The “R” Word
“Never been a sinner, I’ve never sinned, I’ve got a friend in Jesus” –(Spirit in the Sky, Norman Greenbaum, 1969)
Sometime back, our Director of Missions, Lonnie Wascom, noted that he recently visited a church and was talking about the pastor’s sermon. He said the pastor almost used the “R” word. What is the “R” word? It is repentance.
You really have to ask the question where did the word “repentance” go? It is rarely used in today’s preaching. It seems we do not sin anymore. We make mistakes, we mess up, we do things in ignorance, or we did not mean it. We Christians have taken the old Norman Greenbaum song as our mantra, “Never, been a sinner, I’ve never sinned. I’ve got a friend in Jesus.” Very poor theology, a very bad understanding of sanctification. Now old Norman was not a theologian, he wasn’t even a Christian. He is Jewish and thought that if he wrote a Jesus song it would sell. Feel used anyone?
We probably don’t need to clutter God’s pulpit with any more sermons about winning over depression or improving our sex life or how to be financially prosperous. And we probably don’t need any more sermons about how God wants you to be happy. We need to return to the Book and preach it with all seriousness.
Biblical preaching must begin by calling all of us to repentance. No one can approach God until we repent. The word “repent” means to change or to change direction. 2 Chronicles 7:14 captures the meaning of the word well: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”Â
The sinner cannot come to Christ until he repents. (Acts 2:38)Â The Christian cannot be right with God if he does not repent of his sin (Matthew 11:20). The refusal of repentance brings about judgment to God’s church (Revelation 2:5). Could it be that today’s church is weak and stumbling because we refuse to repent? We have turned worship into a three-ringed circus. It has become billed as the best entertainment on Sunday morning. We promise warm fuzzy sermons and good advice. Sometimes the words of Scripture are harsh and judgmental and it needs to be said. But if one calls the lost to repent, we are labeled fundamentalist, narrow, old fashioned, or out of touch. We don’t want to be offensive and we don’t want to be a scandal. Jesus preached repentance and look at what happened to him!
We cannot be faithful to our call if we are not calling the world to repentance. But we cannot call the world to repentance until we repent of our worldliness and seek only God. I wonder if we ever will.