Jesus was a preacher. He corrected people’s misconceptions about God, rebuked all sins of disobedience to the Heavenly Father and encouraged those who were faithful to God the Father, just as all preachers are commanded to do (II Timothy 4:2). But his first sermons were about repentance (Matthew 4:17).
Repentance is a call to spiritual, mental, psychological and behavioral change from sin to obedience to God. To repent is to admit to God ones sinful actions and to pledge to God the desire to act better in the future. It is a change that conforms to truth and is from the heart. Nothing short of repentance can repair and restore the soul of a man. It even preempts the rebirth of baptism (cf Acts 2:38).
Yet repentance has gone out of style in our society. People do not want to admit their sins to God or to themselves. They will make a wordy confession that Jesus is the Son of God, they will agree to be baptized and they will worship God in some dutiful way, but all without really repenting of sins, before or after baptism.
We need to return to Jesus’ first sermon: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Or more timely, “Repent for Jesus’ return is near.”