The Need for Repentance

By Tom Dockery


"I tell ye, Nay, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13.3).

In 1482, ten years before the discovery of America, religious services were first conducted by the Roman Catholics in Ghana. From this beginning other religious denominations gradually became active in spreading at least some knowledge of Christ through the country. And yet, although denominationalism has been proclaiming its ideas of Christianity in Ghana for nearly five hundred years, there are still more pagans in the country than there are those who profess to follow Christ, and we are still sending missionaries to the country.

Why is it that such is necessary? Why has New Testament Christianity made such progress in the United States while it has hardly begun in Ghana, although Ghana has had the Bible longer than the United States? I am convinced that there are many answers to this question, but here I would like to specifically notice one reason of importance.

Many of the first religious workers in the country were more interested in getting people merely to acknowledge Jesus as Christ and adding them to their church rolls than they were in teaching repentance and bringing about reformed lives. Often entire tribes would be converted in name only, but they would continue to live much as before. Nothing much was said about polygamy or drunkenness or other pagan practices. In fact, some of the first teachers practiced some of these things themselves!

In more modern times, religious liberalism has taught that one should not disturb a people's culture, and that, consequently, the preacher has no business teaching on polygamy, drinking, and many other practices that are prevalent in this society. As a result, immorality is rampant. There is hardly a young man or woman who has not been guilty of fornication. Drunkenness is a great problem, destroying initiative and ruining lives. Sensuality in general seems to rule the lives of the majority.

Now the only answer seems to be that there is a great need for teaching on repentance. Yet many Christians are following the old liberal philosophy. One wealthy sister refused to help this work when she learned that we demand repentance. She said, "You just don't go over there and tell people they must change their customs." Some modern missionary methods being taught to our young people have suggested the same thing. Some have even suggested that we participate in the social drinking and overlook the sins that are generally practiced. If this is to be our attitude we may as well go home tomorrow!

This tactic has been used for 500 years by some denominations, and it has not worked. The reason that it has not worked is that the Lord demands repentance. The Bible from beginning to end calls for man to change his life to meet God's standards.

The prophets of old demanded that Israel repent or perish. Ezekiel pleaded, "Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all abominations" (Ezek. 14:16). When they did not, God destroyed them.

John the Baptist came with a cry of repentance (Matt. 3:2, 7-12). When he courageously told Herod he must repent of his adultery, he was put to death (Matt. 14:3-11).

Jesus brought the same message. He said, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). Paul boldly declared this message in Athens: "And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).

What is needed in the world is changed lives that result from real repentance. Paul commended the Ephesians because they turned from their wicked ways to follow Christ (Eph. 2:1-6). Let us quit pampering sin! It is impossible to have Christ without following His example of righteousness. It is no good to say,"Just preach but don't demand that people change."

When Paul preached to Felix, he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come in order to get him to repent. The Bible says that Felix trembled but did not change. There needs to be more preaching that causes men to tremble and that results in changed lives. Let us teach men to “repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20).

TOM DOCKERY was a missionary to Tanzania, East Africa from 1962-1965. From 1972-l974 he worked in Ghana, West Africa, during which time he served as director of the Accra School of Preaching. After returning to the United States in 1974, he organized a program for printing Gospel Tracts and distributing them among the churches in Ghana. In 1979, while serving as a teacher in the Preston Road School of Preaching in Dallas, Texas, Tom was killed in a plane crash. Soon afterward, the Baldwin Church of Christ in Fayetteville, Arkansas assumed the oversight of the Tract Ministry. Through the years, the scope of this ministry has expanded to provide tracts for use in about 40 nations. At the time of this printing, over 12,000,000 tracts have been printed and distributed. The material for this tract was written by Tom while he was working with the School of Preaching in Accra.

"To God Be The Glory"