Who Needs to Repent?

Psalm 51:13

I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Mark 1:15

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”


Martin Luther is famously to have said, “We live on earth only so that we should be a help to other people. Otherwise, it would be best if God would strangle us and let us die as soon as we were baptized and had begun to believe. For this reason, however, he lets us live: that we may bring other people to faith as he has done for us.”

We might point out that Martin Luther was a singularly-unique individual; that he would be much more likely able to evangelize someone than an ordinary you or me. We might point to Paul, the greatest missionary ever and rightly say, “I’m not like him!” The same would be true for David who was king of Israel, and who wrote these words of Psalm 51. And no one is as righteous, holy, or missional as our Lord himself.

What’s more, when we seek to bring another person to faith, we’re actually calling for a profound change to occur. Repenting and believing the Good News of Jesus is a radical reorientation of mind and heart; a totally different way of embracing life itself. And it’s not like we’re on the front lines of the mission field. We live in a Christian nation with Christian ethos. How can we possibly teach transgressors God’s ways? Who needs to repent?

Perhaps we do. Perhaps we need to think again about the mission field right in our own family: who needs to reorient his life toward God? Who needs to reset her agenda toward a godly outcome? Perhaps there is a coworker, fellow student, neighbor to pray for. It all starts, however, when we repent. David’s famous words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…” are his prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. He also prayed that the Holy Spirit would not be taken from him. Then he would teach transgressors God’s ways and sinners would return to God.

We who believe we’re not on the front lines of the mission of God need to repent – no matter what our vocation may be. Until we embrace our own need to repent, and believe the Good News of God’s love, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation, we will not be able to teach transgressors or bring sinners to God. But once we do repent, we will better see the people God puts into our path as gifts and opportunities to lavish God’s love, and speak God’s truth, and invite them to stand with us at the foot of the Cross.

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