the Amish.
Indifference – To ‘need’ in all its forms; that how we speak and act affects others, especially those who love or admire us; to righteousness and mercy; a cold or hardened heart.