One of the enemy’s greatest ploys is to convince men to forfeit their future for a moment in the present. It is exactly what happened to Esau. Herein my friend lays the beauty of faith, for faith is the mystery that plucks you from the arms of the present, a present wrought with sin and despair, and translates you into the future that as yet you cannot see.
No one can bypass repentance! I cannot put it any plainer than that. No one can bypass repentance and still claim to have a relationship with Christ!
Repentance is such an important element in our spiritual growth, that Christ, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul called men to repentance first and foremost.
In the gospel according to Matthew, we see John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea saying, ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’
As many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism, John the Baptist addressed them, not in a soothing loving fashion, not with a church organ playing ‘just as I am’ in the background, but rather with a harsh rebuke.
Matthew 3:7-8, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted the baptism of John, absent of the requisite repentance, and his question to them was who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Then he goes on to open their eyes to the reality that absent repentance, baptism is just dipping oneself in water fully clothed, and nothing more. He admonishes them to bear fruits worthy of repentance first, and then come for baptism.
In the next chapter of Matthew, Jesus begins His preaching ministry, by echoing the selfsame words that John the Baptist spoke in the previous chapter.
Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Seeing as all the pillars of the faith, including Jesus Himself preached repentance, the next logical question that we must ask is why? Why is repentance such an important aspect of our Christian walk, and why was it named among the elementary principles of Christ?
There is no better answer to this question, than the one that Paul gives to the learned men and philosophers of Athens, as he delivers his sermon on Mar’s Hill, confounding the wisest men of that time.
Acts 17:30-31, Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So why repent? Because God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom He has ordained. This Man is none other than Christ, and absent repentance, the righteousness of God will constrain Him to judge us together with the world. There is another aspect of this passage that is worth delving into, and that is the fact that God commands all men, everywhere to repent. Not just some men, not just men from a certain bloodline, nation or denomination, but all men, everywhere. Young or old, rich or poor, wise man or of average intelligence, all men everywhere are commanded to repent. Whether we submit, and humble ourselves, and obey God’s command, is entirely on our shoulders.
The message has not changed over the centuries the message has remained the same, and has withstood the test of time. Repent; repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Men have attempted to sugar coat it, to make it more palatable, some have even attempted to remove it from the elementary principles of Christ altogether, because it requires change on our part, and that isn’t very popular nowadays.
Too many want to remain in their sin, tethered to their vices, and still enjoy all the benefits of son ship, too many want to have one foot in the world and another in the church, not because they desire a true and lasting relationship with Christ, but to have something akin to preemptive fire insurance. Attending a church service, or even following this blog, without true repentance will do absolutely nothing to bring you into a right standing with God. I realize that self deception is a powerful tool, and many employ it liberally, but the truth is self sustaining, and it will not conform itself to the times, or to men’s whims.
Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
This was Paul’s admonition to the Romans, and it remains his admonition to us all. Just because a certain viewpoint is widely accepted by the world at large, it does not make it right or true. The only way to obtain forgiveness, the only way to obtain salvation is by way of repentance.
If I came to you today and said as many say, ‘believe only’ then I would be doing you the greatest disservice. One cannot possess faith, one cannot have faith in Christ, if he has not first and foremost experienced true repentance.
We have a tendency of putting the cart before the horse as it were, and rather than preach repentance, the selfsame repentance that was preached by Christ and echoed by all His apostles, we tell people to believe only, and everything will be well and good. Repentance first, for it is repentance that produces in us a transformed mind, a transformed heart, a transformed will, and transformed desires. In essence when a soul repents, it turns away from sin, and toward God.
As Paul was bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders in the book of Acts, in the twentieth chapter, he encourages his fellow brothers in Christ by telling them that he had kept nothing back from them that was helpful, but proclaimed repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ to them. We repent away from sin, but toward God. As I heard it said once, true repentance is the unyielding desire not to break God’s heart. It’s not feeling remorse because you got caught doing something you were not supposed to, it is a turning away from sin, and from the world, that we would not break God’s heart anymore. Yes, repentance is a turning, a transformation, a change that is vital, crucial, and necessary for everyone who desires to walk according to the will of God.
The last thing I want to point out ever so briefly is that everyone needs repentance. There is a pervasive mentality among some believers that says one need only repent if they were truly wicked before coming to Christ. There are some that feel they need no repentance because well, they didn’t steal, they didn’t murder, they didn’t commit any ‘really bad sins’. When Paul enumerates the elementary principles of Christ, he makes certain to underline the fact that he is not speaking only of repentance from sin, but also repentance from dead works. If the wellspring of our efforts, works, deeds and actions is not Christ Jesus, then even the most giving, charitable, and generous works we can perform are dead, and have no value in and of themselves.
Works will not get us into heaven, grace and Christ will.
So are you saying we shouldn’t be generous and benevolent? Are you saying we shouldn’t give? No, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that we do not do works in order to be saved; we do works because we are saved. I will repeat the previous statement, just because it is important. We do not do works in order to be saved, as though by our works we might obtain salvation, but rather because we are saved. Being saved is having the heart of Christ, and having the heart of Christ compels us to reach out to the hurting, the hungry, the forsaken and the forgotten.
The program can be entertaining, the pastor can be eloquent, the sermon engaging and humorous, but if repentance is not the central theme, if remission of sins in His name is not preached, if Christ is not preeminent and glorified, then all that it was, was wasted time. Yes, it might make the flesh feel a little better, especially if it’s a message about being positive, or having good self esteem, but in the end, when all is said and done the hollowness remains, for the essence of the message was something other than Christ.
No, repentance will never be popular, it will never draw the big crowds, it will never be what the majority want to hear, but it is what they need to hear. Absent of falling on our face at the foot of the cross, absent of true repentance, the repentance that transforms a man from the inside out, we will never know the fullness of God, nor the fullness of His power.
When I first started in ministry after my grandfather’s passing, I made a vow to God that I would preach the gospel of Christ that I would focus on the essential doctrines that are largely being ignored in the contemporary church, and that I would not sugar coat harsh truths just to spare feelings.
So here is a harsh truth, but a necessary truth. Religiosity will not save your soul, great entertainment will not save your soul, throwing a hand up in the air at a crusade but never really being transformed, never really experiencing repentance, will not save your soul. Only humbling yourself, falling at the foot of the cross, and repenting, turning away from your old life, and turning toward God will save your soul. Unpopular stand? Unequivocally yes. Biblically sound? Unequivocally yes.
All I can do is speak the truth. Whether you receive or reject the truth is entirely up to you.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.