I recently read a well-worded article written by a pastor about why he didn’t preach repentance. He pontificated eloquently about how such sermons place our focus in the wrong place and how thoughts concerning our failures diminish God’s marvelous work of grace.
I don’t know if this particular reasoning is the consensus of everyone in the modern grace camp, but there certainly appears to be a large number of Pastors and teachers who are avoiding the topic of repentance. I understand how appealing it can be to take our eyes off our short-comings and focus instead on the wonderful mercy and grace of God. Indeed, we should all spend more time reflecting and demonstrating our thankfulness for what the old song calls, “grace that is greater than all our sins.”
As with every topic, however, mere rationalization and human argument is not sufficient to determine whether something is right and reasonable. I have a very old fashioned – I like to call time-proven – method of judging things in light of church by-laws. I’m not talking about the ones my church board put together and voted on, I am talking about the ones that are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16.) Yes, I am referring to the Bible. It is a book that has stood the test of millennia and still remains on the best seller’s list.
Since so many modern Christians are sadly allergic to the old-testament – and sometimes any scripture prior to Jesus’ resurrection – I will, for the sake of this discussion, avoid passages that do not conform to their accepted boundaries. That being stipulated, allow me to provide a few scriptures from the supposed “dispensation of grace,” for us to consider: (This is by no means all of them.)
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9 NLT)
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 ESV)
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:8-10 ESV)
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV)
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5 ESV)
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19 ESV)
While some will jump to the quick fallback position that these scriptures were written to sinners instead of saints, that line of reasoning is a huge leap of logic. There was no designated mailbox in each city where sinners came to get their mail from Paul, James, Peter and John. Each of the books above were letters written to churches. In the case of Revelation, it is impossible to even argue that it was “third-party” information as the orders from Jesus Himself are very specific that this is a message to be written down and given to the churches.
Saints, I encourage you to be careful and discerning. “New and improved” is usually neither. This is certainly the case of those who would tell you that we have somehow graduated from the need of heart-felt, God-honoring repentance. That kind of logic is better suited for the Cultural Revolution brought by Carl Rodgers and others from the self-esteem movement. While it has largely succeeded in creating a whole generation of narcissists, a little looking around quickly reveals that it has done nothing to create a Church or world that looks more like Jesus. In reality it has succeeded in quite the opposite.