The theme of this post is repentance, since that is the focus of all the chapters that we were assigned to read. We began reading our second book, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? by Walter Chantry, but I want to focus on ch. 13 of the Evangelism book. Called, “The Call of Repentance: Delivering the Message to the Conscience,” Tom Patton drives home the point that in most evangelistic opportunities, professing Christians do not mention the word nor the idea of repentance. In our day when saying anything negative or perceived to be ‘intolerant’ towards another view is, well, branded ‘intolerant,’ repentance becomes a teaching that is hard to maintain. The culture swims one way; the doctrine of repentance the exact opposite. This is the decline of our culture, and it has drastically infected the church to buy into its ‘morality.’
The case Pastor Patton makes is that repentance was a central element in the preaching of Jesus and the apostles, and was not to be limited in their time, but must continue to be taught, since man is still fallen and choose to ignore, suppress, and hate the truth of God. This is why it is rejected by many outside, and even inside, the church today: because of our fallen nature (Matthew 13:14). God’s character is not taken seriously because the church has not proclaimed it loudly to those who reject Him, leading to a mockery of the teaching of turning from sin, seeing it for what it is, and agreeing with God’s view of it. As he writes, “The essence of human lawlessness is an act of personal defiance against the character of God” (p.182). Because of this, what we need to all repent of primarily is the sin of unbelief. “Because the self-revelation of God and the call to conform to His likeness is at the heart of true biblical repentance, it follows that the foremost sin of which mankind must repent is the denial of God” (p.183).
He then focuses on 2 Corinthians 7:11 as a biblical profile of a truly repentant heart: earnest, eager, indignant about their sin, fear of God, longing, zeal towards holiness, and acceptance of any punishment deserved for what they did. Repentance is a change of mind and a change of direction in lifestyle. You cannot be a Christian without there being change taking place. What has been helpful is knowing that every person I know has either repented for their unbelief, or have yet to do so, and so I must call them to turn from that sin and believe fully in God by way of Jesus Christ.
Coming to Chantry’s book reminded me how good this book is. He doesn’t pull any punches. He lays out the state of evangelism among evangelicals and decries its shallow call to come to Christ. Of course, it isn’t good that evangelicalism has a hard time getting the evangel part right. However, having the right diagnosis is sorely needed in order for the right cure to be administered. Chantry’s diagnosis is primarily a lack of biblical teaching on repentance in our evangelism, leading to the bad fruit of ‘carnal Christians.’
How he seeks to remedy this is by expositing Mark 10:17-27 on the rich young ruler. The first chapter, ‘Preaching the Character of God,’ deals with how the rich young ruler approached Jesus, calling Him ‘Good Master’ when he didn’t know who he was speaking to. Jesus rebukes him for even associating a human being with goodness in their nature, apart from God. He had a stronger desire for pleasing the Father than loving the rich young ruler. We, too, must have this same desire as we preach the attributes of God to non-believers.
Chapter 2, ‘Preaching the Law of God,’ addresses the misnomer that the law is against love and that we should not, in preaching the Gospel, talk about God’s law. This, however, goes against the way Jesus approached the rich young ruler. This person would be celebrated today for his simple interest in coming to speak with Jesus, and asking how he can receive Christ. Imagine a famous actor coming to you, asking you how to receive eternal life; would you rebuke Jesus in how He answered the rich young ruler? The law is explained by Chantry as being an extension of love, especially since the law can be summed up as loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40), and how that looks like in daily life with the ten commandments. By this, we can confidently preach God’s law as an act of love in revealing to those around us where exactly we fall short of glorifying God, and how that demands punishment against us. If people do not know they are sinners, they will never see their need for a savior.
The third chapter, ‘Preaching Repentance Toward God,’ Chantry drives home the point that Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to simply believe in Him, but He calls him to turn from the lifestyle he was living, and follow Christ. The reason He did this was because of how idolatrous the rich young ruler was towards his riches. Jesus is warning him to turn from his lawless ways, or he will perish. Here is a helpful quote:
“[T]he Bible knows of no such grotesque creature as one who is saved but unrepentant. No illegitimate sons will enter God’s kingdom. They must have faith as their mother. But they must also have repentance as their father…Men must be confronted with Christ’s ultimatum to the ruler: repent or perish at the hands of a holy God whose perfect law you have criminally despised. Jettison your sin or God will cast you out of his sight.” (pp.44-45).
As we preach, we need to remember that to be with Christ now and forever, there must be an abandonment of sin in the life of the sinner. They are to admit their sin, turn from their evil direction, and go to the Savior as one who cannot do anything to save himself. He must come with empty hands of faith, trusting completely in the righteous life of Christ, and believe truly that He died on the cross to pay sin’s penalty, rising to life eternal, calling all to come and follow Him now and forevermore.