The first subject of the preaching of Jesus, recorded in Mark, when He began his earthly ministry was this:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Mark 1:15 KJV
What a glorious promise Jesus proclaims to us! The time is now! The kingdom of God is here! Wondrous and life-changing words uttered in just one command. Doesn't this sentence cry out of the power of peace, hope and love? The Savior has arrived to set all things in order, all wrongs will be righted, all tears will be wiped away. All evil will be vanquished.
Although the promise stated is everlasting, as God's word is, there is a pesky, inconvenient command also in this sentence. Repent ye! Repent you! This command is the predecessor of the good news that the Gospel is. Experiencing the power of God in our midst starts with the command: “Repent”. Another way you could say this is, “Hey, you there! Repent...” This is a personal directive for change in your life.
What does this command coming from Jesus mean? Well, it is so vital that His recorded ministry started with this. The consensus on the streets, from an overly religious country, is that the meaning is something that conveys sorriness for a wrong committed. Rarely, however, is this expressed for anything specific. Sin is generic, a description of the human condition but not of particular crimes against God and man. Repentance is often described as seeking forgiveness for crime. Is this what Christ was preaching in the dusty little towns of Judea? Is Jesus' first command: “Feel very sad for your bad disposition and believe an excellent message of love?” I dare say that the jails and prisons are full of sorry, apologetic people but they still owe society their debt for laws transgressed.
The misunderstanding of the word repent is, quite tragically, prevalent throughout this once so-called Christian nation. What does society think of this word? Is this basic command from the pages of holy scripture, something we should be using also? Is this something we should be hearing from church leaders? Should this be used to reach the lost? A well-known church speaker is quoted as saying:
You may make some mistakes-but that doesn't make you a sinner. You've got the very nature of God on the inside of you.
If you have the nature of God in you, is there anything to feel sorry for? If you are not a sinner, is there anything for you to change? Apparently, this leader disregards the commandment of Jesus, and casually moves on to more favorable pieces of the Good News dealing with grace, hope and peace. After all, any commitment from us is unnecessary according to the quote. He is saying that you have the nature of God in you, regardless of your past, present or future behavior. Therefore “mistakes” don't matter. Even the volume of transgressions seems not to matter. Since volume is not measured, then severity, using man's standards, is unimportant also. Could we say the rapist or extortioner or murderer has the nature of God in them? Isn't a sin, or the polite way of saying it: “a mistake” irrelevant to this speaker's worldview? According to this church leader, Jesus' first public order can be safely by-passed to get to the more palatable parts of the Bible.
A world-wide ministry to youth states that the way of salvation is through Christ but the commandment of repentance from sin is absent. Their teaching tells that a person needs Jesus, although the reason for it is not clear. If you follow their faith statement you may wonder if it is such a big deal to repent. You know, from being human, all is not well with your conscience, so possibly you may be convinced that Jesus is the answer to all life's ills. So, if your plan is not working out for you to have a glorious life, hey, you might as well try Jesus. You can probably get by, without too much inconvenience, and after all, you'll benefit with all that hope, love and peace stuff. In this way you can always hedge your bets, and you can congratulate yourself on being so wise. Yet, what about the command of Jesus?
In this self-help age, you can get a program to get a better life and even put a “Jesus twist” on it to ensure you get heaven at the end of it all. What a deal. What a bargain. Behavior does not matter, believing in Jesus is all you need. What a relief! You may not even need to change. Actually statistics say, the population of the believers, the church nation-wide, is the same as anyone else.
Sampling from the Barna Research Group questionnaire:
"You are still trying to figure out the purpose of your life"
Born Again Christians - 36%; Non-Christians - 47%
"Satisfied with your life these days"
Born Again Christians - 69%; Non-Christians - 68%
"Your personal financial situation is getting better"
Born Again Christians - 27%; Non-Christians – 28%
The above statistics, have not even touched the similar views churchgoers and the non-believers have on abortion, sexual behavior, drug use, gambling, etc. The questions displayed here from the survey specifically target the points that the leaders of the modern church are stating as the reasons to come to Christ. These churches state that purpose, satisfaction and wealth are why you need a “higher power”. The question then begs to be asked: If non-believers have a better idea on their purpose in life, is there is a reason to be a believer? Or more plainly, at least according to the survey results, would it be better if you were not a believer? Where is your supposed benefit? Why are you a Christian? If you are a believer in order to understand your purpose in life, your chances may be better outside the church instead of in it. Are you serving God so that He will financially bless you? The facts of this survey again reveal a fallacy of the modern gospel message.
Can you use God to get a better life? Unfortunately many seemingly act as if this is a legitimate question to ask. The question of the commandment of Christ is not even comparing Him to some vice or habit. It is coming to grips with two people: you and Him. One in need, wholly and completely, of the other. One is wicked and depraved and the other is holy and righteous. This concept seems to be absence from many gospel presentations. If we determine that life is not bad enough to change, can we continue on enjoying our habits?
Something is missing from the presentation of the gospel. The good news is what the angel declared to Joseph about the child Mary carried:
...thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Matt 1:21 KJV
How does the current popular church message reconcile to a Savior that saves from sin? The present-day church is as moral as the world it proclaims to be separate from! Are believers separate from sin or do they habitually practice sin? What is missing? Has the power of God diminished in the last two thousand years? God forbid.
The church, as a whole, has apparently taken and applied the doctrine of an unlikely, if not unfortunate source, to live by: the singer Jimmy Buffet:
It's a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.