How do you do it?

What do you say to people when you evangelize?

Do you say that God loves them and has a plan for their lives?

Do you tell them that praying a sinner's prayer can save them?

Do you tell them that salvation requires baptism and submission to the Catholic pope?

Do you tell them that sacraments are necessary for salvation?

Some 2000 years ago, a man came out of the wilderness to fulfill the mission of the prophet Elijah. He came to Judea to call God's people to repentance; to prepare the way for Messiah. Israel knew he would show up one day. The prophet Isaiah foretold his coming (40:3). So did Malachi (3:1). He was John, called The Baptist. Many of the people of Judea drew near to listen to his preaching, and to receive the baptism of repentance. Many came, but not all, for some were offended by his words.

The Bible informs that, over the millennia since God's sovereign act of creation, there have been many calls to repentance. Sometimes, not often, people responded with true repentance and were spared, as in the case of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10). More often, those who heard the call ignored it and continued their evil ways, bringing God's righteous wrath down upon themselves (Jeremiah 19:14-15)

Jesus called men to repentance (Matthew 9:17). So did Paul (Acts 26:20) and Peter (2 Peter 3:9) and the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:1) and only God knows how many others.

In the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards called men to repentance.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon called men to repentance in the 19th century.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries some, most notably that group of conservatives now known as The Fundamentalists, tried to hold back the flood of modernism and liberal theology that was infecting the professing church, but to little avail.

That brings us to the state of affairs today, in a professing Christian church whose theology varies along a continuum ranging from hyper conservatism to ultra liberalism. On the extreme right of modern theology, the Bible version one reads is a salvation issue.

On or near the extreme left of modern theology, are groups that teach universal salvation; that everyone, even Satan, will live eternally and become like God:

From its position 'way over on the left of the theology continuum, the Catholic Church teaches a form of repentance, linked to some of the sacraments she claims are necessary for salvation:

1491. The sacrament of Penance is a whole consisting in three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation.Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (1994/1997) United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

I am not aware of many non-Catholics who preach repentance, not even the kind that Catholicism teaches. One compelling reason for this, I believe, has to do with the nature of repentance. If one is to repent, he must first accept that he is a sinner. How will he know he is a sinner who needs to repent of his evil ways if he is not told? Who will tell him?

If he attends a Bible-believing church, a church wherein the full Gospel message is taught, he'll likely hear a call to repent of his sinful ways every once in a while. These days, religious leaders seem to be more concerned with enlarging their congregations than preaching biblical truth. Why risk alienating potential congregants by telling them that their sinful ways are offensive to God; that they must repent and live out their days in the will of God? Speaking the truth, even in love, could have a disastrous effect on tithes and offerings.

Turning one's life around isn't easy, even for the saints. We need help. Help from our family and friends. Help from the indwelling Holy Spirit. We need first to recognize that we are sinners.

A few years ago, a Midwestern preacher stood up before a body of powerful men and spoke to them God's truth. He finished by calling them to repentance. He is Joe Wright, pastor of the Central Christian Church of Wichita, Kansas. The people who invited him to speak, likely expected him to utter a few pious and meaningless words designed to offend no one. They were wrong. The words of his powerful prayer were reported in Kansas newspapers and Paul Harvey repeated them in his syndicated radio program. This is the benediction Pastor Wright prayed before the Kansas House of Representatives on January 23, 1996:

Heavenly Father, we come before you to ask your forgiveness. We seek your direction and your guidance. We know your word says, “Woe to those who call evil good.” But that's what we've done.

We've lost our spiritual equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word in the name of moral pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We've exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We've neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it taxes. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, oh, God, and know our hearts today. Try us. Show us any wickedness within us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the State of Kansas, and that they have been ordained by you to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of your will. And, as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin the Legislature. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

This prayer was a version of another prayer presented to the Kentucky Governor's Prayer Breakfast by Bob Russell in 1995. As might have been expected, this prayer generated a lot of response, both within the House chambers and in the real world. You can read about the responses by clicking here..


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