It just makes sense, doesn't it? If at one moment I'm going in the wrong direction, I MUST turn around before I can go in the other direction. That just makes sense.
I can't turn around without turning around. I can't go the other direction while still going the same direction.
What makes us think that it is any different with Jesus? I understand this truth: Jesus will accept you just as you are. I believe that. I believe that a person who has been walking in the complete opposite direction can come to Jesus with all of the pain and mire that he/she acquired along the way. However, in order for that person to come to Jesus, he/she must repent. To repent means to turn around—to make a U-turn. The prodigal son was welcomed home after his Vegas-fest of wild living and pig food buffet, but he had to leave in order to arrive home.
Have we dumbed down repentance for the sake of personal preference or personal feelings? Have we taken advantage of God's grace because we have been unwilling to call people to repent? "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4). Jesus tells us that repentance is key.
- "From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" - Matthew 4:17
- "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent."
- "'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" - Mark 1:15
- "They went out and preached that people should repent." - Mark 6:12
- "... But unless you repent, you too will all perish." - Luke 13:5
- "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who donot need to repent." - Luke 15:7
- "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" - Acts 2:38
- "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the LORD." - Acts 3:19
As I said before, I believe that Jesus will accept us just as we are. I have no doubt about that. However, repentance must precede returning to Christ. I cannot hold on to my sin or my old way of life like a little boy holds on to his blanket. I have to let it go.
I must turn before I return.