Whatever happened to repentance? We rarely hear the word mentioned in most churches these days. Pastors seldom call for their congregation to grieve over wounding Christ by their wickedness. Instead, the message we hear from many pulpits today is, “Just believe. Accept Christ and you’ll be saved.” The text used to justify this message is found in Acts 16:30-31: “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.’”
The first message Jesus delivered after he emerged from the temptation in the wilderness was the message of repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17).
Jesus says of his mission, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). And he said to the Galileans, “I tell you … unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Jesus’ gospel was all about repentance!
John the Baptist also preached repentance. His message to the Jews was simple and straightforward: “[He] came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’” (Matthew 3:1-2).
People came from everywhere to hear John preach and he told them in no uncertain words, “The messiah is soon to appear in your midst so you’d better get ready to meet him! You may feel excited that he is coming, but I’m telling you, your hearts are not prepared because you are still holding on to your sins!”
John was warning the people that they had to deal with their sin before they could follow the Savior. The full, literal meaning of the word “repent” in the New Testament is “to feel remorse and self-reproach for one’s sins against God; to be contrite; to want to change direction.”
“Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). True sorrow leads to repentance — and this will cause you to want to change!