“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” Mark 1:14-15
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, the first thing He says is that the kingdom of God is at hand, so people should repent and believe the gospel. “Repent” is a word that gets a bad rap in our culture. Usually when someone says “Repent”, we might think of a street corner preacher of questionable credentials yelling at people passing by or a booming voice trying to scare people. But repentance isn’t a bad word. It’s a very good word. Repentance simply means turning back toward God. To repent means that we turn away from all those things that we were fearing, loving, and trusting more than God. It means that were letting go of those sins that kept us enslaved.
Repentance—that is, confessing that we are sinners—means that we admit to God that we’ve broken His commandments, whether we were aware of doing it or not. But repentance also means that we receive forgiveness and believe that those sins really are removed from us. This is why Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance means that two things are happening: 1) we are turning away from sin and 2) we are believing that we are forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
When we look at repentance from this angle—from the angle of forgiveness at Jesus’ cross—we see that forgiveness is a gift from God. He gives it to us. He gives the gift of repentance by sending His Son into our fallen world to preach the good news to us. He gives us the gift of repentance when He shows us how none of those idols we’ve set up in our hearts can save us. He gives us the gift of repentance when He reminds us of the forgiveness that He pours out on us through the precious death and resurrection of His Son. Repentance is not a bad thing at all. It is a good gift from God.
The Christian life is one of repentance. As long as we’re in this fallen world with all of its temptations, our weak human nature is going to give in to sin. This will happen throughout our whole lives. This means that God must constantly turn us away from sin and back to Himself. He does this through His Word. That’s why He gave us His Word made flesh in Jesus, His Word in the Scriptures, and His Word preached to us by pastors. God wants us to return to Him, so He gives us the gift of repentance to bring us back. He shows us the truth and sets us free from the lies of the world and the devil. Our Christian life means being turned back to God constantly and hearing the voice of our Lord say, “Believe in the gospel.” Believe that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Believe that our Father will draw you back to Himself. Repent and believe that Jesus has died and risen again to give you eternal life.
Gracious God, You are always ready to forgive. Grant me repentance, so that I may turn away from my sins and turn toward Your Son and His cross. Forgive me for my sins and lead me to live confidently in that forgiveness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.