March 5th - An Unpopular concept
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.' " Matt 3:1-3 (NKJV)
Want to make your church shrink? Just preach the message of repentance. want to be unpopular? Tell people what they should not be doing. At least that is the thinking of most contemporary church leaders. But, is it true? If people are called to repent from their sins, will they run from the church? Perhaps... We live in a consumer oriented culture where we often avoid the "truths" that cause us emotional distress, so perhaps John the Baptist's message would scare people off in today's world.
Therein lies the challenge: People need to be saved from their sins--their foolish behavior--their self-destructive tendencies--and their appetite for darkness. In this upside-down, inside-out world, our culture tends to glorify the very activities that create the most sorrow and destruction in people's lives, while avoiding the unpopular, but life-giving truths that set people free. This is how convoluted and twisted the thinking of our culture has become. Since we are no longer in Jr. High, I would suggest that it is time to stop wearing foolish behavior as a badge of honor, and give repentance a try.
The truth that sets us free is good news! The turning away from destructive behavior is life giving! Leaving the darkness behind for a life of walking in the light is cause for
celebration!! The message of repentance is more than a
warning--it is an invitation to an abundant life! Repentance starts with a revelation of truth. In the case of the Prodigal Son, he embraced the truth; the truth that the servants in the house of his Father, were better off than he was. Eating at the table of his Father was better than dipping into the pig trough. When life is measured by the accuracy of truth, the message of repentance is compelling and a comfort.
Author's Note: I don't know how to make repentance into a more easily accepted concept. You can only carry a pro-active message so far. When a trainer works with an athlete, there is the pro-activity of aerobic activities, weight training, stretching and isometric exercises; but at some point, most trainers will turn their attention to nutrition, sleeping and other life habits. One seeking to get into excellent shape might even be called on to turn away from French Fries and Soda Pop. Repentance is a "Turning Away" from self-destructive behavior. It might not be something that an individual has a strong desire to do in the moment; but, in the future, the change in behavior is often reflected on by the individual as a great moment when their life was saved and their destiny was changed. RJD