In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2)
John the Baptist preached a message of repentance. We talk a lot about repentance as followers of Jesus, but what does it really mean to repent?
The Greek word metanoeō translated as repent carries the idea of changing one’s mind, especially for the better. One who repents comes with deep regret and sorrow to amend for past sin. Like many other pastors, I’ve said that to repent is to do a 180, to turn around and go the other direction. This about-face is the action to live differently because of the changing of our mind.
I think many would agree that John’s message is one that needs to be heard today. As followers of Jesus we need to go into a wilderness of sin around us to encourage people to repent. But more is needed than a cry to God, “I’m sorry for my sin.”
John’s message in the wilderness was preached to Jews, religious people who believed in the LORD and would participate in regular acts of worship.Likewise many people in our communities believe in God and the majority would call themselves Christians.So exactly what did John’s call to repent really mean? And if God is stirring a message of repentance for us today, then what is does this call to repent mean?
John’s message, like the one Jesus would soon begin to preach and later tell his disciples to preach, was not just a single word, “Repent.” The preaching of repentance had a specific purpose or reason attached to it. John and Jesus both admonished people to repent for the same reason saying, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (see also Mat. 4:17; 10:7).
Therefore, repentance means more than just changing our mind or doing an about-face in how we live our lives. Genuine repentance that God desires points us in a specific direction. Repentance calls us to recognize the kingdom of heaven has come near to us.
So what does “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” mean in our lives today? Such repentance will acknowledge and fully submit to the authority, dominion and rule of a God’s kingdom, a kingdom greater than any other. We no longer exercise our own authority to live as we please, and any earthly kingdom that would try to prevent us from living in obedience to the governance of God’s heavenly kingdom is dismissed as invalid. We have been called to repent recognizing the ultimate jurisdiction and control of the kingdom of heaven within and over our lives.
And so as followers of Jesus must ask ourselves if we have truly repented. Oh we have felt sorry for our sin; we’ve probably even tried to live differently. But have we repented with a surrender to the LORDSHIP of JESUS, to acknowledge His right and authority to rule as our King directing how we live from day-to-day? If we fail to submit to Jesus as LORD of an eternal heavenly kingdom, then our repentance is not complete.
Before I can encourage others to repent, I must first repent making Jesus my LORD. With such repentance I request asylum within the kingdom of heaven from the oppression sin that dominates the kingdoms of this world. I repent of my self-will and freely submit to the authority of Christ’s kingdom to direct how I live my life.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, forgive me for preaching what Paul may have called “another gospel,” a gospel that lacks the power to transform our lives. It is not enough to just repent feeling sorry for our sin with a desire to change our minds. Our minds need to be renewed so we begin to walk and live in the way You require as LORD. I repent again today and surrender to the authority of the kingdom of heaven in my life. Holy Spirit, help me as I proclaim Your word to not compromise the message of repentance; give me boldness to call people not to just change their minds but to seek asylum from You as LORD of a heavenly kingdom with expectations far different from the kingdoms of this world.