Christianity Without Repentance is Dead

A look at the necessity of a borderline scary word

Repentance. It’s one of those borderline scary church words, isn’t it? I truly believe the statement is true: Christianity without repentance is dead. Why? Because repentance is fundamental to not only initial transformation, but it is also fundamental to the every day faith journey of Christ followers.

Christianity Without Repentance is Dead

The kitchen door in my grandmother’s house is a bit of a death trap. It’s one that swings both into the kitchen and into the dining room. It’s usually left open, but there are times where it’ll get to swinging. When it does, it’ll swing back and forth and then come to rest completely closed.

Christianity Without Repentance is Dead

Why do I tell you that? Because it represents a picture of our hearts. Before Christ, we were all on a scale ranging from closed off to anything spiritual to open to anything spiritual. The latter can be specifically dangerous with the real power of the occult. The former can be specifically dangerous as the heart is very much hardened to anything that sounds beyond materialism. 

When a sinner meets their Savior – truly encounters Him – they should be cut to the heart and one of their responses to God’s grace through Jesus should be repentance. In fact, it is vital. What is repentance? It’s a change of mind, a change of heart toward one’s own sin. And as a result, their heart opens to the truth, power, and convicting glory of God. It is here – a repentant life – where the response to God’s grace may continue through confession and baptism.

See the Nuance

Now, you have to see the nuance here. You come to Christ as you are. You come to Christ, also, in repentance – laying everything behind you and looking to Jesus. How does this work? Well, life change begins when the Holy Spirit enters a sin infested life and begins to clean up the effects of sin reigning supreme for so long.

The blood of Christ justifies and the Spirit of God sanctifies. In other words, the blood of Christ covers your debt of sin, releasing you from its condemnation, and putting to death your old self so that death no longer reigns. The Holy Spirit begins, then, to grow the fruit of the Spirit within you. But, as you know, your inner being still suffers from the effects of sin reigning for so long. So, the Spirit begins to convict you of sins that are still having their effects in you. The Spirit begins to prune you so that your life can bear fruit. 

Orientation of the Heart

For so many, Christianity is simply a belief in God. It is simply a well, I believe in God statement of faith that represents the epitome of apathy (I wrote more on that here). For Christianity to continue, we must elevate the call to repentance in a world that is full of people who are really good at compartmentalizing their faith. 

Christianity is more than a belief statement in God, it’s a belief system, worldview, and way of life. It impacts every crevice of your life. Nothing in your life is outside of the impact of Christ in you. The interesting thing about us humans is that we are all deeply longing for purpose, yet too often our longing doesn’t result in true pursuit of that purpose. If it did, people who come to Christ would see that their ultimate purpose is surrendering to and serving the One true God. 

Christianity without repentance is dead because a person who has not changed their mind and heart about their own sin will continue to return to it willingly and gladly! Christianity then becomes a belief statement because the door of their life has not been opened, it has been bumped and has returned to where it sat prior. 

If you don’t have faith that is followed by repentance you won’t have a faith that works. It won’t work in both senses of the word.

Faith in the Real God Makes Repentance Automatic

The only reason why someone would come to Christ without repentance is because they have not encountered the real Christ. What they’re doing is elevating their favorite sin above the King of kings. That’s called idolatry, my friend. In fact, at its most fundamental level, it’s elevating one’s own self above the King of kings. Not good.

We have lost sense of the glory of God in our time. We have lost sight of the infinite power and reign of God. We have allowed our culture’s focus on self penetrate our minds and soul to where that is our focus – ourselves. We have, in our minds, become more important than the worship of the Creator of the Universe. 

What if we got a glimpse of what it’s like to naturally respond to God in faith and repentance? What if we could witness a person encountering God and see his response? Wouldn’t that help us in seeing how our reaction should be when we are confronted with the power and glory of God? I think so.

Isaiah 6:1-7:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (emphasis mine)

Woe is me. I am lost. I am unclean. I have seen God. I am unworthy.

Isaiah encountered God and at the same time encountered his sin in the purest way possible. He saw his deeds in comparison to the utter perfection and glory of God. 

Christianity without repentance is dead because the only person who could possibly come to Christ without repentance is someone who doesn’t truly believe they need a Lord and Savior, they think they need a get-out-of-Hell card. A card gives them license to sin without consequence. The Lord and Savior of the Universe convicts and calls people to surrender and a reorientation of their entire lives.

Repentance doesn’t mean that you won’t sin. That’s not the point. You’ll still sin. But your desires will begin to be oriented away from sin and toward God. You’ll choose to say no to temptation.

You’ll fail. But you’ll also prevail. The battle will go on and you’ll fight with the Spirit of God empowering you.

And through Jesus, you will overcome the world.

Further Study

Bible Study Tools – Bible Verses on Repentance

100 Verses About Repentance

Thoughts on Jesus’s Demand to Repent – by John Piper

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Brandon is the Spiritual Development Pastor at The Crossing, a church plant on the east side of Cincinnati. He is the author of Crucified to Life and Preaching Sticky Sermons. His passion is helping people discover hope and transformation in Christ. He & his wife, Sara & their daughters, Kairea & Piper, live on the east side of Cincinnati with their two dogs.

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