“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)
This was the message that John the Baptist came proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea: “Repent.” But John was not alone. When the Messiah Jesus finally appeared, Matthew 4:17 says that His message was exactly the same: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Not surprisingly, this was also and indispensable part of the Apostles’ proclamation in Acts as well. Peter preached repentance in his famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost, and in Acts 20:21 Paul declared that the summary of the gospel that he was sure to share with everyone he met was “repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It would seem there is a message here we must not miss! If you want to be sure that you are proclaiming a godly, Biblical message, then make sure that you are preaching or teaching that people should repent of their sins. You can’t go wrong with that. On the other hand, if you are NOT confronting sin in the lives of the people to whom you are ministering, and teaching that they should repent, then you can be sure that you are MISSING the target in your preaching or teaching.
Repentance is at the heart of the Biblical message. The whole problem of mankind is that we have turned away from God into sin. The only solution for it is to turn BACK to Him through Christ. But this “turning back” is what repentance is. It is a vital part of the gospel message, as Paul indicated in Acts 20:21. “Repentance” and “faith” are inseparably “two sides of the same coin” of the biblical response we must make to the gospel. It is not enought for people to just generically “believe in God”; they must repent of their rebellion against Him and turn back to Him, finding forgiveness and a new power to live for Him, through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is not always easy to preach about sin and repentance. One missionary told me that some of their people recently objected to including repentance in their evangelism: “But it is easier to get people to respond if we don’t talk about repentance”! That’s the whole thing, isn’t it?! Perhaps that is why many of US leave it out of our ministries? It is much easier just to “love” and “stay positive.” But if we desire to remain faithful to scripture, we don’t have a choice. If we don’t teach people to repent from sin, we aren’t really loving them, and we are not sharing the basic Bible message at all.