Repentance ~ A Message For The Church
~ Repentance ~
A Message For The Church
By Rodney W. Francis
In a day when so much is heard in the Church about “revival,” we must not overlook the fact that true revival will never come until first there is a spirit of repentance in the lives of Christians. The Holy Spirit will never anoint the “flesh,” nor will He glorify the works of man ~ but He does move wherever there is a true spirit of repentance in the hearts of His people. One of the tragedies of this hour is that there are too many people professing to be Christians who cannot discern the difference between the “flesh life” and the life in the Holy Spirit. And wherever this is so you will never find true heart repentance!
THE PEOPLE OF NINEVEH
The people of Nineveh in the days of Jonah were a people that could not “discern between their right hand and their left hand” (Jonah 4:11) . . . yet when they heard the Word of the Lord (not in the letter), they really repented! They were a heathen people; had never had any “spiritual” upbringing . . . they worshipped idols, but knew nothing of the true and living God. They lived according to the flesh ~ knew nothing else. Yet when Jonah went to them by the Word of the Lord, they heard, and they believed ~ and repented with all their hearts! (Jonah 3). Everyone from the king down repented, fasted, prayed and cried mightily unto God ~ and God heard them, and spared them from the promised judgment.
(Poor Jonah gets blamed for a lot of things; but if you look at his life correctly, you will see that he was probably the most “successful” evangelist in the Bible. And he preached a message that never came to pass!)
THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
Let us compare the Ninevites of Jonah’s day with the Israelites of Jesus’ day. There is a message here for the Church. Jonah went to an absolute heathen people; yet at the Word of God they repented and got right with the Lord. Jesus (the very Word made flesh) “came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Israel had been “trying by self effort” to follow the true and living God for generations. They were not “ignorant heathens” like the people of Nineveh; yet spiritually they were just the same! Nineveh was evil and adulterous ~ so was Israel. Israel was bound and blinded by her religious traditions and customs, by the letter of the law . . . so much so that when their Messiah (Jesus Christ) came, they did not recognize Him! Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Word of the Lord. His message was a message of repentance. But Israel would not repent! She trusted in her own self-righteousness. Even Nicodemus, as learned as he was in the Jews religion, revealed in his conversation with Jesus that really he was as ignorant as the Ninevites regarding the ways of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-12). Jesus told him he had to be born-again ~ by the Holy Spirit! (see also 1 Corinthians 2).
DISCERNING THE SIGN!
In Jesus’ day the Israelites were always seeking a sign from Him. The only sign He gave them was Jonah! (see Luke 11:29-31). It seems that Israel never accepted Jonah as a prophet of God . . . for they believed that no prophet arose out of Galilee (John 7:52). Yet Jonah came from Gath-hepher in Galilee! (2 Kings 14:25). And so did Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee! (Matthew 2:23).
Jonah was the sign to the Ninevites (the world outside of the knowledge of God); and Jesus is the sign to the Israelites (the Church). The Ninevites, who had never before heard the Gospel, repented when they heard it. But Israel, who had the very law of God to follow for generations ~ even though at the time of Jesus it was only lip service ~ when they heard the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit by the Master Himself, they would not believe! And they would not repent! And Jesus was a far greater Prophet than ever Jonah was!
Because Samson got away from walking according to the power of the Holy Spirit by yielding to the old fleshly desires, he lost his ability to discern between the flesh and the Spirit. The Bible records: “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him”(Judges 16:20). He got so mixed up in the ways of the flesh that he did not know when God had left him! An Israelite who had known the power of the Holy Spirit in his life then lost out because he failed to keep walking in the Spirit. There was only one way of escape for Samson ~ repentance! Thank God he did repent.
JUDGMENT COMES ON THE NON-REPENTANT!
In the days of Jesus the majority of the Israelites would not repent. They would not yield to the way of the Holy Spirit. Stephen described them as being “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51).
What was the Word of Jesus to that people who refused to repent at God’s Living Word? Jesus pointed Israel to the day of judgment. He said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Luke 11:32).
Matthew’s Gospel says it this way: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38-41, NKJV).
At the Judgment the repentant Nineveh of Jonah’s day shall condemn the unrepentant Israel of Jesus’ day. All Israel’s religious observances and the keeping of their Sabbath days, etc., will not help them one bit.
The Scripture warns us: “See that you do not refuse Him Who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him Who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him Who speaks from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).
THE ABSOLUTE IMPORTANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Today the big issue is not what church you belong to, or what religious festivals you observe, but ~ Are you walking in the Holy Spirit? Christianity is Life in the Spirit! We can only know the things of God by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2). There is no other way. Jesus taught that it was to our advantage that He go back to the Father, so He could send the Holy Spirit Comforter to us. The Holy Spirit’s ministry within us is to “Convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:7-15).
If we are not walking in the Holy Spirit, then no matter how religious or “spiritual” we may think we are ~ there is a need for repentance in our hearts! God cannot use us if we are not walking in the Spirit. Revival comes when God’s people begin to walk in the Spirit.And where God’s people are found walking in the Holy Spirit, there you will find true repentance!
The Church does not need more programmes, or entertainment, or gimmicks, to hold the people. She needs a sweeping revival by the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven ~ a revival that will only come as each one (individually) will truly repent, and let the Blessed Holy Spirit take full control of our lives.
God bless His Word to your heart today.
~ This article was written in 1971!