************ Sermon on Mark 1:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 4, 2005
What is the number one need of people today? A quick scan of church ads in the Yellow Pages tells us that many churches think people feel disconnected, unloved, uncared for. So, churches promise to be friendly, to be family, to be caring, to be a place you can call home.
We have reached the point where churches actually compete with one another in showing love and care.
Contrast this with Jesus in our Bible text. Jesus did not spend a lot of time making people feel good about themselves. Jesus' first sermon, as written in our text, would not go over big today. He simply told His audience to "repent." I suspect that most churches today would strike His name off a list of visiting pastors to call upon in an emergency after hearing this first message.
Yes, Jesus did speak words of comfort. He said, for instance, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). He said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat (Mk 8:2). He said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me (Jn 14:1). But much more frequently Jesus challenged His hearers, urging them to turn to God in repentance and faith. Even when Jesus was told of a tragedy that caused many deaths, a time when you would think His theme would be and should be comfort, He spoke of repentance (Lk 13:1-5).
As we prepare to take the Lord's Supper next week we need to hear the Lord's call to repent. Because if we don't repent we have no business being at the Lord's Table. Because if we don't repent we cannot possibly feed our souls with the bread of life. Because if we don't repent we cannot count ourselves as children of God.
I Repentance in Our Culture
A We love it when Jesus speaks of comfort and forgiveness and eternal life. We love it when Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd Who lays down His life for the sheep. We love it when Jesus speaks of preparing a place for us. We love it when Jesus talks of the Father's love. We don't love it as much when He speaks of repentance.
It is politically incorrect, today, to talk about repentance. Because that means you are personally responsible and accountable for what you say and do and think. Because that means you are NOT an innocent victim. Because that means you cannot use the excuse it is genetics or the environment that has made you turn to theft, alcoholism, drug addiction, homosexuality, violence, or whatever else you care to name. Because that means you are a sinner!
The message that people hear today is we are all special, precious people with no faults. That no one deserves a failing grade. That every kid is a star. That there are only winners and no losers (try telling that to the second place team at the Super Bowl!).
In contrast to this, the message we need to hear as we prepare for the Lord's Supper is that we are sinners, we are failures, we are losers who need to repent.
B In today's cultural climate many people either are not acquainted with the concept of sin and repentance or they totally disagree with such concepts. The words of David in Psalm 51 are totally foreign and even strange to such people:
(Ps 51:1-4,7,10) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge ... (7) Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow ... (10) Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.Today's world would say David needs therapy.
So, in such an environment how is the church to tell people they need to repent? And, how dare the church tell people they need to repent? That's what's wrong with the church – so judgmental, so legalistic, so narrow-minded as to actually believe in sin and damnation.
Many churches tailor their message because of this. They talk about comfort, they talk about a family atmosphere, they talk about acceptance, they talk about love and joy and peace. They talk about what people are looking for. They talk about what they have identified as people's biggest need. They pretend or fool themselves into thinking our faith is all about making people comfortable.
You might ask, what is wrong with this? What is wrong with making people feel good about themselves? What is wrong with making people comfortable? What is wrong is that many churches never talk about the rest of the Gospel. Many churches never talk about sin and repentance. Many churches never talk about the need to fall on your knees and confess your sin to God. Many churches never talk about how we human creatures offend the majesty and holiness of God.
But if we don't talk about repentance, we miss the point of the cross. If we don't talk about repentance, we forget the main reason why Jesus came. If we don't talk about repentance, we don't understand the wonder of God accepting us. If we don't talk about repentance, we end up believing that Jesus came to make us feel good. If we don't talk about repentance, we think what is wrong with us requires only a hug or a dinner invitation instead of the bloody Cross. If we don't talk about repentance, we miss the point of the Lord's Supper.
C "Repent!" said Jesus. "Repent of your sin." I look over my neighbors. I look over this congregation. Everyone seems so nice – okay, most of you seem so nice. We know what really wicked people are like – we saw some of them this week in New Orleans – and we are not like them at all. Compared to the looters and shooters and gang members, God must find us quite adorable and even angelic. So, why should we repent? And, of what do we need to repent?
With these and a thousand other lies we keep ourselves from knowing and admitting the truth about ourselves.
In preparing for the Lord's Supper we need to recognize we are no better than anyone else. In preparing for the Lord's Supper we need to recognize that we, with everyone else in the human race, are guilty and lost before God.
II What is Repentance
A So, what is repentance? What is Jesus telling us to do? What is Jesus calling us to do? In the Bible, the Greek word for repentance is "metanoia" which means "a change of mind." And, in the Bible, the Hebrew word for repentance is "shub" which means "to change from the wrong to the right path."
The Greek word, "metanoia," is actually a compound word made up of two separate Greek words, "meta" and "nous." The first part of the compound is the preposition "meta" which means "change or transformation." In Science class our children learn the word "meta-morphosis" (which means "change of shape") and they study how a larva and pupa are changed into a beautiful butterfly. The second part of the compound is the noun "nous" which is the Greek word for "soul or mind." So, "metanoia" means "change of nous" or "transformation of the soul or mind."
"Repent," says Jesus. "Change your nous." "Transform your soul." "Change from the wrong path to the right path."
Title: Turn Around
Repentance comes from a culture where people were essentially nomadic and lived in a world with no maps or street signs. It's easy to get lost walking through the desert. You become aware that the countryside is strange. You finally say to yourself, "I'm going in the wrong direction." That's the first part of repentance.
The second part of repentance is to go in an alternate direction.
-- Gordon MacDonald, "Repentance," Preaching Today, Tape No. 121.
B First, then, repentance means we recognize the truth about ourselves – that we are going in the wrong direction. Repentance means we see ourselves as God sees us. Repentance means we realize we are miserable sinners who have offended the holiness and majesty of God.
There was a time when Christians, as a sign of repentance, would whip themselves and loathe themselves and cry about themselves as being but worms. Jesus has much more than this in mind when He tells us to repent. There are a few churches – even today – that get stuck on sin and repentance and never move on to forgiveness and the new life. Jesus also has more than this in mind when He tells us to repent.
To repent means we see our sins as sins – without excuse, without a victim mentality, without making light of them. To repent means we see the depths of our sin. And, to repent means we recognize the wonders of God's love. There is a correlation between the two – between seeing our sin and God's love. You see, the more we see the depths of our sin, the more we see the heights of God's love.
Repentance means we are simply amazed that God saves a sinner like me. He saves me with all of my anger, my greed, my cruel words, my selfish thoughts, my lustful desires, my earthly idols and treasures.
Repentance means I recognize the Lord does not love me for my good parts. Repentance means I recognize the Lord loves me in spite of my bad parts. Repentance means I recognize the Lord died to save me from my sin.
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper, then, recognize that as a sinner your life is headed in the wrong direction.
C The second part of repentance is that you change the path of your life. Do one big "U" Turn when it comes to the direction your life is taking. Set your mind on things above, rather than on earthly things. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world; instead, transform your mind. Focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is admirable; don't focus on whatever is false, whatever is ugly, whatever is wrong, whatever is impure, whatever is evil.
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper recognize that if your life has not changed direction you cannot come to the Lord's Table.
III Repentance and the Kingdom
A Jesus not only calls us to repent but He also tells us why to repent. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near."
The kingdom of God can be described in a number of ways. In its most basic sense it refers to the rule of God in Christ by which He invades history in order to secure man's redemption and His glory. The emphasis falls upon God Who acts to save those who are in a state of alienation and rebellion from Him.
God, in Christ, has come to save us. Therefore, repent. That's what Jesus is saying. God has invaded this world with His saving grace. Therefore, repent. God, in Christ, is putting an end to our alienation and rebellion. Therefore, repent.
B Jesus also says, "The time has come." Now is the time to repent. Not later. Not tomorrow or next week or next year. But now, right now. There is no time to delay. There is no sense in putting it off. This reminds me of what the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Corinth: "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). We need to repent before we die. We need to repent before the Lord comes again. Because after we die and after the Lord comes again it is too late.
"The time has come." You need to make a radical decision right now: either you continue in your sin and end up in hell's fire OR you repent and experience the joy of salvation.
Read Preparatory Form ...
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