“From that time, Jesus began to preach saying, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
This is the central message that we see all throughout the gospels. It’s summarized here in one short, simple verse Jesus came preaching. And what was he preaching? First word, repent. Turn. This is the essence of Jesus’ message to you, to me, to everyone on earth, turn. Turn from your sin, turn from yourself, turn from all your attempts to earn your way to God, your attempts to find fulfillment, turn in all these ways from sin, self, from even your good deeds.
Father, help us from the moment we wake up in the morning to turn from sin and self and trust in You. May we be marked by a posture of repentance.
I mean, what Jesus is preaching in many ways and all throughout the gospel of Matthew to religious people, turn from all your attempts to try to earn the favor of God. Turn to God, trust in God, repent. Turn from sin, yourself, your attempts to earn your way to God and turn to him for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Or some translations say, for the kingdom of heaven is near. In other words, the King has come. Jesus is the King. We’ve already seen this in Matthew chapter one, Matthew chapter two, Matthew chapter three, Jesus is God in the flesh who has come face to face to say to men and women, “Turn from your sin and yourself and trust in me to reconcile you to God, to save you from your sin, to bring you into the kingdom of God, not by your works, but by my grace. Trust in me, turn and trust, turn and trust.”
This is the beginning of the Christian life when you realize, “I need to do this, I need to turn from my sin and turn from myself and trust in Jesus as savior and Lord of my life.” You look all throughout the New Testament, this is the message. When you get to Acts chapter two and Peter stands up and preaches the first Christian sermon and the crowds say, “What shall we do?” And you know what Peter’s first word is? Repent. Repent and you will receive forgiveness in the name of Jesus. Repent and be baptized, which we saw in Matthew chapter three, obviously, knowing the baptism is not necessary salvation, but baptism is the first step we take after experiencing salvation, after repenting, turning from our sin, ourself and trusting in Jesus.
So this is the starting point of Christianity, of what it means to follow Jesus, and it is the daily reality for everyone who is a follower of Jesus. Every single day is waking up in the morning and saying today, I want to turn from sin and from myself to follow Jesus as savior and Lord of my life, as the King over every facet of our lives. That’s why we see language in all throughout the New Testament when it talks about repentance of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance, of a life that reflects repentance, because it would make no sense to turn from sin and self, trust in Jesus as savior and Lord, and then move on with our lives focused on sin and ourselves. No, it misses the essence, the very fundamental message of Jesus.
So God, we pray, one, God, I just pray for anyone who is listening to this right now, who has never come to the point in their life where they have repented, where they have turned from their sin and their self and all their attempts to earn their way to you, and trusted in Jesus alone as savior and Lord. God, I pray there might be people listening who do that right now.
And then for all who have come to that point, God, we pray that you’d help us to live out that reality day in and day out. Help us from the moment we wake up in the morning to turn from ourselves, to turn from our sin and to trust in you as our savior, as our Lord, as the one who loves us and leads our lives. And God, we pray that you would cause this posture of repentance to mark us all day long and help us to live all day long, turning and trusting, repenting and believing, trusting in you, believing in you as the Lord of our lives, as the one who alone is worthy of all of our trust. God help us daily to die to ourselves to turn from sin and to follow you as our King. And in this, to experience the essence of what it means to belong to you, the essence of what it means to know you, to follow you, to worship you, to be your children. In Jesus name, we pray. The name of our King who calls us to repentance and saves us from our sin and ourselves. We pray this in his name. Amen.