After John the Baptist was put in prison (Mark 6:17-29), Jesus began His public ministry in Northern Israel with a simple message that would resound from the quiet fishing village of Capernaum, across nations, languages, and ages, to reach the hearts and minds of the wayward, divided civilization of the 21st Century. The message:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
Repentance will weatherproof your life. Storms will come and rock you. People will deceive you. You will do things, or say things, that offend your better self. Sin, both intentionally, being reactionary, or unintentionally, stumbling, will rock all of us, because it is in our nature. Understanding and practicing repentance is a command of Christ for our own good. The weatherproof life will have repentance as a close and constant companion.
To repent is to change one’s mind or purpose for the better. In modern terms, repentance could be that “Aha” moment when you realize that you have been doing something wrong and change course, change your mindset and do the thing correctly.
Primarily, in the New Testament, repentance is used in the context of turning from one’s sin. Sin is missing the mark of God’s holiness and standard.
While many people would say they don’t care if they miss God’s standard, they aren’t trying to please God in the first place. Others realize the reality of God’s love and purpose. They realize that pursuing God is the path of greatest joy and fulfillment in life. So turning from sin, that is, repenting, is something they want to do. They do not want sin to direct their minds and lives in a distorted, immoral way. They want to be directed by the Spirit of the Living God along a path of righteousness and peace, where sin no longer clouds judgment and leads to ruin.
Repentance is the first thing that we do after the realization that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. When I see my life in light of Jesus’ holiness, I realize that I am full of sin, not at all the saint I imagine I am when comparing myself to others. In fact, all my righteousness is like a filthy rag, one with which I wipe feces and mud from bottom of my shoes, and I am undone. Woe is me. Eternal hell would be my just reward.
But Jesus doesn’t want that—for anyone. He is the Savior, He loves people. His desire is for each and every person in the world to know the unfailing, unwavering, boundless love of God revealed through Jesus. And, knowing that overwhelming love, goodness and kindness, that each one be saved from their sin, no matter how grievous—so He calls us to repent. Change our mind, change our path, run to Him instead of away from Him.
Because there is a new dynamic in the world. It wasn’t on the planet for the first 4,000 or more years of recorded history, Jesus brought it with Him in His incarnation—the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus stepped through the veil that separates the eternal from the temporal, the created, physical plane from the heavenly realm, He brought His kingdom with Him. The King of Kings didn’t leave His kingdom in heaven, He brought it to earth and planted it, invisibly, deep in the soil of His creation—on and within every square inch of the created world.
You can’t see it with physical eyes, just as you can’t see the prison bars of sin and the devilish jailor who wants to keep you down and destroy you— but the kingdom of heaven is here. Entering into that kingdom, that is, becoming a citizen of the heavenly realm, comes through faith in Christ, and repentance from sin. This kingdom life will truly protect you from the storms of life—you are in the world but not of the world, and, like the house built on the rock, you become weatherproof.
Dear one, maintain a repentant heart and mind. When you screw up, turn to God quickly, slowly prune the darker edges from your being and enjoy the freedom and victory of Jesus Christ in the kingdom of heaven.