by Pastor Joe Pullen
…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.
MARK 1:15, ESV
In our last two devotional blog posts, we’ve been discussing the impact of Jesus’ statement that the kingdom of God had arrived. We have learned that a kingdom requires:
As we study the rest of the very first sentence Jesus spoke about the gospel, let’s remember that it is King Jesus who is speaking. His domain is heaven and earth and everything within them, and He is the One who has absolute power and authority over His domain. When He gives the command that follows His declaration about the arrival of the Kingdom, He has every right and privilege to issue it. Also keep in mind that the kingdom came to earth because of God’s love for the world (John 3:16).
What did our loving King command? He commanded us to (1) repent and (2) believe in the gospel.
Now, up until just a few years ago, my mental picture of being told to repent involved a fire-and-brimstone preacher behind a pulpit, wagging a judgmental finger at me, yelling, “REEEEPENNNNNNNT!!” (Twisted, huh?) Repentance was associated with shame and feeling less-than for the Lord, and so like many others, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time practicing admitting my sins. I hid them instead, letting them fester in the dark corners of my mind like mushrooms feeding on the manure of my secrets.
But little by little, God revealed to me through His Word and His people, that my lack of repentance actually created my shame and feelings of unlovability. He helped me begin to see repentance as the wrapping paper around His gift of forgiveness. I needed to shed the wrapping paper of my sins to get to the beautiful gift He had purchased for me through His Son, King Jesus. That changed everything for me.
Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means a change of mind. Unlike in our day, in biblical times, there wasn’t any distinction between thinking and behavior. Your behavior revealed your thinking. When Jesus says to repent AND believe in the gospel, He is saying, in essence, “demonstrate your belief in Me through the action of repentance.” Jesus spent three years in public ministry and this was His very first command. So, the command to repent had to be significant, but why is that?
I don’t presume to know the mind of God, but His Word teaches us that it is in expressing faith and obedience in Jesus that He affords us the gift of salvation (Rom. 10:9-13, Matt. 7:21, James 1:22, Rev. 20:12). Even better, the desire to follow Jesus and receive His gift is also sparked by God through the Holy Spirit (John 15:16, John 16:13)! Repentance, then, is God affording us the opportunity to be relieved in our conscience and hearts, no longer bearing the weight that sin and secrecy thrust upon us. It’s King Jesus commanding us to do something incredibly good for us – to release ourselves from shame, guilt, despair, hopelessness, and regret. Repentance is the place where God allows us to break agreements with evil – that I’m bad and unworthy, that no one would love me if they really knew me, and that because of my shame I have to meet my own needs due to my fear of rejection by God and others. Repentance is God’s amazing “do over” in life. What a gift!
Finally, repentance is more than turning away from sin. Repentance equally means turning towards God! King Jesus is telling us that we can turn towards the God of the Universe, who dwells in inapproachable light, whom no one has seen face-to-face and lived! The King is saying, “My cure for your shame and the sin of your past is to turn towards Me and know that I am looking back at you in love.”
Why don’t you just stop right now, turn towards God, repent of your sins, and enjoy His loving gaze upon your life?
Jesus, we thank You that Your plan for us is to release us from sin, shame and guilt, and that You willingly offer us the chance to be seen by You with eyes of love. It’s so amazing that you don’t want us to miss it, so You made it Your first command to us. Help us receive that command with joy and embrace it to the fullest. In Your name we thank You. Amen.