Over the last few days at groupbiblestudy.com, we have been thinking about revival, so today, we need to look at our part in bringing revival to our town or city. Genuine Holy Spirit-led revival always starts with repentance. What is repentance? George Kurian, the Christian scholar and historian, defines repentance as "contrition, the acknowledgment, and condemnation of one's sins together with a turning back toward God… it includes sorrow, confession, and a determination not to sin again" (Nelsons New Christian Dictionary, p. 654).
Most people are familiar with the Holy Spirit coming on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and powerfully filling the disciples. Peter stood up and preached the Gospel, and the Word of God cut the hearts of 3,000 people when they began to see their leader's rejection of the Messiah. They responded, "'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized 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). Mark records Jesus’ first words of ministry this way; "'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15). The only way into the kingdom of God is repentance toward God and to receive the substitutionary death of Christ as God's payment for your sin.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Sin and Hell are married unless repentance proclaims the divorce.” Do not allow yourselves false repentance, for many people who appear to repent are like sailors who throw their goods overboard in a storm and wish for them again in a calm.” The Jews in Jesus’ day didn't have to ask what the Lord meant by calling for repentance, for before Jesus came on the scene, His forerunner, John the Baptist, had been calling for the nation's repentance.
John preached a baptism of repentance and urged people to turn their hearts to God. In times of revival, when the Spirit of God is moving powerfully, people will go miles to hear biblical teaching from a man of God who will speak the truth of God to them. This desire for the unadulterated truth is why many went to see John the Baptist in the dry, barren wilderness by the River Jordan. John's ministry of calling Israel to repentance was written about in a prophetic word through Isaiah:
3And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 4as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6And all people will see God’s salvation.’” 7So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8"Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9"Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:3-9 Emphasis mine).
In those days, when a king came to a particular land (v. 5), his servants would arrive first and command the roads to be repaired so that there were no potholes, fallen rocks on the road, or to widen the road if needed for the king's chariot to get through. The highways were to be straight, and the way was to be made smooth. John's preaching declared that we must get the rocks out of the way for the path for the Messiah.
I don't know about you, but I am longing for Jesus to come; but before He comes, I dream of seeing a genuine move of the Spirit bringing millions of people to the Kingdom of God. If we want the presence and revival power of the Lord in our day, He doesn't come without His church getting things right with Him through repentance. Let's think more about this tomorrow. Keith Thomas