Repentance the first of Evangelism

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

If a man sees no need to make a change from the path that he is on, from the way that he is conducting the journey of his life, and a sense that his ways are in error, then the need for evangelism will not be appealing to him. Repentance is not only the first order for evangelism of the unrighteous it is the first step and if bypassed will lead not to a path of salvation. This was the core theme of our Lord Jesus and from which He never departed. “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

In the English word repentance means to change direction. To turn from the direction one is going and travel in the opposite direction. This is a good concept for repentance but in the Greek it has a deeper meaning or significance. In Greek the word is “metanoeo” and carries the definition of to think differently and to reconsider ones actions. Repentance could be then stated as a change of mind. A person of repentance would change the old way of thinking and rethink anew. By having a new thought process we would turn away from our old way of living for self and the world to living for the Kingdom and its Lord God. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Man by himself is not going to have the conviction to effect such a change in his lifestyle. People do change as they mature but by their nature do not gravitate to the higher realms of spiritual righteousness. The word of God seems foolishness to them and they seek the advice of men rather than forces that are unseen to them. Their spiritual eye has been blinded by the god of this world and therefore cannot see the unseen eternal truths. “In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) If a spiritual evil force has blinded the eye of a soul then it will take a stronger spiritual force to open that soul’s eye. “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” (John 12:40)

That stronger spiritual force is God our Savior the author of His salvation plan. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44) This is why prayer for the lost is prerequisite to our evangelistic efforts. If we sow the gospel message on rocky soil it will not take strong root and soon wither and die. God must prepare the soil of the human heart that it will be fertile to receive the truth of His Word. Once the seed of His Word grows in the power of God then the Holy Spirit can cause the conviction needed to cause a soul to repent. “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Conviction is needed for a mind to see a need for repentance or a change in the way it thinks. There must be a realization of the weight of the sins of the past and the burden it places on the soul seeking redemption. This sorrowfulness is not a simple apology but a need to correct the transgressions of the past. It is a realization that there is a vast debt that must be paid for the sinful acts of the past and the wage of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) It is that sorrowfulness of sins committed that leads to repentance. “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

There is a deep sense to sin. All sin is evil. Some people are quite comfortable with what is referred to as little white sins. These same people are abhorred to what they consider as extremely bad sin. I have heard people say many times that a living God would not place a mild sinner into the same hell as one such as Adolf Hitler. The Scriptures offer no measure to sin as all sin is rebellion to God’s Word. All sin is disobedience to God. It was not the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” that caused death to enter into the world. How could eating a healthy thing as fruit cause death? It was the violation of God’s command that caused death to enter into the world. We think we sin against each other and pray that God would forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us but the sins are not against us only. All sin is against the Word of God. “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:4)

Our work in personal evangelism is an effort to communicate the gospel message of Jesus Christ to all who will hear the word of His truth. The message first begins with a warning of the peril that the sinner finds themselves in as a result of their rebellion to God’s Word. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) That rebellion of sinners must include a warning of the consequences of sin. “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

The evangelist message provides God’s remedy. God who loves His creation and sent His Son to redeem the sinner and restore their relationship with Him has provided the remedy of man’s broken condition. It is the opportunity of an abundant life without the trappings of this fallen world. It is the purpose instilled into the heart of man that gives a hope that reaches through eternity. There are two destinies that man has for eternity. That of eternal fellowship with the Creator or the emptiness of eternity without love, without hope. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The evangelist message closes with God’s call to repentance. This was the unequivocal message of Jesus Christ. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) A repentance that changes the way a man thinks, that takes man off the throne of his life and places Jesus upon it, and turns his path for the broad road that leads to destruction to the narrow road that leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. It is a heart belief that Jesus paid the price for the sin committed and a walk of faith following Him to the prepared home in glory. “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Durant Bible College April 30,2015

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