“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139: 23-24) Yes, the most difficult to understand about man is the “self”. The easiest way to be deceived is “being deceived by my own self”. We are unable to see our own selves. Only through God’s grace, God’s light can we see what hurtful ways or evil ways are in us. Some have accepted the Lord but are unwilling to walk the everlasting way. Why? It is because he did not see his own self. Those who have not seen their own selves will not grow in Christ. Those who have not seen their own selves will not walk the everlasting way. In other words, they will not run on the narrow way. They will be like what Mathew 7:21 says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter!”
The first talk last time, we brought up: Why should we listen? How to listen? Why do we need to pray? How to pray? This second talk is a study of Jesus’ preaching topic when He started His ministry to preach the gospel when He was on earth. What was His topic? It was, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) So, let us think about these: Why should we repent? What is repentance? How can we repent?
Why should we repent?
First of all, why should we repent? We need to pay attention to what Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”. So, we need to repent. But where is the kingdom of God? To this date, we have not seen the kingdom of God here on earth. But Jesus clearly said, “The kingdom of God is at hand!” So, what is going on? It is true that this world is in Satan’s hand and we live in an antagonistic kingdom! If we understand this point, we truly should be thankful to the Lord for His watch care and protection. So, often, we have ignored God’s abundant grace, unable to express thanksgiving and praise. We are so ignorant! The Scripture tells us, “My Father, who has given them (sheep) to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Yes, we come and go peacefully is all due to the Lord’s personal protection and leading. Today, we live in the kingdom of Satan. This is exactly what 1 John 5:19 said, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Then where is the kingdom of God?
When the Pharisees asked Jesus when will the kingdom come, Jesus replied, “‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (or heart).” (Luke 17:20-21) In this passage, Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is in this world. In the Lord’s Prayer if Matthew 6:1-13, the Lord again said, “Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven. hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come…” This verse clearly states that His kingdom has not come. He asked us to pray for His kingdom to come. So, how do you explain it? (The Lord’s Prayer is in two parts, the first part is to pray for the kingdom and the second part is for us.)
These two passages may confuse us. Has God’s kingdom come already or do we need to pray for it to come? Is it contradictory? The Bible will not contradict itself. There are two time periods of the kingdom of God. One is the preparation period (when Jesus was preaching the gospel) and the other is the realization period (as indicated in the Lord’s Prayer).
We all need to know that the kingdom of God will come for sure. It is not a theoretical discussion but fact. Now is the time to prepare the coming of the kingdom. The church is God’s kingdom but it belongs to the preparation period. God saved us for a reason in order that we have part in His kingdom. Perhaps we have heard that the church is also divided into two time periods: one is the church in war and the other is the church that overcame. Today, we belong to the church at war. Since we are in the preparation kingdom time period, the church is at war. So, needless to say, we are in hardship because both preparation and fighting are tough! But such hardship is not for naught. It is just as the Scripture said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
So, in this preparation time, Jesus told us that there is something that must be done: repentance. Repentance is a required procedure in the kingdom of preparation. In other words, why should we repent? It is for the preparation of the kingdom. There is no doubt that repentance is for the sins and trespasses we committed. But more importantly, it is for the coming of the kingdom.
What is repentance?
Secondly, what is repentance? Is it because we have no peace for the sins we have committed that we apologize or say sorry? These are merely “outward exhibition” of repentance and not the reality of repentance. When God prepared His kingdom, the first thing He wanted people to do is to change one’s “heart and mind”. The Greek word for repentance (μετάνοια) is formed by two words. The first word is change (μετά). The second word (νοέω) has a very deep and important meaning and lets us obligingly translate it as “heart and mind”. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand; you must change your heart and mind.” Reader, has your heart and mind changed? If not, then as a Christian, you would be suffering beyond words! Why? Because you know as a Christian, you should behave this way and not that way. Yet you can do nothing about it because you have no power to do it. It is because your heart and mind have not changed! If your heart and mind has not changed, even if you are baptized or the pastor of a church, the fire of hell is still there waiting for you! If the heart and mind has not changed, no wonder there is fighting for money and power in the church. If the heart and mind has not changed, you certainly will not see the loving-kindness of God nor wake up to God’s righteousness! There are just too many people in church today that do not understand what “repentance” is. In other words, there are too many people who have not “changed their heart and mind”. Why is the church so gloomy today? Why do the believers not have loving hearts for the Lord? Why is it Bible reading sheds no light? Why are there no words to pray with? It is because their hearts and minds have not changed! To believe in Jesus is an encounter experience with Jesus. If you have experienced it, you will understand because your heart and mind has changed. Otherwise, your ‘belief’ is in question!
How to repent?
Thirdly, Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus wants us to repent and wants us to change our hearts and minds. However, He also knows that we have no power to change our heart and mind. So, Jesus prepared such a grace. It is as the Scripture says, “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31) The Lord Jesus through His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, He did them in order to grant us “repentance” and “forgiveness of sins”. As long as we believe in Him, our hearts and minds can change. What is to believe? If we just have the understanding of “believe” as most people says; just believe that Jesus surely died for our sins on the cross, believe that he rose after the third day and ascended into heaven but do not receive Jesus to have a direct relationship with Him, then your belief is not the belief in Christ! You have no part in His salvation! The truth in believing in Jesus is to invite Jesus into your heart as the Scripture says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John1:12) So, to “believe in Jesus” must invite Jesus into your heart. Otherwise, you are still a son of prediction!
Brothers and sisters, to believe in Jesus is to change your heart and mind! God’s word is active and effective. It is not a dead theory. Believe in Jesus is a wonderful experience you can have when you receive Jesus into your heart. Only when you receive Jesus into your heart, your heart and mind will change. Then you will forsake your un-holiness and unrighteousness. You will refuse your sins. Only them you will see God’s loving-kindness, wake up to God’s righteousness. All these begins with your receiving Jesus into your heart. All these happen after your heart and mind are changed.
Brothers and sisters, is your heart and mind changed? Many Christians only imagine that they are Christians. They do not have the life of Christ in them. It is because they have not invited Jesus into their hearts. They use reasoning and intelligence to force themselves to live their lives. The Scripture says, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth is not to ask people to force themselves but to give people freedom. DO you feel that you have no spiritual power? Do you feel that there is darkness in your head, you do not understand the loving-kindness of the Lord and do not know God’s righteousness. Brothers and sisters do not cheat yourselves. Allow Jesus to come into your heart so that a great change will arise in your heart. You will see God and everything. You will also see your own pitiful ness and filth. All these things come naturally and not by force! May God have mercy on us so that we can receive Jesus into our hearts clearly and a thorough change in our hearts and minds. This kind of repentance is true repentance and the kingdom of God can be prepared.
G. & L. Shen
Translated Feb 14, 2014