Repent and Believe!
Isaiah 12; Mark 1:12-15
A soap manufacturer and a Pastor were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, “The Gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it? Just look around. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!” The Pastor made no reply until they passed a dirty little child making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the Pastor said, “I see that soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for there is much dirt, and many dirty people around.” The soap man said, “Oh, well, soap is only useful when it is applied.” And the Pastor said, “Exactly, so it is with the Gospel.”
This morning we conclude a three-week sermon series based on Jesus’s first sermon in Galilee. In Mark 1:14-15 we read, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Life Under New ManagementThe last two Sundays, we covered the first two statements of the “good news of God” Jesus proclaimed in Galilee. “The time is fulfilled.” The “kαιρὸς” is here ~ the right time, the perfect time, the time you’ve been waiting for, the time of your life is here. Let’s make the most of this opportunity.
“The time is fulfilled. The King has come near,” Jesus said. “The rule of God” Jesus was saying, “has broken into our midst now that I am here.” So what? That has huge implications for us. Jesus spells them out in the last phrase of verse 15: “Repent and believe the good news!”
You notice that there are two things here — repent and believe the good news. Two things that, when we look at them, are two sides of a coin so to speak. The two go hand in hand. Believing and trusting. Believing and repenting. It is an invitation to come and live under new management.
Repent: Return Home .. Change Your Mind
Repentance is a word that we do not get to use often in our churches and sermons nowadays. Yet, repentance is repeated over and over and over again in the Bible. The words “repent,” “repentance,” and “repented” are mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. It is almost impossible to find any book in the Bible that doesn’t call to repentance.
When you hear this word you usually immediately picture a preacher pointing a judging finger at a sinner. The word “Repent” summons up pictures of condemnation and even damnation. That’s not what the word means. In order to understand what Jesus meant by “repent and believe the gospel”, we need to shed some light on two important words that are translated “repentance” in the Bible, one of them is Hebrew and the other is Greek.
The Hebrew word that is translated “repentance” is “shuv.” Shuv means “return.” “Repent” in the days of Jesus and to the Jews was to come back, to come home. It’s what the prodigal son did. He went the wrong way, turned around and returned home. “Return, Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall!”, says Hosea 14:1. “Shuvah yisrael ad Yahweh elohey ~ Return, Israel, to the LORD your God.”
The Greek word for Repent – metanoia – means “to change your mind.” It’s similar to the Hebrew word. Suddenly you wake up, you gain a new perspective, you realize you are going the wrong way and you turn around and go the right way. My GPS has a lot of different languages on it. When I get lost, it tells me I am going the wrong way and I need to turn around and go back. If it had an ancient Hebrew or Greek setting it would said, “Repent, Repent.”
Repentance, therefore, is gaining a new perspective. It is turning around. Repentance is coming home. It’s going to take every bit of your being – all your heart, mind, soul and strength – to reorient your life so you can follow Jesus.
To repent is to wake up and go the way Jesus is going. To repent is to value what Jesus values. Jesus spend most of His time in Galilee – where the poor, oppressed, culturally diverse backwater of Palestine lived. He was one of them. He lived with them, fed them, healed them, taught them, cared for them, loved them and invited them to follow Him. He said I have come to preach Good News to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, open the eyes of the blind, set the captives free – physically and spiritually. That was not a popular message. The people in His hometown, the ones who knew Him best, tried to kill Him for that. They weren’t willing to wake up, turn around and follow Him.
Repentance is the gate to enter the kingdom of God. “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” Repentance will ever be indispensable part of being in the kingdom of God. True repentance is a radical change, a new mindset, a new attitude towards God. “A Christian is not sinless”, as Warren Wiersbe says, “but someone who does sin less – and less – and less.” Sin continues in us even after we come to Christ, but we can never again be complacent about it as we did in the years when we lived in our darkness.
Friends, Jesus was absolutely straight and told everyone in Galilee to change, and I am saying to the dear people of this congregation that I deeply care for, we all need to change, because our lives are not being controlled as they should be by the presence of God. Our discipleship lacks decisiveness, extravagance and wonder. We have lost the thrill of the merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. There is too much defensiveness, and too many excuses for sub-Christian living, too much averagism, too much looking to people. The King has come! Every time we meet here, the King is here! We have to turn, and change, and move on to new levels of zeal, of dedication, of knowledge, of cross-bearing, of forgiveness, and of hope.
And so Jesus says repent and believe the good news. Believe that the time has come. Believe that the kingdom of God is at hand. Believe that God is about to fulfill all His promises. Repent, and believe the gospel because your redemption is drawing near. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday March 24th, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor