Repent – How Hard It Is To Do It is hard to repent, no doubt about it.

I remember the comment made by a well known preacher of the nineteenth century that the hardest thing there was to do was to get men to repent. By contrast it was easy to get men to believe. He considered his greatest failure was in convincing men to repent. He was not the first preacher to have that problem. The Bible calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5 NKJV). Most Bible students believe Noah preached 120 years (based on Gen. 6:3) and yet the only ones converted by his preaching were members of his own family. Only 8 people were saved from the flood – Noah and his wife and his sons and their wives. The Bible says of those who died in the flood that they were “disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.” (1 Peter 3:20 NKJV) It was the “world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5 NKJV) that perished in the flood. I take from the passages quoted above that Noah preached repentance. Why? Because Peter said of those people that they were “disobedient.” They therefore had law from God whether written or unwritten. They were “ungodly” and Noah preached “righteousness”. By definition repentance is a turning from ungodliness to righteousness. However, one greater than Noah had trouble getting people to repent and this one worked miracles in the presence of men in confirmation of his preaching. Hear Jesus: “Then he began to rebuke the cities in which most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. … And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.’” (Matt. 11:20-23 NKJV) How hard is it to repent? We learn from this passage that even the direct preaching of the Lord himself accompanied by miracles would not get some to repent. Remember also Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. It was another city that did not repent at his preaching. Remember the account of the rich man and Lazarus as told by Jesus? Both had died but the rich man now found himself in torments due to his ungodly life. He makes the plea to father Abraham to send someone to his living brothers that they might repent. “And he said, ‘No father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the

dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:30-31 NKJV) In recounting this Jesus gives his endorsement to the conclusion given by Abraham. Not even a preacher risen from the dead could convince a certain number of people to repent. The question then naturally arises as to why men will not repent. I might suggest a few things although my list is far from exhaustive. Repentance and belief are two separate things. Some who believe will not repent. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43 NKJV) Here we have men who believe but are unwilling to repent, unwilling to give up their lifestyle. I want to deal with that in just a minute but first I want to suggest this. While belief and repentance are two separate factors yet they are closely tied together. If a person truly had the depth of conviction (call it faith or belief) that hell was real and as bad as the Bible teaches it is and believed they were going there I think most men would repent. Who volunteers to be tortured? None if they believe it will happen. Jesus said in his day via the account of the rich man and Lazarus there is no use to send someone back from the dead for they will not repent. Why not? He does not say but we can figure it out pretty easily. They see no need to repent. You will never convince them of their need. I am satisfied that was the case with the rich man’s brothers. It seems to me everyone is of the opinion that one way or another they are going to get by when the Day of Judgment comes. Whatever their degree of faith and obedience is (should I say disobedience?) they are of the belief that they will scrape by. Most simply do not believe they need to repent. They are good enough just as they are. Thus belief (or lack thereof) is tied closely to repentance. People argue today over how the American constitution should be interpreted and there are two points of view (bear with me - I am not getting off the subject). One is that of the strict constructionist who says the constitution tightly binds us as to laws and powers. The other view is that of what I will call the liberal constructionist. The liberal constructionist does not feel bound by the strict wording of the constitution but feels at liberty to kind of update it, for what of a better way of phrasing it, to the changing times and society’s values. It is like a rubber band that you can stretch allowing more things inside.

The Bible is the same way as regards to how men view it. I would suggest that a rubber band can be stretched to the breaking point. We can get so liberal with our interpretations of the Bible that there is indeed no need to repent. Whatever the merits of this type of interpretation might be with regards to our constitution it will not work with the Bible without destroying the commands of God. When they are destroyed ceasing to be viewed as commands for our time then who needs to repent? My point is that what you believe has a great deal to do with whether or not you will repent. What do you believe about yourself? What do you believe about the Bible? But, I want to get back to the rulers who would not repent, being unwilling to confess Jesus, as found in John 12:42-43. Belief was not the problem but the joy of the things of this world, in their case the praise of men in the synagogues. The simple fact of the matter is we enjoy sin. I do not say all sin is enjoyable but much of it is. The writer of the book of Hebrews in speaking about Moses says he chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” and spoke of the “treasures in Egypt.” (Heb. 11:25-26 NKJV) As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter Moses could have readily enjoyed all that money, fame, and position could offer. The Hebrew writer called these things “the passing pleasures of sin.” What we have (position, power, fame, money, luxury, prestige) has, for the average man or woman, a great deal to do with what we believe and what we think about repentance. We do not think these things color our perspective but they do. Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians about these things when he said, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor. 1:26 NKJV) What did he mean by that in view of the fact the gospel call is for all men (2 Thess. 2:14)? We are all called by the gospel. It is obvious he was saying that not many of such a class of people would respond to the call. Jesus said of a rich man that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (be saved). (Luke 18:25) Why? Again, the answer is obvious – the pleasures of the world. See also 1 Tim. 6:9. In 2 Cor. 4:3-4 the Bible talks about people being blinded. Paul says this, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (NKJV) What is it these people do not believe?

We would say the gospel, the message about Jesus being the Christ, the Savior of the world, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4 NKJV) True, but the gospel is not good news unless it can be obeyed and salvation obtained. That means that part of what was veiled to these people who did not believe was their need for repentance. Who was hiding it from them? The god of this world. Finally, in closing, I add this. Human pride plays a big role in making repenting hard to do. It takes a big man or woman to confess they are a sinner. Humility is a hard thing to come by but it is the very thing required of any person who would be saved. “And Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:2-4 NKJV) It is hard for a successful person, by this world’s standards, to humble himself to the degree necessary to repent. However, pride is a killer and we must be humble and not just by outward appearance but in our heart - truly be humble. The Bible says “a proud look” (Prov. 6:17 NKJV) God not only hates but it is an abomination to him. It is not hard for the man who has been a failure to repent in comparison to the man who has been successful; nevertheless, we all must fight the battle against pride. None are exempt from pride. It is tough to say I have sinned. Yes, it is hard to repent but it is necessary. For the man or woman who succeeds in doing it it brings joys yet to be told and a peace and contentment that others who have not done it cannot know.

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