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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 13, 2003

Healing through repentance

By Tim Moynihan

Probably the most neglected doctrine of the Christian faith is the doctrine of repentance. Yet repentance is one of the key tenets of the Gospel.

In his first sermon in Mark 1:15, Jesus says: "The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the gospel."

Repent and believe. His final sermon in Luke 24:47, contains the phrase "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all the nations."

Then why is the doctrine of repentance so neglected by the modern church? First, we need to understand what repentance is. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "to feel remorse, contrition or self-reproach"; "to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it"; "to make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins."

How unlike our popular culture of self-esteem! Or our popular religious culture of self-fulfillment and prosperity. When was the last time you saw a church advertisement that said, "Come visit and we will make you feel ashamed of yourself?" But repent we must because repentance is obedience. Jesus said if you love me, you will obey me. Obedience is not legalism, it's love.

Jesus had no qualms about shaming people about their sin. Jesus rebuked Peter, calling him Satan. He called the Pharisees hypocrites. In John 4:5-26, he confronts a Samaritan woman about her false religion, her ex-husbands and the boyfriend she was living with. While he refused to condemn her, he told her to "go and sin no more." He was trying to get people to see their sin as God saw it — shameful, so they would repent.

Repentance is politically incorrect, cutting through the barriers of culture, ethnicity, social position and sexuality.

In Acts 17:30, Paul is preaching in Athens. Athens was the ancient world's center of education, philosophy and the arts. It was a religious city. But Paul's message to Athens was that God "now commands all men every where to repent." America is the modern Athens — educated, philosophical, artistic and religious. Paul's message to America is that God "now commands all men every where to repent."

The church must lead the way in repentance. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, it says: "If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." He is saying to those who call themselves "Christian" that it is their responsibility to repent so the nation can be healed. It's not secular America that needs to repent, it's the church.

We won't change our nation with political action groups, lawyers or lobbyists. We need to repent and get back to prayer and evangelism. Only then can we be salt and light to this generation.

Tim Moynihan is the pastor of the Potter's House Christian Fellowship in Honolulu. Expressions of Faith is a column that welcomes written works by leaders in faith and spirituality. E-mail faith@honoluluadvertiser.com or call 525-8035. Works may be published or distributed in print, electronic or other forms.