In churches across the nation today, the wonderful, life-changing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ has somehow been denigrated into a nice little "feel good" message of encouragement. They tell about God's love, and His blessings, and how to cope with life's stresses, but seldom do they talk about repentance.
True repentance is necessary for salvation; not merely sorrow that one's sins are known, but remorse and regret for sin. Not of specific sins, but of being sinful, and having a knowledge that all sin is detested by a pure and holy God; a knowledge that our sins are against God, as well as others. True repentance causes us such contrition, such Godly sorrow, that we are willing to turn away from our sin, to go in the opposite direction.
Rather than teach this powerful truth for the salvation of people's souls, these "believe and receive" preachers, with their "name it and claim it" promises, are deceiving people by the thousands as they compromise the life-changing truth of the Holy Scriptures. While they preach their uplifting "feel-good about yourself" message, they tell people, 'Just believe, and you'll be saved.' But that is not true, by itself. The Bible tells us the "devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19)
It takes more than merely belief to be born again, it takes repentance on our part and regeneration by the Holy Ghost. We cannot regenerate ourselves. General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said this: "The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and Heaven without Hell."
Does that sound like our world today? When was the last time you heard a mighty preaching on the power of the Holy Ghost? Today's preachers are so afraid of offending a sinner that they won't preach against sin.
The apostles preached the powerful truth at Pentecost, causing people to feel the sting of sin in their hearts, making them cry out, 'What must we do?' Peter, the great apostle, told them plainly:
"Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Over 3,000 people were saved that day, not by the power of the disciples, but by the power of the message of repentance.
The main message of these false teachers is one of wealth and prosperity in the world today, which is a direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus himself, who said in John 16:33:
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Christ's message was that Christians would have tribulations, or troubles, in this world. Our wealth and rewards are not in this life, as these preachers would have us believe, so much as in the life to come. The message being preached far too often these days is focused entirely on what you can get from God: "You can have it all, you deserve it, because, after all, you are a child of God, and He wants His children to have the very best".
This kind of preaching perverts the salvation message in the worst way. Where is repentance in this message? Where is obedience? Where is taking up your cross, and following Jesus? In Matt. 16:24, Jesus said:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Deny himself... not indulge all his earthly desires. Putting aside one's own thoughts, wants, and even needs, to follow Jesus. Taking up one's cross, bearing the burden, rather than asking Jesus to remove it.
We know that we are saved by faith, not by works. But there can be no
salvation without repentance. Jesus himself said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He never preached, in the entire time He spent on this earth, a message of 'living your best life". Instead, He preached repentance: that His followers should count the cost, deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow in His own footsteps. His message was one of repentance that leads to salvation.
Yes, Jesus did say, in John 10:10 : "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." But He wasn't talking about worldly riches. He himself was a poor carpenter's son. His disciples were poor and lowly working class men; fishermen, tax collectors, and such. Obviously, His message didn't include wealth and prosperity to all. Don't you think His earliest and greatest disciples would have had wealth, if that was Christ's plan and purpose? Do you think all but one of them would be violently killed at young ages, if His message was one of peace and prosperity?
I've heard so many preachers say: "If you have a need in your life, come up to the altar and bring it to Jesus. He will meet your every need." Now I ask you, who is there that does NOT have a need in their life? A need for healing, for themselves or a loved one. A need for finacial help, for a job, for love and companionship, for understanding and acceptance. I doubt there is any human being who does not have a variety of needs in their life.
Jesus did promise to meet our physical needs, but not the way these preachers are teaching. Read the beautiful words of Matthew 6:25-32:
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yout your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why think about raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they
spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? herefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, with what hall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Christ's message was always "Seek first the kingdom of God,and his righteousness." When we are actively seeking the Kingdom of God is when we realize that we don't have to worry about our material needs. We have the assurance that He will provide.
The message of Jesus addressed the deepest need any person will ever have: the need for a Savior. In comparision to this need, all other needs fade into nothingness, There is no greater need in all the world, than this. And that is precisely why Jesus came. He said, in Luke 19:10: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
While on this earth, Jesus healed the sick, and even raised the dead, but He did not promise to do so in every single instance. He made the lame walk, and made the blind see, and the mute speak, but He never promised to always do so. What He did promise to always do was to forgive any sinner that came to Him with a humble and repentant heart. Psalm 34:18 promises us "The LORD is near those who have a broken heart; and He saves those who have a contrite spirit."
When these prosperity preachers preach, where is the contrition? Where is the Godly sorrow that leads to repentance? (see II Cor. 7:10) Don't they know that the Bible says that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, that God will not hear our prayer? If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: (Psalm 66:18)
Our sin separates us from God. Indeed, Isaiah 59:2 tells us: "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, that He will not hear."
The greatest need any person ever has is the need for salvation. That requires repentance,Godly sorrow for sins, and recognition that we cannot save oursleves; that without the precious blood of Jesus we have no hope. We don't need messages about how to live our best life now; we NEED the powerful truth of God's own Word, messages about sin and repentance and forgiveness through Christ Jesus.
Let's not pervert the truth of God's Word, deceiving thousands of people into turning the eternal truths of God into some kind of fairy tale; let's not turn our loving Father into some kind of fairy Godfather who grants our every wish and gives us everything we could possibly desire to make us happy and prosperous in this world. God isn't interested so much in making us happy and prosperous as He is in making us holy and righteous.
All around us, there are people in desperate need of the truth. The gospel, pure and unadulterated, has the power to change lives, far more than any nice, uplifting messages that tickle our ears and encourage us to "live your best life now". We have watered down the truth so much that we've forgotten about the terrible wrath of God awaiting the great judgment day. We must be willing to both hear and speak the truth, without watering down His message.
The message of repentance for sin is one that we all need to hear.
Ray Comfort has a song in one of his messages, to the tune of "Battle
Hymn Of The Republic". The words are a sad warning to all Christians today: Listen to these words:
Song © Ray Comfort Ministries; used with permission
Our eyes have lost the glory of the coming of the Lord,
We have watered down our message, now the gospel is ignored;
No longer is it warning of a swift and flaming sword;
That truth is almost gone.
The law is just and holy; it is perfect, right and good,
But the churches fail to use it as the Bible says they should:
It's to show how God is holy, and to reach them, every word;
That truth is almost gone.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat,
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet!
Such truth is almost gone!