Hi everyone, Rob here. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus’ first words are these: “The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Often lost in our talk about Jesus as the Son of God, Messiah, Lord and Saviour is that he also came as a prophet. More than that, he came as THE prophet; the one who would come after Moses as prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15. In our church at the moment we’re doing a short series on the prophet Ezekiel. In chapter 14 he receives this message to say to the house of Israel: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” At the heart of God’s message to his people yesterday, today and until he returns is this, “Repent and believe the good news.” The good news is that in the person of Jesus the kingdom of God has come near. We can stop doing things our way and let God have his way in our lives and our communities.
While repentance begins with a decision of the mind to turn towards God it doesn’t end there. Ezekiel 14 and 18 tell us where the problem and solution really lies. God lets Ezekiel know that the Israelites had “set up idols in their hearts (14:4, 7)” Therefore, God will act “to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols (14:5).” In chapter 18 God says that the solution is nothing less than a “new heart and a new spirit (18:31).” Therefore: “Repent and live (18:32)!”
God’s message has been the same ever since the fall. If we repent, we receive forgiveness, mercy and life from his hand. What has changed with Jesus is that, instead of a blanket amnesty decreed from heaven, we have God-in-the-flesh taking our sins upon himself on a cross. Not only that, he gives us the Holy Spirit so that we could live our lives as he would live them if he were us (to borrow from Dallas Willard). We receive a permanent solution and a constant empowerment. Christ died for our sins once and for all and the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts that are now brand new through the cleansing blood of Jesus. John tells us that this is the Father and the Son making their homes in us. We now have the life that God desired for us when he said, “Repent and live!”
This is all good news and great theology, but the point is that it starts with repentance. We have to want the life of God in us. We have to want to be dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). A big part of repentance is aligning our desires with God’s desires. God wants us to have life in his Son, through his Spirit. He wants us to rest in the Father’s love. He wants us to put to death the idols that dwell in our hearts. On this basis repentance is part of the Christian life. We are constantly seeking to align our desires with God’s; our hearts with his; our minds with his.
But we also have to believe and to believe means to trust. We trust that God’s desires for us are good; we trust him when he says that he has made our hearts new; we trust him when he says we are his dearly loved children. Through Jesus, God has recaptured our hearts. Close your eyes, take a breath and believe it. Offer your heart to him with faith and trust. Come alive to the One who lives in your new heart. Repent and believe, again and again and again. Why? Because it’s the best news of all.