The Most Progressive Man

“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.

  • 2 Chronicles 6:36-39

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

  • Mark 1:14-15

“But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be.  And if you’ve taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

  • C. S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

To turn around when on the “wrong road” and get on the right road is another way of saying to repent.  “Repent” in all its forms, like repentance, is found 24 times in the Old Testament and 54 times in the New Testament (NIV).  It is odd how many Christians feel that repentance is optional.  At least, they give it a low priority.  They made a “commitment” to Jesus, and they give money to the church, attend sometimes, and say their prayers daily.  But they do not seem to make many moves toward being more like Jesus, and part of that is the baggage that they carry, their sin that they have not turned from.

Let’s look at some of the excuses for not repenting.

Some people think that repentance is a New Testament concept.  Being mentioned only 24 times in the Old Testament compared to 54 times in the New Testament lends some credibility to that, but the first two times that the word “repent” appears are in Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple (1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6).  Repentance had occurred collectively and individually prior to that time, but the word had not been used.  The concept was that the people returned to the Lord.  To do that, they had to turn away from their worship of false gods and return to the true God.  They repented, but the word was not used in Scripture prior to Solomon’s prayer.

Some people think that a couple of New Testament writers had an “agenda.”  The Apostle Paul especially is accused of introducing concepts that are “his alone,” his agenda topics.  We could spend time proving that those other concepts are not Paul’s alone, and once subject to criticism as not coming from God, but in this case, of the 54 mentions of “repent” in the New Testament, only six are found in Paul’s letters and half of the mentions of repent or repentance in the book of Acts are not spoken by Paul.  The first five are spoken by either Peter or the collection of the Apostles.  And in the last five in Acts, all quoted from Paul, two mention John’s message of repentance.

Some people only think that John the Baptist said to repent, but that is obviously not true.

The Scripture above shows that Jesus called us to repent.  The three synoptic Gospels all mention the word “repent,” but don’t think that the Apostle John was soft on the subject.  “Repent” is mentioned ten times in the book of Revelation, again NIV.

Too great a focus on repentance can get us into a legalism issue.  Are we trying to repent on our own power to earn our way to Heaven?  Well, you can’t and you can’t.  You cannot be good enough to enter Heaven without the cleansing blood of Jesus.  And you cannot get even close with the power of God within us.  But we should desire it.  God gives us the strength to resist and not resisting shows a problem with that desire.

But C. S. Lewis is right, the one who turns around and follows Jesus first could easily be considered the most progressive.  The secular progressive movement seems to be speeding up in the wrong direction, more regressive than progressive.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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