What happened to repentance?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Tim Wildmon - Guest Columnist

Wildmon, TimIt's true that God's love for mankind is unconditional. But in order for man to be in right relationship with God, man must conform his life to match with God's requirement of man – and that's not one of the popular trends you find in the American Christian church these days.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)

I recently heard a very popular Christian speaker talk to a large audience for an hour. He said nothing heretical. He said nothing controversial. He just focused on the "unconditional" love of God. Again, nothing wrong with what he did say, but it is what he did not say that bothered me. He said nothing about repentance from sin. There is a reason Jesus said what He said in the above Bible verse. And there is a reason John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the world with the exact same proclamation in Matthew 3:2: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

There is a popular trend going on in the American Christian church. The trend is to talk of the love of God without talking about the justice of God. But if you read the Bible, it is clear. There exists both the grace of God and the wrath of God, and Jesus Christ spoke of both.

After watching Rev. Billy Graham's latest message to America recently, which was a call for individuals to turn from their sin and follow Jesus Christ, I commented to someone that Dr. Graham would not fill stadiums today with that message as he did for so many decades.

Today's most popular "evangelists" are those who tell people what God can do for them in terms of self-esteem, a better job, whiter teeth, etc. I'm not saying God doesn't bless people with these temporal things of life sometimes. I am saying that has nothing to do with the fundamentals and essentials of the Christian faith. The attempt is to try and attract people with the potential benefits of a relationship with God rather than attract them with what God requires of them such as righteousness, holiness, self-denial, sacrifice, etc. Try selling books with those words on the cover and see if Oprah Winfrey calls you for an interview.

It is true that God's love for mankind is unconditional. However, in order for man to be in right relationship with God, man must conform his life to match with God's requirement of man. And God does not force this decision on man. God draws a person to Himself, but it is the free will of the individual to decide if he or she will obey God's requirements for a right relationship.

Jesus called this experience being "born again." In other words, a person (every human) must understand that he or she has violated God's laws and is forever separated from God spiritually unless he or she repents of sin and trusts in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness of that sin in order to be counted among those who have been redeemed – redeemed from the consequences of unrepentant sin, which is death and hell.

What I am writing here is not popular in contemporary America, where we want to live our own lives without interference from God. It's our natural tendency to live for ourselves instead of obeying the commands of God. That is the ongoing struggle between flesh and spirit.

In order to demonstrate our love for Christ, He says we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him. Our "cross" is a challenge to wake up daily and try our best to live like Jesus. The way we learn to live like Jesus is to study the Bible, take time to pray, and fellowship with other believers. We call that "church."

God knows we will fail at this precisely because we are human. Sometimes we are tempted by sin and we give in to it. But the Bible also says that if we confess our sins to God, He is willing to forgive us. That is great news!

No one is compelled to believe this. You may read this and call it foolishness. That is your right. But if that is your view, I challenge you to read one book in the Bible – the Gospel of John – and consider the claims of the Bible and Christ before you dismiss Christianity.

Tim Wildmon (contact@afa.net) is president of the American Family Association in Tupelo, MS. This column is printed with permission.

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