In the New Testament, the Bible talks about a man by the name of John the Baptist, or should we say John the Baptizer. He was so named because he performed water baptisms at the river of Jordan. He was Jesus’ forerunner. John was the one challenging the people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. And this was John’s message: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).
So what is repentance? Literally, the word repent means to think differently, which denotes a change of mind having occurred. In the Bible, this change of mind is always associated with a turning of the heart toward God. It should not be hard to understand that there was nothing pleasant about John’s message of repentance. No matter how nicely you try to say it, there is nothing pleasant about telling people that they need to change their way of thinking and turn their hearts to God.
Nonetheless, the Bible says, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (verses 5-6).
My how times have changed. How often do you hear the word sin mentioned in pulpits today? And what about a message calling men and women to repentance?
John was preaching at the river of Jordan, challenging the people of his day to repent and to prepare for the first coming of the Lord. We find ourselves in a similar situation today, as we await the second coming of the Lord. We must lovingly, yet faithfully challenge men and women of this world to repent of their sins and to turn their hearts to God before Jesus returns.
No, I am not advocating that we go about calling everybody a sinner who has not accepted Christ as his or her Savior. None of us has the moral superiority to do that. We are all saved by grace and not by our own works. But I am saying that in the pulpits of our local churches, we do a disservice to the lost if we shy away from proclaiming the call to repentance. This message is vital to our efforts to help the lost prepare for the coming of the Lord.
I know this is a tough word for today’s society. God sent His Son to die for the sins of the world. Still, He commands “all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).