One of the great needs of the hour is REPENTANCE PREACHING. What I mean by this is preaching which calls people with urgency to change their lives. Too much preaching today is designed merely to educate, entertain and gently influence people. But people who are accustomed to pleasing their flesh need more than gentle influences. They need a radical transformation. A change.
To change your life, you must first change your thinking. The Bible urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The Greek Word for repentance is 'metanoia' which refers to a change of mind. But the change of thinking which we need is one which will lead to a change of orientation. We need to definitely turn AWAY from sin and TOWARDS the Living God. This is closer to the Hebrew conception of repentance, which was to turn back to God. If your "repentance" doesn't mean you have forsaken your known sins, and turning with the whole heart to God, it isn't going to cut ice with Him.
Repentance is not just any old change of thinking. If I learn a new way to sell real estate, or program computers, my thinking may change, but that does not mean I have really "repented". It is really the same if I mentally learn a new doctrine about salvation or about the Second Coming but it doesn't change the way I live. Repentance that counts for something is "repentance from dead works" (Hebrews 6:1,2) – a repentance that not only abandons and forsakes all kinds of dead works, but also results in turning TOWARDS the One who Inspires and gives all true LIFE – that is, God Almighty.
We need the preaching of repentance today. I don't think we hear enough of it.
If preachers today are following the example of Jesus, they really should take note of what the subject matter of Jesus' preaching was declared to be.
Mark 1:15 says that Jesus came saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News."
The way for Jesus was prepared by John the Baptist. John also preached repentance. He told people that they needed to take certain steps, and all of them had to do with MONEY. Basically to stop loving it, and start sharing. Ideas we don't hear too often in the modern church, which all too often exalts the accumulation of property and toys for the righteous.
The repentance Jesus preached would not have been diametrically opposed to the preaching of John. Some, like Joseph Prince in Singapore have suggested that what Jesus really meant by "Repent" was "stop trying to be righteous in your own power". I suggest that this is a prime example of reading one's pre-suppositions into the text. How about we let Scripture interpret Scripture here? The real message was certainly a call to turn not to oneself, but to GOD and the power of His Kingdom – hence, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand". But when Jesus is functionally King in your life, a lot of evil practices will be forsaken. Jesus is definitely calling for people everywhere to forsake all their evil practices and start living according to the spirit of faith. If we just base our ideas on Jesus' preaching on what IS recorded of it – we see that Jesus has a lot to say about the following sins which can result in a person – be they Christian or non-Christian – ending up in hell. Things like unfogiveness, hatred, lusting after women, unfaithfulness with money and time, treating God's people harshly, refusing to care for the poor and give to God were all things that Jesus indicated could cost a person their eternal salvation (Matthew 5:27,28; Mark 11:25; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 12:45-48). So Jesus was constantly warning everyone to guard their hearts, and come to Him for transformation.
The apostle Peter preached repentance. When the Jews on the Day of Pentecost Peter what they should do, he answered:
"Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
Repentance then is what God expects as a response to the gospel.
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent
This is what God is commanding and those who reject this word of repentance are rejecting God who issues the command to repent.
This repentance is not merely about adopting a set of new ideas, for Paul says:
"Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance." (Acts 26:19,20)
If preachers today are in fact following Jesus, if they indeed are living lives of repentance towards God, they need to PREACH THIS TO OTHERS.
The way some of us preach, its like we don't really think that sin is such a big issue. But sin IS a big issue – sin separates us from God, and sin costs us in every way. We need to root out all forms of sin, in a spirit of sincere faith towards God – looking unto Jesus Christ, who overcame the power of sin at the cross for us, and sends the Holy Spirit upon us and into us so that we are empowered by grace to do the will of God from the heart.