To start with I want to clarify that when we’re talking about “church” in this section of Kingdomology, we’re talking about the CHURCH universal. We’re talking about the connection that all Christ followers have across the world and for all time. We’re not talking about a local body of believers like First Christian Church in Liverpool, NY. In other words, these are the folks who live in different parts of the world and from different time frames that may or may not have slightly different scriptural interpretations than me, but are still in the same family of God by grace alone. We’re still Kingdom of Heaven Citizens. I do believe there is a place for local body church membership. But that’s another post. For now though, there is another point which the Bible includes as being part of the admission to God’s Church, and that point deals with ‘repentance.”
Repentance is a harsh word for the modern Western world. While multitudes in our age profess a belief in God and many times even in Jesus, a radical change to actually follow Christ is often absent. Jesus himself stated that “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Wow, did he say ‘Perish?” So it sounds like this is something that we ought to be clear on. The Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words describes repentance as the changing of the mind or to “adopt another view.” The modern term also derives from an old Greek Military term used to mean doing an “about face.” So the picture is of soldiers going one direction and then doing a “repent” and then going another direction. For our purposes here, the term describes a turning from oneself to Christ. That’s actually a big point there. It’s really about who’s boss, us or Christ?
We see this a number of times in Acts where people are called to, or choose themselves to repent and turn from their former ways and follow Christ. In Acts chapter 2, the convicted crowd asks what they need to do and Peter tells them to repent. There are places where Jesus tells the crowd to “repent and believe the good news.” In John 8 a woman is caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. Everyone knows this is a set up to actually catch Christ, but he steps in to the situation anyway and turns the wrath away from the woman. Most people stop right there and use this as a proof text for not judging. But Jesus finishes up the passage by telling the woman to “leave her life of sin.”
A perfect Biblical illustration of this is found in Acts 19:19 where some folks who came to faith in Christ burnt their sorcery scrolls which were worth about 50 thousand drachmas. A drachma was a silver coin worth about a days’ wage. In short, these folks not only had a head knowledge of what it means to come to Christ and be in His Church, but they repented and completely turned from their past sin. Here again we see a huge missing element in much of the pop Christianity of our day. The real deal of being a Christ follower and part of His Church is a complete break from the past. By this I’m not talking about leaving old friends, but old practices of rebellion against God. That is what repentance is all about. Some areas of repentance are clear. If a couple is living together and come to Christ, then they need to abstain sexually before they get married. That’s cut and dry. Others are trickier and have to do with individual consciences. For me, I remember an occasion of personal revival about 20 years ago where I chucked all my Pink Floyd and Classic rock albums because I believed they were standing in the way of a closer walk with Christ. Either way, to come into the Church of God calls for a change, it calls for repentance. So there you have it, now the ball’s in your court now.