Talking about Sin and Repentance

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At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Yes, the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be preached. And it needs to be preached with humility, with boldness, with love, with clarity, and in a winsome manner.

One of the things that I am greatly concerned about is when preachers stop talking about the bad news of the gospel and want to talk only about the good news of the gospel. Of course, I praise and thank God for the good news of the gospel, but the good news of the gospel does not make sense without a clear, thorough, and honest understanding of the bad news of the gospel.

The bad news of the gospel is that every person (except Jesus Christ, who is both God and man) is a depraved sinner and, apart from divine grace, will experience death because of his sin. In Romans 3:9–11, we read:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”

And in 1 John 1:8–10, God’s Word tells us:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Yes, we need to talk about love, peace, joy, and life to the full, but we also need to talk about sin, the need to repent, and God’s grace and forgiveness.

In 2015, a Christian ministry leader in the United States told me that they had analyzed the Easter Sunday morning sermons of twenty-four evangelical churches in the United States. In twenty-one of the twenty-four Easter Sunday sermons, the words “sin,” “repentance,” “death,” and “cross” were not mentioned at all. Now, I understand that the focus on Easter Sunday is on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and on new life. But how can we even understand the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t know what He has saved us from? Even Jesus’ name speaks of our need of salvation, for in Matthew 1:21, we read, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I know that many people don’t like for us to talk about sin and repentance because it is uncomfortable, but we have to do it. Otherwise, we are not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and people are not saved.

The Bible is very clear that the biggest problem that you and I have is our sin. Praise God that Jesus died on the cross so that sinners can be saved from their sin and enjoy eternal life with God.

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.