“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this you did not repent and believe him.”
One of the threads which has been woven through the preaching and teaching ministry which I have been engaged in over the first half of this year has been God’s call for us to be a people who are repentant. In every aspect of our fellowship together the Lord seems to be calling us to a genuine repentance. When we preach the Gospel to those who do not know the Lord it is natural for us to call them to repent. We reason, and rightly so, that they are lost in sin, and therefore must be made right with God, in Christ. I well remember the delight with which I heard John Stott speak, several years ago, at a preaching conference, as he outlined the calling which we have to engage those who are lost in sin with the Gospel call for them to repent and believe the Gospel of Christ. It seems that this is the message of God’s word here in Matthew 21:28-32. Jesus tells a parable about two sons who were asked to go out and labour in the vineyard. One said he would go, but didn’t, the other refused, but repented and went. Jesus asks the key question here, “Which of these two did what his Father wanted?” The whole point of the parable was obedience to the Father’s will. Jesus then goes on to speak about those who seem to be so far outside of the Kingdom of God, the tax collectors and the prostitutes who despite their sordid past heard the Gospel, repented, and were saved, simply because they repented and believed Christ. This is God’s desire for each of us that we would repent and believe. In this way we enter into the Kingdom of God. Our past does not matter. How often do we allow it to hold us back? In Christ it has been forgiven for all who turn from their sin and believe the Gospel. In the biographies of john and Charles Wesley we read about one of their habits of ministry. This was to go to the gallows on execution days to preach the Gospel to the condemned. Any who repented and believed were given assurance of their salvation. What a wonderful practice, following in the footsteps of our Lord Himself who on his own cross preached the words of repentance and assurance to one of the men condemned with Him. What prevents us from going out and proclaiming the Gospel to those we meet each day?
There is something deeper here however. This message of repentance is not just a onetime thing. It is a calling to a repentant lifestyle. C. John Miller uses a delightful phrase in his Outgrowing the Ingrown Church. He writes about our repentance deepening. As a believer we have become engaged in a lifelong process of sanctification which involves a constant commitment to repenting and walking with the Lord. When Jesus issues His call to repentance He is calling more than the unbelievers around us. He is calling the Church. We are being called to Biblical Self examination and confession of sin. We are called to constantly walk more closely with the Lord, that His grace and power might be seen in us. We are called to follow the example of Moses, and Daniel, and Paul who interceded for the sins of their people by confession those sins as if they were their own. What would happen in our city, province, nation, or world if believers truly began to live out this deepening repentance?
Let’s find out together, shall we.