This is an article written by my good friend and brother in Christ, Alexei Tentiuc. It was originally written in Romanian and I have translated it into English so that you may be just as blessed by it as I was.
How insistent should I be in calling people to repent in order to accept Christ as Lord and Savior?
For me, there is nothing more satisfying than preaching the Gospel to people and then giving a call for them to make peace with God, or, in other words, to be reconciled with God. I agree with you that there are some preachers who get too emotional and go to far in calling people to repent and be reconciled with God.
Repentance is not the fruit of a preacher’s ability to convince or persuade someone; instead, repentance is the fruit of the power of God’s Holy Word. The Word of God penetrates the heart and convinces people to be reconciled with God. Repentance is not the result of the persuasive power of the preacher. When the Word of God reaches the heart, the Holy Spirit works in the person’s heart together with the Word to cause sorrow according to God’s will. The Apostle Paul explains this in his second letter to the church in Corinth with the following verse:
10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (II Corinthians 7)
If there is no conviction and sorrow over sin, then a person may end up saying a prayer, asking for forgiveness, but not from a heart of sorrow. Repentance is a change of mind about who a person is and his or her need for God’s rescue. If he or she prays a prayer asking for forgiveness but does not repent, out of a heart of genuine sorrow over sin, then basically, a prayer was prayed but salvation is not attained. I have personally seen people pray the sinner’s prayer without conviction or sorrow over sin and as a result, since there was never a change of mind (repentance) the heart was never changed and the lifestyle reflected it. There was never a transfer from the power of darkness to the light. They were never set free from the power of sin. How did Jesus handle people like this during His earthly ministry? How did He call people to repentance and what did He teach His disciples to do? By looking at these examples, we will understand more about how insistent we should be in calling people to repentance in order to accept God’s salvation. We will also discover how we should preach and call people to repentance and faith.
Immediately after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, He began His earthly ministry. Jesus would travel from town to town and preach the Gospel to all.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4)
This is the same message that Jesus preached and it is the same message that Jesus equipped His disciples to go out and preach.
7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 10)
How insistent were the disciples to be in calling people to repentance?
Jesus told them the following:
14 “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10)
The disciples were to go and share the Gospel with all who would listen. But, if there were those who wanted to learn more, the disciples were to stay with them and teach them, of course, calling them to repentance and faith in Christ. If the people were unwilling to listen, the disciples were to leave in search of those who wanted to listen. Repentance was from the Lord, not the persuasive powers of the disciples. This is exactly what Jesus does:
20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3)
Jesus does not force His way in. People have to respond to the call. Jesus does not force anyone to repent and place trust in Him. He wants it to be genuine, of a person’s own free will. The night before Jesus went to the cross, He knew that Judas was going to betray Him shortly. Jesus could have persuaded Judas not to go and do this terrible act. Jesus allowed Judas to make his own choice. Jesus actually humbled Himself to the place of a servant and washed the disciples’ feet, even Judas’ feet. He taught about love once more and offered Judas a chance to change his mind. Yet, He allowed Judas to make his own choice. This is how we call people to repentance and faith. We cannot force people. We should not try and manipulate people. We simply share the message and let them make a decision. Our job is to offer the chance and then allow the Holy Spirit to work and ultimately, people have to make their own decision.
The Apostles’ Example
On the Day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit had come, Peter stood up and began to preach the Gospel to everyone present in Jerusalem.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren *, what shall we do?”
38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
We clearly have seen that genuine repentance is not a result of the persuasive power of the preacher. Genuine repentance comes as a result of hearing the message of the Gospel from the Word of God. That message works together with the Holy Spirit to produce sorrow according to the will of God. The Lord produces the conviction, not the preacher. As believers, we are to be the messengers of the Lord. Our job is to follow Paul’s example:
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5)
We must realize our limits and not try and take the role of the Holy Spirit. Christ showed us the limit in His own example and in the advice that He gave to the disciples before sending them out to preach. Those who turn to persuasive tactics and emotional pleas are not preaching the Gospel according to the will of God. Jesus never did this. The disciples did not do this either. I recommend a great Bible study course that teaches how to make disciples, calling people to repentance and faith in Christ. The name of the study is, “Being a disciple, counting the real cost”. It is a powerful study that will change your walk with the Lord.
34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8)
This is Christ’s call to repentance and faith. It is for anyone who wishes to follow Him. For many, it does not tickle their ears so they try and explain it away, or, they just avoid it and play to the emotions and rely on persuasive tactics. As you preach the Gospel, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s lead. The Spirit will guide us as well as show us how much we need to insist on a call to repentance and faith. May the Lord help us follow His lead!