Repent was a favorite word of the prophets. Preaching repentance was the major task of John the Baptist.
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 3:1-2).
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 4:17).
The Apostle Paul also emphasized repentance:
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
“First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).
In Revelation, the Apostle John stated that “the rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21).
Repent is a good, kind, biblical word. The enemy of our souls has made a caricature of it so that those who preach it are ridiculed by saints and sinners alike. His caricature says that repent is a harsh, unkind, ultimatum kind of word. Christians and Christian preachers have believed the caricature and so refuse to use the word. By their refusal, they have made the gospel ineffective many times.
Others have embraced the caricature. They use the word as an unkind ultimatum and undo the message of Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Whether we use the word or not, we need to communicate in kindness and gentleness that people must turn from evil and turn to God.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
To be continued on Wednesday.
Excerpted from Repentance & Restitution—the Missing Ingredient in Repentance, available at ccmbooks.org and Amazon.com.