How often a parent has to say to a child something like – That was naughty, now say sorry.
It’s all very well saying sorry, but that is not the same as repentance which also involves a turning round in life to live differently.
There is quite a lot in the Gospels about repentance; it is one of the central themes in preaching and a vital element in the Good News.
David’s moment of repentance following the affair with Bathsheba was a turning point in his life. Our readings this week look at this theme in the life and preaching of Jesus and the Apostles.
Each day’s reading is a quotation from J. C. Ryle – a great writer of the C19th and the first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool.
vv14-15. Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
This is the old sermon which all faithful witnesses of God have continually preached from the beginning of the world. From Noah down to the present day the burden of their address has always been the same: “Repent and believe.”
The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, when he left them for the last time, that the substance of his teaching among them had been ‘the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.’ (Acts 20:21) He had the best of precedents for such teaching. The great head of the church had given him a pattern. Repentance and faith were the foundation stones of Christ’s ministry – repentance and faith must always be the main subjects of every faithful minister’s instruction.
We need not wonder at this, if we consider the necessities of human nature. All of us are by nature born in sin and children of wrath, and need to repent, be converted and born again, if we would see the Kingdom of God. All of us are by nature guilty and condemned before God, and all must flee to the hope set before us in the Gospel, and believe in it, if we would be saved. All of us, once penitent, need daily stirring up to deeper repentance. All of us, through believing, need constant exhortation to increased faith.
Let us ask ourselves what we know of this repentance and faith. Have we felt our sins and forsaken them? Have we laid hold on Christ and believed? We may reach Heaven without learning, or riches, or health, or worldly greatness. But we shall never reach heaven if we die impenitent and unbelieving.