‘FROM that time Jesus began to preach and to say, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ Mtt. 4v17.

THERE is no doubt, the message of John the Baptist was brutal as he cried in the wilderness: ‘prepare the way of the Lord and make all crooked paths straight’.

The people of Judah and Jerusalem lived in wickedness, and they needed to turn a new leaf to avert the impending judgement of God. To all manner of people, John the Baptist had a word of caution: ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. Tax collectors also came to be baptised. Teacher, they asked, what should we do? Don’t collect any more than you are required to, he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, what should we do? He replied, don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay: Lk. 3v11-14.

The brutal message of John the Baptist was sustained by Jesus Himself. Mark the gospel writer was urgent: ‘The time has come, the Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news’.

The Greek word used for repentance means ‘return’, ‘turn back to God’. Repentance is genuinely being sorrowful of one’s sins to the point of forsaking those particular sins in total surrender to God.

One needs to return to the source of life in order to run away from eternal damnation. God says: ‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of wicked? Declares the sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezek. 18v23.

Indeed, of all the nations of the world, Nigeria, our dear country, needs repentance most. It is bedevilled in all spheres of its life. The Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel F. G. Nyitsse, in his recent 3rd council meeting at St. Andrew’s Church Gboko, on October 13-16, 2011, listed reasons why we must talk about repentance in Nigeria: the more the churches, the more evil increases; Christians preach denominations rather than the kingdom of God; many Christian marriages and homes are breaking; children born and brought up in vicarages live reckless lives as if they’ve never heard about Jesus Christ; believers collect bribe in order to offer admission in schools; believers buy examinations in order to get high grades.

Believers give and collect bribe in cash or kind in order to offer employment; retirees have offer bribe for their gratuity and pension to be paid; there is rebellion in the household of God- the laity against the ordained and the ordained against their ordinaries and so forth; prostitutes have changed to ‘commercial sex workers’ and have come into church as members of a working class and could pay tithe from what they ‘earn’; people are interpreting the Bible upside down; the church is condoning gay practice and homosexuality.

Even in the house of God, money disappears mysteriously; there is human trafficking, women degradation, and child abuse; religious bigotry is prevailing for lack of patience, self control and disrespect for one another; murder and bloodshed are common; core Christian values are no longer observed.

Christians join occult groups and practice cultism in the church; witches and wizards are found in the church.

Prophecy is catching up with people of this age, (2 Tim. 3:1-7): ‘But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’

Materialism preaching has taken over the pulpit and people are not conscious of holiness, righteousness, and sanctification any longer.

It is fearful. Sin causes separation (Isa. 59v1-2, Joshua 7v11-12, Ex. 33v3.). It will also bring the judgement of God. (Ezek. 18v4, I Chron. 10v13, Rom. 6v23). The call to return to God has become expedient in the face of wickedness, evil and the moral pollution thriving in our time. I think the cases of the prodigal son (Lk. 15v11-27) and Zacchaeus (Lk. 19v5-9) are highly instructive.

But when we hear the voice of God, let us not harden our hearts. The scripture says: ‘come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ Isa. 1v18-20.

Believers and those that fear the Lord. No time is better than now to return to the Guardian of our souls. The kingdom of God is near; do not delay to enter therein. Tomorrow may be too late.

Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,
Delta State.



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