Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Repent and Believe

Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, [15] and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mark moves on. John is arrested and Jesus starts proclaiming the Gospel. Sometimes passages like this can be extremely useful. People use this term Gospel for many things. However, I’m always interested in how it is that the New Testament uses the term. Here, the gospel, the good news is, ”The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus proclaims this as gospel, as good news. Indeed it is. The kingdom of God is what humanity hopes for it is what we long for. Jesus says it is at hand. But how is it at hand? If it was at hand during Jesus earthly ministry, why do we still pray ‘thy kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer? What does it mean for the kingdom of God to be at hand, what is it? These are the questions that a person asks. Nothing gets abused more than the concept of the kingdom of God. The most profane abuse is to equate it with an earthly kingdom. Of course this is what many even in Jesus day were expecting. In fact it is this desire that made them miss the messiah. But Jesus is the king, and his kingdom is with him, wherever he is. His reign. The kingdom of God, is at hand, because Jesus is near. The people don’t see it. John stays in prison, is even beheaded. The world continues as it ever has, or so many are led to think. Yet, in Jesus the kingdom of God will find it’s expression in his death and resurrection. Resurrection is key. It is resurrection that the people expect to usher in the Kingdom of God. And Jesus is the resurrection and the life. The kingdom is in him, in whom we alos will be raised if we repent and believe. Repent and believe in the gospel. Repentance is such an odd concept. We confuse it so badly. People hear repent and they think about the abortion they talked their girlfriend into in high school. They think about back seat escapades, or having to apologize to their parents after sneaking out to a party in high school, getting drunk and puking on their dad’s shoes as he scolded them for it. They think of the time they indulged themselves in the porn stash they found in an unguarded ice fishing house. Of course those are all things that need to be repented of. Those are things that need to be confessed before a father confessor, that one’s conscience may be cleaned with the forgiveness of sins. But, the repentance of which Jesus speaks is so much more. Jesus says repent and believe. The two are inextricably connected. To repent is to believe in the kingdom of God, the gospel. Unrepentance is unbelief. One can see this with just an examination of the Ten Commandments. Every time a person breaks one of the commandments 2-ten, he breaks the first commandment. Every concrete sin we commit, every act of fornication, every Sunday skipped from church, every time we have lied in the name of God, or used his name in vain, every time we have disobeyed, or dishonored our parents, every time we have passed the hungry in the street on our way to dinner, every time we have stolen, or gossiped, or let our neighbor’s possessions drive us to jealousy, we prove to God that we do not believe in him, that there is something we fear, love, or trust in more than God, more than Jesus who laid down his life for the forgiveness of our sins. Something we desire more than the kingdom he freely gives us. But the kingdom of God, which Jesus call’s us to believe in is the forgiveness of sins. It is not repentance to make a deal with God, or to pledge your life to him in return for salvation. Repentance is to believe that in him your sins are forgiven, and is no longer yours to give, was never yours to give, not even to him. Repentance is not to feel sorry, but to jump for joy knowing that here in him is the kingdom of God, eternal life that comes about by his death and resurrection.

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