“From that time Jesus began to preach saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” Matthew 4:17
Here’s the perspective, “As the Father has sent Me, so am I sending you.” What do those words mean for me? What, therefore, should my life look like if that is true? And here I am, again, back at the idea of repentance. Why? Because repentance and the kingdom of heaven are intricately and necessarily woven together. The kingdom of heaven can’t be acquired without repentance.
Repentance is such a foundational “issue” that Christ’s ministry was made public and affirmed by the voice of God and the sign of the Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself submitted to the baptism of repentance in the Jordan. I can’t stop thinking about that, and maybe, Lord, You don’t want me to. I mean, You displayed a repentant heart. Though You had never sinned, You were still repentant. So what does it really mean to be repentant like that?
Peter warned his Jewish brethren, “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19 NASB) Now, the Jews weren’t sinless. As a matter of fact, no one other than Jesus, is sinless. So we are all in the same boat. So, what is this boat that is carrying us? What is this boat that maybe isn’t the boat we need to be in? And how do we get out of this boat, this sinking boat, before our destruction?
This boat is absolutely unable to take care of our sins. I must repent and return in order for my sins to be wiped away. And that’s actually a pretty interesting and weighty concept. See, that Greek word for “wiped away” is “exaleipho.” It’s all about smearing something off. It’s the Hebrew idea of atonement which is the picture of removing whatever it is that defiles. And I think I’ve been taught to think that this is all about removing what defiles me. But what if it is really about everything in my life and my attitude that brings defilement upon the character and person of God? What if it is about everything in my life that dishonors the God who I was created to honor and glorify with my whole being? What if sin is a smear campaign against the honor of God.? That kind of falls right into place with the whole honor challenge idea.
How can I have fellowship with God when I don’t even honor Him? How can I have fellowship with God when I honor myself, the world, or anything else above Him? Whatever is preventing me from true fellowship in the presence of God is what needs to be wiped away. So all of a sudden, sin becomes something so much more that not doing what God says or deliberately doing what God says not to do. It’s all about zealousness for God Himself, for everything that is on His heart, for His will, for Him. It’s honoring God above the world, above my own desires, above what everyone thinks. And when I don’t, then that is sin, and that defiles God’s honor. Because my purpose is to honor the God who created me and loves me. I’m to shine with His light. I’m not to shine with the light of world, because the world has no light of it’s own. I was called to be the light of the world because Jesus is the Light of the world. It’s all about the honor challenge. Will I zealously honor Him with all that I am?
Now add to that the picture of repenting and returning. The Greek word for “repent” is “metanoeo,” which is about changing your mind. But the Hebrew takes it deeper than just a mental activity. The Hebrew concept uses the word “shuv.” Shuv carries the idea of the mental activity and action being combined so that one moves to turn back or turn from. It’s the concept of an about face. And what are we turning back from? I’ve been honoring another. I must turn from that which I honor and turn to God to honor Him. Who I honor will determine what my actions look like.
Turning from mis-placed honor is a part of repenting. So is returning. The Greek word (epistrepho) carries the meaning of “to twist, to bend, to change.” For the Greek, it’s the idea of conversion. But for the Hebrew, it’s that same word “shuv” again. It’s turning back to God; it’s returning to Him. And we have to turn back, because every time we turn away, the sin of turning away breaks our fellowship with God. I repent and I return to God who restores me to a right relationship with Him as I restore His rightful place of honor in my life.
Honoring God with all of my life opens the door to His wiping me clean with His honor and presence. That’s where I get to thoroughtly enjoy His fellowship, That’s where I am atoned and become one with His Spirit. That’s when I discover what a time of refreshing is.
Paul’s mission was to declare that people, including us, ” should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20 ESV) Repent and turn to God, it’s all one action, it’s all one attitude. You can’t do one without the other. So when we actually turn to God, the actions that are it’s fruit, the deeds, will flow that verify that position. It may not happen all at once but there ought to be evidence. We have the choice to be like the children of Israel in the wilderness or like Moses. Jesus’ demands are high. It’s not easy. But it is awesome because God is awesome. We live in a harsh world and Jesus is calling us to some harsh decisions that stand out above the world. Am I willing to side with Him in honoring God totally in this harsh, antagonistic environment I live in?
Skip Moen put it this way: “If you side with the world, you are an enemy of the Messiah. Change must occur. You must begin to experience confrontational nausea when those old behaviors present themselves. You must learn to be sick of sin. Turn around. Stumble if you must. Back peddle. Wrench your side. But get going in the other direction. Things won’t look familiar because you are seeing them from a different perspective. But that’s what’s supposed to happen. If it’s not, then something else is wrong.”
The question I find posed before me is, “How zealous really are you for the Lord and His honor and His will?” Am I zealous enough to turn and continually honor You? Jesus starts His ministry setting this requirement, this necessity before me. And He “ends” His ministry with this same message. Here are His words in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous, therefore, and repent.” See, all along He’s given of Himself and made Himself known. He’s standing right there in front of each of us, knocking, just waiting for us to look at Him and see Him and invite Him in and know Him and become intimate with Him. He’s just waiting for us to fully honor Him, for us to turn from everything else that is so worthless and turn to the Lamb of God who alone is worthy.
Jesus said, “To those who win the victory I will give the right to sit beside Me on My throne, just as I have been victorious and now sit by My Father on His throne.” Wow! So what do I need to win the victory over? What do I need to conquer? What did You, Jesus, win the victory over? What did You conquer? You honored God. You defeated Satan and sin by upholding God’s honor every time. You conquered the cross and the grave by honoring God’s will above Your own. And this is what You call Your followers to. This is faith. This is Christianity. This is living life in Christ. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”