Repent – The Kingdom Of God Is At Hand
By Henry Blackaby
What was the essence of the preaching of Jesus? As the Son of God delivered the message from the heart of His Father, the first word out of His mouth was, “Repent” (Matt. 4:17). This was the essence of Jesus’ preaching.
When our Lord came, He had a very specific message for His people. As I go across this land and around the world, I am noticing something significant. There is a terrible neglect of preaching repentance to God’s people, and so God’s people are full of sin. Yet they cry for revival, and God essentially says, “No, no, no! You are full of sin. I want you to know that My arm is not short that it can’t save; My ear is not heavy and can’t hear, but your sin has come between you and Me, so I will not hear” (Isa. 59:1). Does He not say here that if you keep and guard sin in your heart, the Lord will not hear you? Surely a pastor should say, “I had better deal with sin in the life of God’s people.”
Some people feel that praying for revival is a substitute for repentance – that somehow God will be pleased if we ask Him to come in power. God says something like this: “I have been here all along, and I didn’t leave My power in heaven. The problem is not with Me. It is with you. You do not know how to recognize My presence. You are not responding to Me.” All the power of God, all the fullness of God, dwells in His Son who is the Head of your church. The problem is that we are not appropriating. We are not responding to His presence and His power.
“Repent” Is a Positive Word
So the first word out of the heart of Jesus to His people was “Repent!” That is not a negative word. It is the most positive word from the heart of God because God always accompanies it by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In other words, “Repent because the entire kingdom of God is right next to you waiting to be unfolded into your life.”
Genuine repentance is an awareness you are going in the wrong direction. Do you know why there is no power in your life? You are going in the wrong direction. It is spiritually impossible to be going with Christ and not experience the power of God.
The disciples had to leave what they were doing and go with Him, did they not? Peter couldn’t experience the power and the almighty presence of God and stay at his fish boats. He had to go with Jesus and be where He was. The reason that many of us are not experiencing the reality of the presence and power of God working clearly, observably, is because we are going in a self-centered direction and asking God to join us.
Understanding the Scriptures
Because Jesus was going to give His disciples His final instruction before He went back to the Father, “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Is that happening in your life? Are you spending significant time in the Word of God where God can open your understanding so that in your time in the Word of God you come face to face with God? Are you understanding Him as He reveals Himself in His Word? Are you letting God touch your mind and heart with the Scriptures?
The Lord Jesus felt that if there were some last things He would do to prepare His people for the mighty global activity of the Father, it would be that they must understand the Scriptures. They must see the activity and purpose of God as God has revealed them. Many Christians function more on what I call evangelical Christian humanism. That is when evangelical Christians reason out of their own heart and their own head with no Scripture. The world doesn’t need our best thinking; the world needs God’s revealed thinking.
Here is what Jesus did: He “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day’” (Luke 24:45-46). When I read it I began to say, “This Christ is living out His life in me, so there is going to be something that looks very similar to this in my own life.” Paul put it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). He didn’t just say Christ was crucified for him. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ.” But He also added: “Nevertheless, I live.” Did Christ die? Was He raised again? Did you die? Has the living, resurrection life of Christ flooded your life? Did God release any power in the Cross to give you victory over the consequences of sin and to give you victory over the power of sin? If there is no resurrection power, then sin has won. But Christ was raised from the dead, and there was released that same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This same power is given to everyone who believes (Eph. 1:18-21). Are you experiencing resurrection power? If you are in union with Christ, you are going to experience what He did.
In whole segments of our society, if you were to come with a powerful message on repentance to God’s people, they may be very harsh on you. They don’t want to hear that message. They want to hear that the whole kingdom of God is waiting to bless them. But the prerequisite to the kingdom of God is repentance. You have to get your life aligned with Him. The heart of God’s dealing with you and me is to deal with our sin. That is the essence of the reason He died.
Repentance and Revival
Revival is when the fullness of God returns to the people of God because they have repented from where they had been going to where God now wants them to be with Him. When you get right with God, you will experience the incredible presence and power of God. Do not ask God to come in power if you are not first going to ask Him to cleanse you and to make you holy and to make you the kind of person He could bring others to. If you are not seeing the power of God working in your life and through your life, there is something from which you need to ask God to deliver you and set you free. Is it your mind? your heart? your actions? What is it that doesn’t match the holiness of God?
Repentance means to say, “O God, don’t let me be casual or careless in my walk with You. Don’t let me ever be satisfied to live without Your expressed presence and power in my life. Whatever is hindering You from working, would You reveal it to me? And immediately I will repent of that.”
Most of us are just one prayer away from being totally yielded to God. Somehow we hesitate with that one simple prayer: “Lord, I yield everything in me to everything in You.” Some of you are saying, “I’m not going to stay where I have been. I am going to move to a whole new level of relationship to God. I want a new freshness with God.”
Jesus, You cried out to the people of Your day and in just a few short years those who responded came to experience what it is like for the whole kingdom of God to work through them and the whole of the Roman Empire was turned upside down. You don’t make it complicated. You just say, “Will you go with Me?” The disciples who were fishermen immediately joined You, and for the first time in their lives, they experienced what it was like to be present when Your kingdom came to open blind eyes and to heal the lepers and the crowds, and to still the storms.
O God, we want to be with You, so we release ourselves to You in everincreasing measure that it may be evident that we have heard You, we have turned back to You. You show us what we need to repent of – then a watching world will begin to see what happens when You revive Your people and attract a lost world to a Savior that they see in us. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
– Excerpted from the message “Revival Tarries Because Repentance Is Not Preached” given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2006.