This last Sunday saw me doing something I had no idea I would do: publically repenting over a microphone at church while inviting the congregation to make the prayer theirs too – or join in with their own.
Because I was totally overwhelmed by the cross once again. Totally convinced of the central part our own repentance plays in God moving in power in our lives, and us being able to experience more of his presence.
Why am I sharing this?
Certainly not to boast – the almost involuntary action came from a sudden, immense realisation of the tarnished state of my own heart. I am not proud of what I saw.
But I am convinced of our need for continued repentance as believers. And also worried that the concept of repentance isn't preached so much anymore.
We can fall into the trap of dressing up the concept in all sorts of fancy terms for those who do not yet believe. Telling people who live in a self-centred, self-sufficient society that unless they recognise they are sinners and cannot live without surrendering to Jesus seems almost offensive. But isn't that the gospel? Isn't that the good news? Like the pearl of great price, our salvation costs us everything – but gives us so much more.
I am worried, too, that we don't talk much about holding short accounts with God. We don't often acknowledge that we have a tendency, as fallen humans, to sin – and, as Christians, we still have that battle to face every day. And what about the need to keep our hearts softened towards the Holy Spirit, so that we can hear his whispers?
I have spent time editing Bible study notes, and was dismayed when I was asked to tone down the language – finding alternatives for words like 'sin' and 'repentance' because they can turn readers off. While I understand the need to be relevant, surely teaching that strikes at the heart is exactly what we need?
What did Peter teach, after the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit we read about in Acts?
"Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:38)
And what did Jesus himself say?
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17)
How dangerous it can be to tone down or forget the very message our Saviour preached.