If You Won’t Repent, Why Should They?

Would you do something extreme for Jesus?
If you claim to believe in Jesus, your answer should be, “Yes.”
After all, Jesus stated that, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. […] In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:26-33).
And that, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
And, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38).
Moreover, no one can “believe” in Jesus without following Him as His disciple.
John wrote:
“Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:64-66).
Notice that those who did not believe in Jesus refused to continue to follow Him as His disciple when it became difficult. If you believe in Jesus you will follow Him as His disciple no matter what.
I grew up in a traditional, conservative, country church. And while they didn’t have a good handle on making disciples of Jesus, they would on occasion attempt to call people to repentance.
However, they generally only asked people to repent of what they considered to be the really big sins such as drinking, drugs, adultery, listening to rock/rap music, not attending church and/or not giving to church.
Where they fell short was that they didn’t know how to disciple people after they came forward and repented of even those sins. They just prayed for them, patted them on the back, shook their hand and told them to do better.
So, the extreme measure that I am asking people to go to for Jesus is to really repent. But rather than asking the congregation to repent, I believe it is now the pastors and church leaders who need to go to the extreme measure of repentance.
Moreover, I do not believe that our churches will be able to effectively reach the current culture, context, and generations until they repent.
Because, why should a pastor or church leader expect church members and unbelievers to repent and go to extreme measures in order to follow Jesus if the church leaders themselves won’t repent and go to extreme measures in order to follow Jesus?
So then, what do pastors and church leaders need to repent from? I’m glad you asked. Here are what I believe to be three of the biggest issues (there are more, but we will start with just these three for now):
1. Repent from making disciples of something or someone other than Jesus while using Jesus’ name.
All churches are making disciples of something. Calling them “disciples of Jesus” doesn’t necessarily make them disciples of Jesus. Churches often employ the logical fallacy of equivocation to redefine their disciples of whatever else as “disciples of Jesus.”
But all logical fallacies are lies, and all lies come from Satan (John 8:44). Moreover, Jesus specifically forbids us from using logical fallacies and attributes them to Satan (Matthew 5:33-37).
So then, how do we know if we are actually making disciples of Jesus?
In his first epistle, John the Apostle (one of the first disciples of Jesus and His earthly best friend) gives one of the best definitions of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus:
“We know that we have come to know [Jesus] if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6).
John wrote that a disciple of Jesus must both obey Jesus’ commands and imitate His life.
Therefore, if the disciples your church is making do not know and keep the words, teachings, commands, and examples that Jesus gave during His earthly ministry; then they are not disciples of Jesus. And if they claim to be, then they are liars according to Scripture.
Which then brings us to the next thing that needs to be repented of…
2.Repent from reducing Jesus’ commands down to “Love God and love others.”
Yes, on one occasion recorded in Matthew 22:34–40 and Mark 12:28–34, in an answer to a question, Jesus stated that, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” are the greatest commandments in the Old Testament Law (Matthew 22:36 and Mark 12:33 put these squarely in the context of the Mosaic Law).
However, unlike many of His teachings, Jesus only made this statement once, and He never made it the cornerstone of His message. Re-read the Gospels and apply honest exegesis and hermeneutics; we are the ones who have made it the cornerstone of His message.
And we did this because “love God and love others” is vague; you can make it mean whatever you want to make it mean.
Pot-smoking hippies believe that they “love God and love others.”
Muslims believe that they “love God and love others” by keeping the Koran.
Mormons believe that they “love God and love others” by keeping the Book of Mormon.
Buddhist believe that they “love God and love others” by keeping the Precepts.
The Pharisees and scribes believed that they “loved God and loved others” by keeping the Law.
When Jesus called these the greatest commandments of the Law, He didn’t say something profound that they had never heard before; the scribe in the introduction to the parable of the Good Samaritan proves this (Luke 10:25-37).
The scribes and Pharisees would have agreed that these were the greatest commandments in the Law, and they would have likewise argued that they were keeping these commandments; because they defined for themselves how they loved God and who their neighbor was.
This is the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan; to challenge the notion that the scribes and Pharisees were actually loving God and loving others through their actions.
Moreover, claiming to keep the commands of Jesus by claiming to “love God,” employs the logical fallacy of circular reasoning when compared to 1 John 2:5.
You cannot prove that “love for God is made complete in you” by claiming to “love God.” And if you try, remember, logical fallacies are lies from Satan.
A disciple of Jesus does not keep Jesus’ commands by “loving God and loving others.” A disciple of Jesus keeps the commandments to “love God and love others” by knowing and keeping the specific words, teachings, commands, and examples that Jesus gave during His earthly ministry.
This is why the Great Commission is specifically to “go and make disciples of all nations, […] teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
One more issue that we must repent of…
3. Repent from failing to teach the doctrine that the end goal of the Gospel of Jesus (and thus discipleship) is that men bring glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God that they were originally created to be.
(Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 11:7, Matthew 5:48, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:22-24, 5:1, Colossians 3:9-10, 2 Peter 1:4).
And this of course is accomplished by being conformed to the image of Jesus (the perfect image of God) through imitating and obeying Him as His disciple (through the supernatural empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit).
(Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 15:49, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:1-5, 3:7-11, Colossians 1:15, 1:28-29, 2:2-3, 2:9-10, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Timothy 3:12,Titus 3:4-6, Hebrews 1:3, 6:1, 12:1-3, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:1-4, 2-21, 2 Peter 3:18, 1 John 2:6, 3:3, 4:17).
This doctrine is clearly, plainly, and explicitly taught in Scripture. Simply stated, you cannot claim to teach the full counsel of Scripture and not teach this crucial doctrine.
The central truth and story of Scripture is that Jesus came to first establish discipleship, and then to pay the price of the sins of men; so that he might rescue, redeem, and restore the image of God within men; so that they might render unto God the glory He is due for all eternity.
Moreover, this doctrine has been clearly, plainly, and explicitly taught by great men of God such as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Athanasius of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Basil of Caesarea, John Calvin, John Wesley, A.W. Tozer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C.S. Lewis (among others) throughout the 2000-year history of the church.
It is only in the recent history of the church that this doctrine has not been explicitly taught in our congregations (and teaching it implicitly doesn’t count).
Honestly, I’m really not sure why modern churches don’t want to explicitly teach this doctrine. My best guess is that they don’t want to admit that they have not been teaching one of the most important doctrines that they should have been teaching.
But that is why it is called repentance. You admit what you are doing is wrong and you correct it.
Once again, would you do something extreme for Jesus?
Church leaders, would you publicly repent of failure in these areas?
And if not, why would you ever expect your congregation or the unbelievers to whom you speak to repent and follow Jesus as His disciple?
If you won’t repent, why should they?
For more information on why it is so important that we as churches teach that we must be re-conformed to the image of God through imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple, start here and follow the links at the end of each article: