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Understanding “Repent”

John 3:17
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

There are two ways to preach “Repent.” One brings condemnation, hardship and guilt, the other brings joy, life, and freedom.

I would call the first one “fire and brimstone” preaching. While we know that fire and brimstone are real, we are now under a covenant of grace and mercy.

John the Baptist preached, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). In Matthew 4:17 it says “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” There is some controversy among Bible scholars that the command to “repent” is meant only for believers; those who are already saved. However, in Matthew 9:13 Jesus says; “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 6:7-12 says that the twelve Apostles went out two by two and preached that the people should repent. In Acts 3:19 Peter preached; “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Peter said that the Gentiles were granted “repentance to life” (Acts 11:18), and Paul preached on Mars Hill that God commands “all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). In Acts 20:21, Paul exhorted the elders publicly and house to house; “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The wrong way to preach “repentance” is to say; “You need to change your wicked ways! You’re nothing but a dirty-ole’-sinner, and if you don’t stop sinning you’ll go to hell! You need to quit drinking, stop committing adultery, stop smoking, and your lying lips and dirty mind need to be cleaned with soap! REPENT!

Was that the way John the Baptist, Jesus, the twelve Apostles, Peter, and Paul preached? No! Let’s look at a few more scriptures…

Romans 2:4
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

2 Corinthians 7:9-10
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

GOODNESS and GODLY SORROW! That’s what they were preaching! That God loved them – even while they were yet sinners! (Romans 5:8).

Repentance is first a “godly sorrow.” This is what John the Baptist and the others were preaching. It’s the main ingredient that produces repentance leading to salvation. Why is this? Because no-one can change their ways until they first come to Christ. Once He enters their heart and becomes the Lord of their life, the “greater one” within helps them overcome and change their ways! (1 John 4:4).

Do we need to preach “sin and repentance?” Yes! But we need to preach His goodness, His love, and His grace and mercy in a non-condemning way. We need to preach a “godly sorrow.”

When John the Baptist preached “repent,” it brought revival! No one was born again during his ministry. No-one received the “greater one” in their heart at the altar call after he preached – but it did bring a “godly-sorrow” that led to salvation. His ministry was the “highway” that led to Christ (Isaiah 40:3 NKJV). It brought low the mountains (those who were filled with pride), it filled the valleys (those were overly condemned), and made straight the crooked place (those who were bound in wickedness), and made the rough ways smooth (Luke 3:5). This message of repentance is a leveler! An equalizer! It puts all of us on the same plane. It takes away pride, it erases condemnation, and it produces a smooth straight highway – a high speed highway – no ruts or curves we cannot maneuver through. It’s like riding in a BMW on the German Autobahn at 150 miles an hour! I’ve done it, and I can tell you, there is literally no sound! There is no engine sound, no wind sound, no vibration, and no bumps. Just smooth sailing!

When Jesus preached “repent” it brought revival! He told the woman caught in adultery “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

I love the Lord! Isn’t He great? He loves you! He loves me!

So, to whom is the message of “repentance” directed? As Paul stated, it’s to everyone! It’s to the Jews, the Gentiles, the saved and the unsaved!

A “godly sorrow” is a lifestyle of humility, repentance, and thankfulness that should never end. I truly believe that we need a “Baptism of Repentance” in this country in order to have the revival we are believing for. How can it come otherwise? How can any transformation take place without it? There were two notable people in the Bible who tried to repent, but they had no “godly sorrow” therefore no transformation took place. They were Esau, and Judas Iscariot. Why? Because you cannot fool God.

Hebrews 12:17
For you know that afterward, when he (Esau) wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

Matthew 26:24
The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Matthew 27:5
Then he (Judas Iscariot) threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

So, is our sorrow the worldly kind that produces death like Esau and Judas, or is it the godly kind that produces life like the woman caught in adultery? Remember, it’s a godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation. Jesus stated “Unless we repent we will all likewise perish” (Luke 15:7), however, three verses later He added “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Have you ever heard someone say “sorry,” but you knew they didn’t mean it? In truth, they were only sorry they got caught.

Like David prayed…

Psalm 139:23–24
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

Believing for true revival…

_______________________________

Pastor Jim Langlois is the Senior Pastor of The Master’s House www.tmhnow.org, President of MKEA (The Master’s Kids Evangelistic Association) www.mkea.org, and an Area Director for ICFM (International Convention of Faith Ministries) www.icfm.org. You can follow him at docinthehouse, on Twitter at jimlanglois, and on Facebook at jim.langlois. His most recent books are “Is it Okay to Pray in Tongues in Church?” and “Will the Real God Please Stand Up!” Both are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com

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