Do you know what has largely been lost in these ending days of the Church Age? Do you understand why so many are falling away and churches becoming apostate? There’s a very simple answer.
One message was preached from the beginning of the Gospels that was a necessary requirement for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. John the Baptist spoke it first as we see in the very opening verses of our reading today in Mark 1:4:
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
John proclaimed a baptism of repentance. Why would he do that? As the rest of the verse says: for the forgiveness of sins.
Why is forgiveness of sins important?
God in His mercy has granted to those with eyes to see and ears to hear the keys to His kingdom. Can anyone who is prideful or arrogant enter its gates? No. All who come to Him must be as little children.
Assuming a child has not been corrupted by those around him – unfortunately, a very real possibility these days – that child isn’t full of self. He isn’t prideful. He may be willful, e.g. “That toy is mine!” but he isn’t demanding because his ego is puffed up. He may have a sense of entitlement and attachment to something, but his character is sufficiently soft and malleable, and his heart not hard, so that he’s open to correction and instruction, i.e. he’s teachable.
This is what Jesus said that all who come to Him must be like. There is a humility in the innocence of children. That is our template. We must be humble.
In our humility, we can more easily recognize our sinful nature. As we realize this, we see that we can do nothing about it. Our sins are beyond our own capabilities of redeeming. With that understanding we can humbly come to our Savior in our sinful condition and ask for Him to forgive us. And the amazing thing is that He loves us so much that He willingly grants us forgiveness and opens the gates of heaven when we place our faith and trust in Jesus.
John the Baptist wasn’t the only one bringing this message. It is consistent throughout the New Testament. We see several verses later in Mark 1:14-15 the very first message that Jesus preached:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus told those listening that they must repent in order to enter God’s kingdom. Repentance was message number one.
The apostles also made repentance a priority. Here is Paul in Acts 17:30-31 speaking to the men of Greece on Mars Hill:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
When the apostles gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came upon them, Peter stood up before the crowd and preached the message that God gave him. Acts 2: 38 records his words to those who would become the planters of churches throughout the region:
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
It’s well known that when something is repeated in Scripture, its emphasis is to highlight an important concept. Repentance in this case is that vital ingredient to our relationship with God that is a bottom line necessity. Without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins. The Bible is replete with passages showing us this critical aspect for Jesus to accept us as His own.
This is the problem among so-called believers today. They claim the Name of Christ because they’ve prayed the salvation prayer, but they’ve never repented. They’ve come to the foot of the cross thinking they can continue living life on their terms. God says otherwise. His requirement is first and foremost that all who come to Him repent. Only then can He complete the work of salvation in them.
How do these people approach Christ in this unrepentant condition and believe all is good between them and God? The church first and foremost must preach the truth of the need for repentance. If it doesn’t, it will be filled with those who think they’re saved but are actually still unbelievers.
Sadly, this is what we see. Every gospel but the true one is preached, from social justice to hyper-grace to even one that emphasizes distinction between races. How can this be? Repentance is a forgotten word. Sin is a foreign concept. Pagans fill the pews.
Jesus said this would happen in the last days. We are surely there. For those of us who truly love the Lord, let us remain humble and repentant in our relationship with Him. That is the way to everlasting life.