John the Baptist began his preaching by declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” Matthew 3:2. Jesus began his preaching by declaring, “The time has come…the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” Mark 1:15. Repentance—metanoia—means to “turn around.” It means we can’t get into Christ until we turn from whatever we’re presently in. To the Rich Young Ruler it meant turning from his wealth. To Simon Peter, his business. To Saul of Tarsus, his ancestry. Whatever it is that we designate as our purpose, our goal, our life’s intent must be abandoned. Repent…change your direction.
Human nature is neither awed nor disciplined by morality. It’s sometimes only barely renewed by conversion. Nevertheless, there stands the word we cannot avoid if we want forgiveness: REPENT. Change. Turn around!
Unfortunately, preaching not emboldened by the Spirit has allowed the development of permanent cultural depravity not oppressed by morality, let alone converted by repentance. That has led American society into a state of judgment before God. Though some Christians feel revival in America is still possible, our ego-driven age has no interest in, let alone appetite for, repentance. The flagrant wickedness in society isn’t an aberration followed by repentance. It’s a permanent depravity followed by judgment. Revival may come during judgment, when all our pleasant dreams dissolve into nightmarish realities. Only when convinced that we’ve sinned against God’s grace and need to repent, will revival resurrect from blasted egotism.
Jesus neither compromises nor sacrifices this absolute for the expediency of interesting the unsaved in some relational contentment. People can’t be separated from their ideas, good or bad. Jesus never attempted the separation. He did convert people by repentance so their ideas would be acceptable to God.
When Jesus saves us through repentance and baptism, we have no place to go but out of our sins. No place to come but into his grace. And no way to live except in self-denying obedience to his will. In whose lives God is a household guest, not merely a household word. If we want a summary of repentance, you just read it.