“Then [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that REPENTANCE and remission of sins SHOULD BE PREACHED in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46,47NKJV

Most people would agree the world is going in the wrong direction in so many ways. It is sad the majority either don’t know it or are complicit in the course of events that are taking us down the wrong and destructive path. Some one must sound the alarm and let people know, “Wrong Way” or “Road Out Ahead.” There is a biblical term for proclaiming this kind of warning loud and clear. It is called preaching repentance.

When I lived in England many years ago, we used to visit a place in London known as “Speakers Corner” in Hyde Park. Passionate people of every persuasion would come to Speakers Corner, get on their soapbox and rant or rage on every subject imaginable. Typically, you could always find a “hell-fire and brimstone” preacher railing about the evils of sin and the coming judgment; commanding people to repent. It’s hard to find those voices for righteousness in public places any longer. In fact, “free” speech is not so free these days. Say anything offensive and you’re likely to be censored. Telling people their thinking is wrong and they are accountable to God’s judgment is sure to offend someone.

Though we may snicker at those images of religious fervor, I admire the audacity of zealous saints. The message of repentance is rarely heard today even in the church. We prefer to here good news, and happy talk. Self-help, motivational messages are in. Words that confront selfishness and immoral living are out. Like the old song says, “you’ve got to accentuate the positive -eliminate the negative.” Preaching a message that makes people feel uncomfortable – you are NOT inherently good or right with God – is unpopular. It may even get you arrested depending on where you live.

The word, repentance is often misunderstood. The Greek word, metanoia, means, to change one’s mind; to think differently or rethink; to make a decision to turn around; turn from, towards; change (reverse) direction. Telling someone they are going the wrong way may be the most compassionate thing you can ever say. To say nothing to one who is obviously lost and heading to the worst destination imaginable is perhaps the cruelest thing one could ever do. The reality is we are all messed up before we invite Jesus to rescue us. Acknowledging this truth is what repentance is all about.

Repentance may be confused with emotions of remorse and regret. These may accompany repentance but unless there is a life-altering change of direction, impacting our decisions and behavior, repentance hasn’t happened. It’s not just about feeling sorry. Repentance is a deliberate act. The repentant thinks differently about about sin, God, and the world.

Yes, it is true, we are commanded to preach the gospel which means Good News. Jesus came to give us abundant life with all that implies. And it’s free by God’s grace. Believing the gospel and embracing Jesus will completely alter the direction of life. But it is necessary to get people’s attention, especially at a time of great deception and delusion, when people are calling evil good and good evil. It is imperative people know there is an absolute right and wrong. What they do with that warning is their choice but when prayer prepares the heart to hear clearly, God can give them repentance (2Tm.2:25).

Is it possible for a person to embrace the good news without repentance? I think, yes. We all know someone who professes to be a Christian yet continue to live the life of a sinner. There is no identifiable change in their behavior that accompanies salvation. Could it be some people have not first understood they are on the wrong path, living with the wrong nature? I am not saying repentance is a condition for salvation or prerequisite to becoming born-again. But, there should be an understanding our life without Christ detestable: there is no good in us and no hope for us without Jesus. Fruits of righteousness should follow repentance (Ac.26:20).

Jesus came preaching repentance (Mk.1:15). He was preceded by John whose call to repentance was extremely confrontational. It got him killed. In a world that is up-side-down and on fire, it is necessary to incorporate a message of repentance into our witness for Christ. Their is a coming judgment and wrath of God against all unrighteousness and those who know the truth but refuse to walk in it. People need to be warned of what is ahead. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Lk.13:3,5