The Harvest Command

Many regard the biblical command to be baptized for the remission of sins as the hardest command to be obeyed for the alien sinner. It is often said because so many in the denominational world will become very obstinate when it comes to this clear New Testament command {Mark 16:16}. However, it seems the hardest for most to overcome and thus obey is not baptism (though the excuses are plentiful and resistance extreme) but repentance.

Repentance is truly one of the hardest commands for people to comply with. Repentance demands, due to its very definition, that people stop doing something they like to do. Repentance is not merely a change of mind (although that is part of it) but a change of lifestyle. The preachers of years ago put it clearly and abruptly: "Repent or perish; turn or burn!"

Jehovah has always demanded that repentance of sins be preached. As a worthy note of importance, it was He who first preached repentance (Genesis 3:9-11). Just as the beginning of everything else is recorded in the first lines of the Sacred Page, so is sin. After Adam and Eve had sinned Jehovah came to them seeking repentance. One should carefully note the questions posed to Adam. The Almighty did not waste time, but went straight to the heart of the matter. He wanted His glorious crown of creation to repent of those things they had done wrong.

Noah is the next preacher painted on the biblical canvas to preach repentance. Noah preached for one hundred twenty years that the earth would be destroyed by a global deluge (Genesis 6:3; also 2 Peter 2:5). His preaching no doubt stirred the ire and dander of every soul who heard him proclaim the saving message. Yet, the Record says he only saved his own household. Only? One may ask. How many more would be saved today if they "only" saved their own households.

Jonah was a preacher of repentance; though he was so with great reluctance. Jonah had a listener response to a sermon that any preacher of any age would love to have. He only preached an eight word sermon (3:4), and people repented (3:5-8). Jonah is truly an anomaly among prophets and preachers for all time. After the great response to his sermon, Jonah pouted over the conversion of heathen Ninevites (4:5). Jonahs foolish demeanor in no way changed what Gods message was-repent or perish.

When Immanuel graced time with His glorious presence his first sermons was: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Jesus did not dawdle around seeking words that would not be harsh or discomforting for His hearers, but simply told them they must repent if they wanted to see the Kingdom of Heaven. His message was the message that Jehovah had been preaching through inspired men for millennia, now it was manifested through the Word Himself (John 1:1-5).

Repentance may well be one of the more misunderstood concepts of Holy Writ. Thus, the Bible is always its own best interpreter, commentary, and dictionary. Here the words of the apostle: "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

The Corinthians had earlier been rebuked sternly for many wrongdoings that were destroying the church of Christ in Corinth [see First Corinthians]. They had allowed sin to take over the church, and in the process the church was failing to do her job- miserably.

The Corinthians needed to repent of their sins to be in good stead with God. Repentance, by its very definition, requires an open change in ones life that can be seen by all. If the town drunk repents, everyone will immediately notice he is no longer a sot. If the town philanderer repents, everyone will see an immediate change in his behavior. The same holds true for any one who has been living a life of sin-even one sin that dominates their life. Repentance demands a change in lifestyle and behavior.

The Corinthians were "sorry" after a godly sort, which means they were sorrowful over the fact that they had sinned against God. When one is sorry they were caught in the act of something is only a worldly sorrow. Since godly sorrow "leads one to repentance" (ASV rendering), one must have a reformation of life to be truly penitent. Repentance is not merely a show of emotion, but a change in ones conduct; literally a new direction is taken. One old-time preacher is said to have illustrated repentance this way. He would walk down the aisle saying, "Im going to hell! Im going to hell!" Then walk back up the aisle saying: "Im going to Heaven! Im going to Heaven!" Crude; but effective in illustrating the point. One must do an about face to truly repent.

Some have the misinformed and/or misguided notion that repentance is simply admitting that one has done wrong and is sorry for doing those things. However, the New Testament teaches very clearly that once one has stopped sinning one is to do it no more (Romans 6:1-12). Sin no longer has the dominion over the person who has truly repented because they are no longer involved in the same lifestyle. The "old man of sin" was put to death and buried beneath the waters of baptism.

Repentance is something that can and should be seen by all. The change in ones life that has repented is something all will notice immediately. John the Baptizer demanded that the Jews who came to him "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8). One preacher of years gone by said we may not be the ultimate judge of people, but we can be "fruit inspectors." By this he meant, as did John, one can see when another has truly repented of their sins. John refused to baptize the stubborn Jews because he could not see any sign of repentance.

True repentance involves confession of ones sins. When repentance occurs one must confess those sins as part of it. If the repentance is from something that has happened privately, it is between that person and God. Thus, the confession is solely to God. If the sin(s) have taken place in a public manner, the confession is before others as well as to God (James 5:16). A generic confession at a church service in no way removes the obligation from the transgressor who has sinned against an individual. If a personal sin has been committed against a brother or sister, Holy Writ commands the offender go to the offended and make things right before worship is conducted (Matthew 5:23-25).

There is a vast difference between a confession of ones sins and a revelation of ones sins. Some, due to their lack of understanding and guilt for their sins, will stand before the church and confess the very sins they have committed. James said we were to "confess our faults to one another," he did not mean we are to reveal every detail of what or how we sinned. This is one thing that actually keeps some from repenting; they are ashamed of their sins and believe they must "tell all." Even worse is when the preacher takes the card or their verbal statement and then reveals to the church what they have written amidst anguish over their sins. Repentance has taken place; there is no need to broadcast the gory details of their sins for the whole world to see. This is sort of like rehashing the sins after they have been forgiven. It is no ones business what the person did, but rather that they have repented and need love and strength from their brethren (Hebrews 3:12, 13; 12:12, 13).

Repentance calls for immediate prayer to Jehovah. Simon the sorcerer was told to "repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee" (Acts 8:22). When sin occurs and one realizes it, prayer should be the next step taken-post haste.

Repentance sometimes requires one to swallow ones pride. The Prodigal son was in this predicament when he found himself wallowing in the mire of the hog pen (Luke 15:11-32). He believed he had it all when he received his inheritance. Once the inheritance was wasted on riotous living, he sought repentance. Sometimes one has to swallow the husks of shame and degradation before one can swallow ones pride and repent.

Jehovah still commands all men to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30). Thus the call for repentance is as relevant today as ever. Jesus issued the great invitation to all who sought Him (Matthew 11:28-30). To refuse to repent is to refuse Jesus and His commission.

When a Christian refuses to repent, shame and reproach are brought upon the church. The man in Corinth who had his fathers wife is an example (1 Corinthians 5). When this brother refused to repent he brought such shame and reproach upon the Corinthian church over his sinful and shameful behavior that even the heathen would not conceive of such sins. Yet, the church in Corinth seemed almost to revel in the lascivious behavior of this man. One should note from this context that when a brother or sister is in sin; it is the churchs responsibility to see to it that they come out of sin.

Repentance is a lifetime process, not a one time event. Biblical repentance is when one stops practicing a sinful behavior never to do it again. If the thief continued to steal after he had supposedly repented, then all could see he had not repented of his knavery. If the adulterer continued his or her adultery, then he or she never repented. Once one has repented they never go back to what they were guilty of before. One can never stop repenting of sin. Repentance is something the Christian does until he or she dies.

Jesus gave Heavens sentiment toward repentance when he said: "...joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). If you have not made Heaven happy yet, please do so while Time is still on your side (Acts 17:31).

 

Hardy Building Ward Street Church of Christ
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Hardy, AR 72542
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