John’s mission was critically important as he paved the way for the Son of God, so it was no time to beat around the bush (Matthew 3:1-12). He was direct, to the point and on the fringe of society. He was the Lord’s messenger, and his message was crystal clear: Repent. Change was coming, and preparation was mandatory. It was not a suggestion.
Jesus followed closely on the heels of the Baptist. His baptism had been followed by a tussle with the devil in the wilderness. He stepped on to the public stage with a familiar message: Repent. Change is a fundamental condition of the kingdom of heaven. Turning away from an old familiar way of life is never easy but essential for entry into that spiritual world of blessings. This was not up for discussion; it is a nonnegotiable (Matthew 4:17).
Pentecost found Jerusalem in an uproar (Acts 2). There were sights and sounds unlike anything before. Men spoke of the mighty deeds of a great God in languages that they had never known before. Peter seized the moment and spoke of the death and resurrection of Jesus which penetrated all the way to the heart of the Jewish audience. “What do we do?” The apostle’s first word to them was, “Repent,” and it was a command. Yes, he had more to say, but this led the way. It is fundamental to having our sins forgiven and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Genuine repentance originates deep within the heart of Christians. The extraordinary kindness of the Lord evokes a response from those who have a true appreciation of it. His nature leads to a change inside of us. To undervalue His character and the patient, compassionate way that He has dealt with us brings about a stubborn unwillingness to correct our own sins which takes us directly into a collision with the wrath of God (Romans 2:1-11). The prospect is a terrifying one (Hebrews 10:26-31).
The church in Ephesus had every advantage. Paul spent time there, and Timothy lived there receiving additional support in the form of a couple of letters to guide his efforts. Add to that the letter to the church, and they certainly had a firm foundation with follow up instructions for development. Yet, they lost their way. Revelation’s letters to the seven churches of Asia began with Ephesus (Ephesians 2:1-7).
They left their first love, and their very existence as a church was threatened. The Lord’s corrective measure for them? Repent. It is consistent throughout His messages to those churches. If there is a problem, repentance is always the solution for both the congregation and the individuals.
Our nation has largely turned its back on God, and it is easy to allow that attitude to seep into our lives. Apathy sets in, sin becomes acceptable and “repent” turns into an old-fashioned concept as another soul slips away.