First Command: Repent.

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:36-41)
 
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan … 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”  (Mark 1:4-5 & 14-15)
Modern society has a lot of problems with Christianity. It sees it as old-fashioned, as bigoted and as irrelevant. Ultimately, there’s one big problem that encapsulates this major clash between modern society and Christianity. The message of the modern world is that you are great just the way you are – people need to love you, warts and all, and you don’t need to change. Christianity, on the other hand, calls you to repent of your sins.

This is quite a difference! The Christian message is that you aren’t great just the way you are. You, like the rest of us, have fallen short of the glory of God and of who he created you to be. It’s not just you – this is also true for every human that has ever lived and will ever live, apart from Jesus Christ – but it’s still quite difficult for us to hear. Many Christians choose to downplay or even distance themselves from Christianity’s call to repentance, because they know that it is fairly unpalatable to modern ears.

Unfortunately, that’s just not an option if we want to be faithful to the message that God has given us to proclaim. In the two passages that we have read together today, we can see that repentance played a crucial part in the Gospel as it was preached by John the Baptist and Jesus in Mark 1 and by Peter in Acts 2. Peter calls his listeners to respond to the Gospel by submitting to two difficult commands.  He commands them to “repent and be baptised”.

If that doesn’t sound much like good news to you, then read a bit more carefully. Peter doesn’t stop at commanding people to repent. He also reveals to them the promise that is available to them if they do. He says that, because of Jesus, any sins that we repent of are forgiven. He says that, because of the promise of the Holy Spirit, who from the Day of Pentecost onwards fills all those who follow Jesus, God changes all those he forgives. Preaching repentance on its own isn’t the Gospel; it’s just judgment. The Gospel is the good news that repentance of our sins leads to forgiveness for our sins, as a result of all that Jesus has done for us.
  1. Calling others to repentance is hard and we don’t want to do it because of the cultural waters we swim in. Ask God to help you be less like our generation and more like the people he’s calling us to be
  2. How would you explain the good news to people about what God promises to do for those who repent of their sins?
  3. Repentance isn’t something we do once. It’s a lifestyle. Even as we talk about calling others to repent of their sins, therefore, come yourself before God now and repent of your sins.
Father God, I thank you that you promise me that if I repent of my sins then I will be totally forgiven for them. Thank you also that your promise to fill me with your Holy Spirit and to change me from the inside out. Help me to witness to other people about you in a way that tells them both the bad news and the good news – about the need for repentance and about the amazing promises that you fulfil in us when we repent. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Freddie Ingle, who leads our Kingston Venue.
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