Jesus declares, “My church is a place of shameless, open repentance.” Indeed, the apostle Paul attests: “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:8-11).
Simply put, we are brought to salvation through our open confession of repentance. Jesus states, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). And, he says, repentance is how we are healed and restored: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
This is good news. Jesus is telling us, “In my church, everyone is healed through repentance. It doesn’t matter who you are—the physically broken, the mentally ill, the spiritually sick. Everyone must come to me the same way. And all find healing through repentance.
How many churches still open their altars for heart-smitten people to come forward and repent? How many pastors have stopped giving invitations for this all-important spiritual work? How many believers have lost all sense of their need to confess sin?
What is the central message of Christ’s gospel? He makes it plain throughout the four gospels. He tells us, “Here is what I preach in my church. This is my message to all sinners.”
“Jesus came…preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). This was Jesus’ first recorded message. He preached repentance!
To some Christians, this may sound like strong language. They may respond, “Okay, but how strongly did Jesus preach repentance?” Luke answers that in his gospel. Jesus told his listeners, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).