Commentary by Walter Albritton

                                   September 7, 2008


Repentance is the Gateway into the Kingdom of God


Mark 1:1-8; Matthew 3:1-12


Key Verse: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. – Matthew 3:2


Jesus made it clear that there is one door, and only one door, through which one may enter or embrace the kingdom of God. That door is repentance. To repent means to change your mind and go in another direction, or to say it more simply, to turn around.

Repentance involves much more than feeling guilty about the direction of your life. You have not truly repented because you recognize the error of your ways. You genuinely repent when you stop going your own way and start going God’s way. Guilt serves a useful purpose only if it motivates you to change your ways.

True repentance leads to forgiveness. One may ask, “For what do I need to be forgiven?” The answer is: your sins. How have I sinned? By going in the wrong direction – your way instead of God’s way. Our basic sin is choosing to live on our own terms rather than seeking to please and obey God.

So John the Baptist appears in the desert and calls upon people to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. He understands his mission. He is “a voice crying in the wilderness,” pointing people to the long awaited Messiah whose name is Jesus. John is content to prepare the way for Jesus. John’s humility is remarkable. He feels unworthy to even untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals.

John points out a major difference in himself and Jesus. John baptized people with water. Jesus, however, “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Thus those who repent will receive much more than forgiveness of sins; they will receive a new life through the power of the Spirit in their hearts. They would have a dynamic new relationship to God who would guide them as they lived life in a new direction.

We cannot emphasize too much the necessity of genuine repentance if one is to have a new life in Christ Jesus. Going to church does not make a person a Christian. A person may go to church for years and never actually live “in the kingdom of God” if there has been no repentance. Sad as it may be, a person may for 50 years sing in church “This is My Father’s World” without having set foot in the kingdom of God. Only those live in the kingdom who repent of their sins, receive forgiveness, and begin to worship the King of the kingdom, Jesus Christ the Lord.

The church at its best is a new community of persons who, having “turned around,” are now looking to Jesus to guide them in a new direction. They sense that they are citizens of the kingdom who receive their daily marching orders from the King. They know that to live in the kingdom is to live to please the King rather than to pursue their own personal pleasure.

A look at your own local church may be in order. Is your church helping people merely to “join the church” or inspiring them to repent of their sins, receive forgiveness, and live a new life in the kingdom of God?

Does your church make it so “easy” to join that there is no mention of the need to repent and surrender to the King? Are we sometimes so willing to add “Methodists” to the roll that we neglect to urge people to repent of their sins and become genuine followers of the King?

Each of us should pray earnestly for the grace to “model” kingdom living for our family and friends. We should insist that our church leaders not sell new members short but with love and holy boldness tell them that genuine repentance is the doorway into the kingdom of God.

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