Tuesday: A Gospel of Repentance (Part 2)
“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” That was John’s message to the people. He wandered out of the wilderness wearing animal skins, (not exactly the height of fashion), and thousands flocked to hear his message and be baptized by him. The word “repent” is a verb meaning to change one’s mind, or view, as a result of sincere regret, or remorse. But Biblically to repent requires action beyond thought, it requires real change, change in one’s behavior, one’s acts and speech. Real change doesn’t come from hearing a good sermon, or from being baptized. A good sermon is only talk and baptism is only symbolic of the change that is needed. Real change doesn’t come from within our own minds or from being washed clean on the outside. Real change alters our will, our very nature and it can only come from a force outside our selves. It was that force which drew people to hear John’s call for repentance. And it was that same force, the Holy Spirit of God that announced the change to come, the Messiah, bringing a new covenant from God, a covenant beyond and better than the Law given to Moses. A new way to live all bound up in the vessel of a man named Jesus.
Few, if any, who heard John preach, or experienced his baptism, went on to live real change in their lives, but Andrew left John and went on to follow Jesus. before he did though, he first had to repent. To truly repent, one must recognize and agree that one has done wrong in the sight of God. A good sermon can help to bring us to think about such things, “Faith comes by hearing… the word of God”, but a sermon doesn’t bring the change. That kind of change can only come from the Holy Spirit. It is in fact the call of God. God knows our hearts, that is, our inner will. No matter what we say, or do, or think that we think, God knows our hearts. And God reveals to us, through His Holy Spirit, our guilt and participation in rebellion against Him.
Our inner will wants to respond in rebellion yet again. We say, or think, “I’m a good person.” Maybe you’ve never committed murder, though many have. Maybe you’ve never committed adultery, or fornication, though most of us have. Maybe you’ve never stolen anything, but I assure you that you have coveted. And if you are that impossibly perfect person who has truly never broken any of nine commandments, and has observed every jot and tittle of the written law, I assure you that you have not observed the most important of them all, the first commandment; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul… ”. Only one has ever truly obeyed that command and we hung Him on a cross. So first we must recognize our own sin, that is, we must see that in God’s eyes we have fallen short of the intended goal.
After we have come to repentance we must humble ourselves before God, that is, we must agree with our hearts, (that is our will), that He alone is Lord, that He is sovereign in our lives and in His own creation of which we are a part. To do so is to remove one’s self from the throne of our will and put God there in his rightful place. To come to repentance we must agree and confess to God and mankind, with and from a heart of regret and remorse, that we are in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. We must agree and confess that God’s forgiveness and grace came to us in that vessel named Jesus, that He is the Christ, the Son of God and that He came to shed His blood and die as the atonement for our sin, to fulfill the requirement of the law. We must agree and confess that He rose from the dead, that we might also live, and now sits in authority over all of creation, our High Priest in Heaven. We must accept the gift of God. There is no other way. So, pray for repentance and “Repent!” For I tell you the truth, “…the Kingdom of God is at hand.”