How to Preach Repentance Like It’s Good News

Author: Ray Hollenbach via http://www.sermoncentral.com

Sometimes even preachers find themselves trapped within popular culture ideas—even of Biblical concepts. I think that’s the case with a very Biblical word: repent. Some of us jump to fire-and-brimstone: “First you have to deliver the bad news before you can bring the good news.” Others, who want to avoid unpleasantness in the pulpit, avoid the word altogether.

But what if there’s a third way? Perhaps you could try this approach the next time you preach about repentance:

Imagine receiving a message so good that it caused you to rethink your entire life. The bank made a mistake years ago calculating your mortgage and now suddenly you discover your house is paid off, or a total stranger has paid off your student loans. your abusive husband has turned a corner and now treats you like a queen; the doctors call to say the diagnosis was wrong, and you don’t have cancer after all.

All of these examples represent the best kind of news: no more coupon-clipping; your future is no longer clouded by debt; no more walking on eggshells, afraid that some trivial event will anger your spouse; your fears of endless treatments and medicines vanish in a moment. The good news has come from afar and has pitched its tent with you. The old reality is gone, and new day is born. But you quickly discover a problem: the morning after the good news arrives you wake up still worried about money, still afraid that your husband will relapse, or you wake up in a sweat thinking about hospitals and death. And we immediately understand why: we have spent months, even years, thinking about life based upon our problems. Financial woes are daily woes. Fear of abuse is factored into every choice you make. Health concerns are like a houseguest who has moved in forever. Old habits die hard, and the habits of the mind must be taken to the cross. This is the meaning of repentance.

To receive good news, to really receive it—to take it in and discover a new freedom—requires a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking has a Biblical name: repentance. I know: you thought repentance meant remorse, determination, trying harder or feeling guilty. Someone has lied to you. At its very core the word “repent” means rethink your life. The trick is: you have to have a valid reason to rethink your life. A positive mental attitude is not enough; simply trying harder won’t change your world. There must be some hard-core reality that changes the equation, wipes away the past or presents a future filled with joy. Better yet, all three. Jesus presented this hard-core reality when he said, “The Kingdom of God is breaking in. Right here, right now.” He wasn’t describing some new program or advocating a new philosophy. Jesus proclaimed the world would be forever different because God had come down, and he would do whatever was necessary to set people free.

God would not be stopped: the old order of things was condemned, and a new order was made real. He invited us to move to the side of victory with these words: “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.”

Grace comes with good news and a requirement: Rethink your life because everything has changed. Repentance is a rational response to God’s grace.

„Repent” is the first word of the good news. Belief comes as we help our listeners rethink a way of life based upon what God has already done. Good news requires that we rethink our way of life—have you preached this kind of repentance?

Reclame

Randy Alcorn – Gospel and Niceness

Randy Alcorn is featured over at http://www.sermoncentral.com/ with this article:

When Gianna Jessen (an abortion survivor) spoke at our church recently, she said many memorable things. The one I’ve been thinking about most is to be a follower of Christ you need to be willing to be hated.

I agree.

Of course, this does NOT mean being hateful. Nor does it mean seeking to be hated. Or having a persecution complex, so you think people don’t like you because you’re following Christ, when they actually don’t like you because of how you’re acting.

I am all for graciousness, kindness and servant-hearted love as we speak the truth. I seek to practice this with the non-Christians I’m around. But at some point the greatest kindness we can offer them, coming out of a life of humility and faithfulness to Christ, is the good news about Jesus. That good news actually involves some very bad news about human sinfulness, which is what makes the cross an offense, meaning that it ticks people off.

The danger comes when we live in such fear of being mislabeled that we don’t step forward as unapologetic and unashamed all-out followers of Jesus. They can call us Jesus freaks or ignorant or uncool or intolerant or anything they want; that’s fine. We should do what we believe pleases our Lord, regardless of how it pans out in opinion polls. That includes loving others and giving radically and ministering to the down and out and addressing addictions and saying we think it’s wrong to kill children of all ages and helping people find alternatives. We do such things not seeking the approval of our culture, but of our King.

Alcorn makes these important points in his article. Note especially #3.:

  1. If we seek our culture’s approval, we’ll either never get it or get it only at the expense of failing to represent Christ.
  2. Among some believers the new definition of a good Christian is holding your beliefs privately, not challenging those who publicly share beliefs that dishonor Christ, and avoiding controversy at all costs lest we be perceived as “those kind of Christians” who hate gays, oppose abortion, favor inquisitions and love to burn witches.
  3. There is nothing new or postmodern about the gospel turning some people off. As D. L. Moody said when someone criticized his approach to evangelism, “I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t do it.”It is not gracious and kind to withhold the gospel from those who, according to Jesus, are going to hell without Him. Sometimes what we imagine to be our graciousness and kindness is actually indifference or cowardice.

    “All men will hate you because of me.” Mark 13:13

    “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18

Read the article in full here –  http://www.sermoncentral.com/

Evangelism is not….apologetics, social justice, personal testimony…

Dr. Kevin Shrum has been in ministry for 29 years, currently pastors Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is an Adjunct Professor of Theology for Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.Posted on Churchleaders.com, Dr. Shrum explains why some actions are not evangelism  and some are just pre evangelism:

Evangelism is…

So what is evangelism? Evangelism is a believer sharing the person/claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a person who has yet to believe the claims of the Gospel or trust the person at the center of the Gospel – Jesus Christ. The Gospel is „that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 10:9-13) The Gospel is clearly stating what God has done in Christ for the sinner, calling for repentance and belief. To fail to do this is to fail at evangelism. All the other dimensions of church life are but outgrowths and/or complements to the Gospel itself.

Evangelism is not…

1. Evangelism is not denominational renewal, reconstruction, or even deconstruction.

Sometimes, these are necessary to advance the cause of evangelism, but they are not evangelism.

2. Evangelism is not inviting people to church or an evangelistic event.

Inviting people to events is important, but it’s not evangelism – it is pre-evangelism.

3. Evangelism is not imposing our will or beliefs on another person.

We make no apologies for attempting to persuasively make the case for Christianity. But in the end, only God can change the human heart.

4. Evangelism is not personal testimony.

A personal testimony does not save a sinner. The Gospel does. It’s quite right to support a Gospel presentation with what the Gospel has done in one’s life. Yet, we must never confuse the Gospel itself with a personal testimony.

5. Evangelism is not social work/justice or political involvement.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking social justice, feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, and addressing institutional-political injustices. But social justice, food in a hungry belly, and a jacket on the back of a homeless man do not prepare that soul for eternity. Good deeds complement the Gospel enterprise; they do not replace it.

6. Evangelism is not doing apologetics in order to win an argument.

Apologetics is a necessary part of the Christian mission. Apologetics can help answer questions and remove intellectual objections, but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change the heart.

7. Evangelism is not the results of evangelism.

It is very easy to get caught up in numbers in the church business. And numbers are important. Even Jesus told three successive stories involving numbers in Luke 15 – one lost sheep, one lost coin, and two lost sons. But souls are not notches in our belt or numbers on our denominational charts. „One” represents a precious soul for whom Christ died. This means that we are to communicate the Gospel regardless of the results – God alone takes care of the results.

8. Evangelism is not church planting.

Church planting is biblical and necessary. Many church plants succeed at a higher rate of growth than already established churches. But it’s not because of the magical words – „church plant.” The reason church plants grow fast for a season is because the believers of that new church have been reminded of the basics of one person sharing the Good News with another person.

Read the entire article at www.churchleaders.com

The ironic thing about legalism is that it not only doesn’t make people work harder, it makes them give up

via Resurgence.com Original post at GospelCoalition.org by Tullian Tchividjian

Law Crushes, Gospel Cures

The law is impotent–it has no strength, it has no power, it offers us nothing. Sinners already are powerless to obey the demands of the law, and the law offers them no assistance–absolutely none. Law apart from gospel can only crush. It can’t cure.

So, the law serves us by showing us how to love God and others. But we fail to do this every day. And when we fail, it is the gospel which brings comfort by reminding us that God’s infinite approval of us doesn’t depend on our keeping of the law but on Christ’s keeping of the law for us. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less!

As Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.” Indeed, it is “the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Read entire post here – GospelCoalition.org

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