Repent is one of the most important words in our vocabulary. It is the very point in which a person realizes the weight of his or her sins before God, asks for forgiveness, and literally turns away from their old man. Repentance was a central characteristic of Jesus’ ministry.
Matthew 4:17 says: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Let’s look together to see what repentance is and why it’s needed. This writer believes there is a direct correlation between the diminishing popularity of the repentance message today and the ultimate widespread rejection of repentance by most during the Great Tribulation. They won’t repent.
What is repentance?
It is the result of knowing we are completely helpless and undone before a holy God. Repentance produces genuine sorrow and remorse for our sins. Once we become aware of our heart’s lost position, we confess our sins and ask God to forgive us and at that moment, the blood of Jesus is applied to our lives. We are no longer enemies of God but now we’re adopted into his family as his sons and daughters.
This awareness of sin, atonement, and new life produces something very unique to the believer in Jesus. We put off the old man and put on the new. To repent is to literally turn 180° in the other direction. No longer do we live for ourselves, earthly pleasures, and to satisfy sinful desires. Instead the new believer has done a u-turn in his or her conduct, thinking, obedience, and will.
How can you Identify true repentance in your life?
The fruit of true repentance is a marked definitive change in the way we live. Paul tells us if anyone is in Christ…he is a new creature. True repentance brings God honoring conduct and a new way of thinking and living. The marks of a truly repentant person is a radically sold-out affinity and desire for the things of God…we are never the same.
2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
The word repent and the change it brings is severely lacking in our generation.
To be certain, there are faithful men of God unswayed by the prevailing winds of “soft sell Christianity” who make repentance paramount in their teaching today. Unfortunately this is not mainstream teaching anymore. While God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are central to his wonderful character—they are not his only attributes. God dwells in unapproachable light and he is an all consuming fire. God is holy. No one can come to the Father, but through Jesus. Once a person repents…there is no more distance between him and his Creator. Peddling a no change, low commitment, me-centered Christianity doesn’t produce repentance…it produces numbers.
Real Christ followers are marked by repentance, not just at conversion, but every day for the rest of their lives. They are willing to discard this world and all it has to offer. Instead, they live for Jesus…knowing that their reward is great in heaven. A truly repentant person is living for, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
The message of repentance is not popular. While a book on the subject of repentance may not become the new best seller at the local Christian book store, the evangelical church as a whole is in desperate need of the message. A growing number of people are teaching a different way than Jesus taught. While repentance was one of the central marks of His ministry, the growing message today is a soft sell, we are all in a low commitment-big benefit club.
This was not the message of Jesus, Paul, Whitefield, Spurgeon, or Lloyd-Jones. This world desperately needs the message of repentance today. Sadly, people in our generation seem to think they can spurn the forgiveness Jesus so freely offers or take the wide road to heaven. Meanwhile, eternity is silently rushing upon them. The Bible makes it very clear that in the last days most people will not repent. In fact during the Great Tribulation, people will obviously be under the direct, material, tangible, fierce judgment of God but they will not repent.
Revelation 9:20: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
Revelation 14:6: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
It is mind-boggling to me that in the very midst of divine deserved judgment, people will not repent. An angel flies in the sky above and gives an opportunity to repent.
Two witnesses…perhaps Moses and Elijah or another saint of old proclaim God’s message and when they are killed, the people on earth don’t repent…they celebrate! There will certainly be a great number of people who decide to follow Jesus during the Great Tribulation. Unfortunately many others—perhaps billions—will reject his message, shake their clinched fists, and will not repent.
Can you see it happening now? Can you sense a growing disdain for the true gospel message of repentance in the world and even among people who identify with Christianity? Most people don’t want to hear about repentance. Perhaps it seems old fashioned, unnecessary, or politically incorrect in our generation. Some inside the church have substituted repent with less offensive seeker-friendly platitudes.
In 2 Corinthians 2:16, Paul makes it clear our message is the stench of death to some and life to others. We must not compromise this message. Here in our generation and as we approach the climax of God’s plan for redemption, it will be the anthem of the end times…“They won’t repent.”
Christian friend, stand firm in your love for lost sinners and don’t compromise the message of repentance in lieu of popularity. It is a message of love, hope, and forgiveness that this dark world so desperately needs.
All for Him,