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Repentance is the Message of the Kingdom

 

Matthew 4:17; Luke 3:7-14; Romans 6:1-17; Hebrews 12:22-29

 

Jim Davis

 

How often has your misperception prevented your understanding? Have you ever looked for an item shopping, and you think you have a good mental picture of what you are looking for. But your perception of what you are looking for is all wrong. So you go up and down the store aisle seeking to find the item you have formed a mental picture of in your mind. But you can’t find it. After exhausting your desire to continue your search without any help from anyone, you ask a store clerk. He reaches over and points out the item you’ve been looking for, and you have walked by it a dozen times. It has been right there in plain sight.

 

Religious and non-religious people ate and drank with Jesus without realizing who he was. It was extremely difficult for Jesus to get across to them who he was. He did not fit their perception of the Messiah.

 

An angel spoke to Mary about the birth of Christ. “The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:28-33 NIV).

 

The angel’s prophecy was in keeping with all the Jewish Scriptures. If you could walk into the Jewish world of the first century, you would probably hear daily conversations about the coming of the Messiah. Their conversations would reveal an earthly vision of a Messianic kingdom. They believed the Messiah would deliver them from the oppressive hand of the Roman government. He would relieve them of paying taxes to Rome. You remember one question they asked Jesus was “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?

 

The non-Jewish world saw a Jewish Messiah as a threat. The magi came to Herod asking, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). Herod saw a Jewish Messiah as a threat to his domain. He set out to destroy the one born king of the Jews. He had all the children less than two years slaughtered to prevent the coming of a Jewish Messiah.

 

The Jews believed the Messiah would reign from the throne of David over the entire world. It was their perception of the Messianic king that prompted Herod to kill any baby under two years old. All Herod knew about the Jewish Messiah was what he had heard from the Jews. There was no way he was going to be threatened by a Jewish king uprooting his domain.

 

Why the Confusion

 

Try to imagine, the confusion caused by those to whom God entrusted the Scriptures. They had every advantage. They had the Scriptures that explained the Messiah’s coming. Paul writes of the Jews, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1-2). But they were blind to the presence of their Messiah.

 

The confusion among the Jews about the kingdom can be attributed to the fact that it was a mystery. They knew the Messianic king was coming, but they didn’t have a clear picture of the type of kingdom he was to establish. Their only experience of kingdom life was what their forefathers had experienced as their kings ruled on earth. When you spoke of a kingdom—they naturally thought of king Solomon’s glorious reign. They expected the Messiah to reign like Solomon. They were to wait patiently until God revealed himself.

 

Matthew 12:42-45

42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

 

43 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." NIV

 

More startling is our confusion about the kingdom of God. There are many waiting for Christ to return to earth to establish his kingdom on earth. Some believe it doesn’t matter whether you understand Christ’s kingdom has come or you believe it is yet to come.

 

Jesus preached the kingdom of God after his resurrection.

 

Acts 1:1-4

1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. NIV

 

Jesus spent forty days with his disciples after his resurrection to explain the kingdom of God.

 

Luke 24:44-49

44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

 

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." NIV

 

Previous to this the kingdom of God was largely a mystery. Yes, they believed in the coming of the Messianic kingdom, but they never recognized the Messiah. However, the apostle says, “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ . . .”

 

Ephesians 1:3-10

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. NIV

 

What is the Message of the Kingdom?

 

What is the message of the kingdom? Listen to Jesus, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47). On Pentecost Peter commands repentance (Acts 2:38).

 

The message of the kingdom of God is repentance.

 

Matthew 3:1-3

3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

NIV

 

Mark 1:4-5

4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. NIV

 

Luke 3:7-14

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

 

10 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

 

11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

 

12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"

 

13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.

 

14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"

 

He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely-be content with your pay." NIV

 

It is evident that when John preached repentance his hearers were brought face to face with their need to adjust the moral direction of their lives.

 

Truth divorced from life is not truth in its biblical sense, but something else and something less. Theology is a set of facts concerning God, man, and the world. However the Bible is more than a book of facts about God, man and the universe. Its teaching goes beyond the facts as it exhorts us to alter our ways and bring our lives into harmony with the will of God. (A. W. Tozer, Exposition Meaningless without Application, via Pulpit Helps, May 2004).

 

Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind biblical truth is moral action. Truth set forth in the Bible is moral truth; it goes beyond intellectual to the will. Truth is addressed to the whole man. Its obligations cannot be discharged by grasping it mentally. Divine truth as revealed in the Bible isn’t satisfied until it rules our lives (A. W. Tozer, Exposition Meaningless without Application, via Pulpit Helps, May 2004).

 

Our wills must be surrendered to the sword of truth (Hebrews 4:12). Biblical teaching without moral application raises no opposition. It is only when we realize truth is in conflict with our hearts that resistance sets in (A. W. Tozer, Exposition Meaningless without Application, via Pulpit Helps, May 2004).

 

Truth may be taught with complete faithfulness to the text without making the hearer one whit better. Truth is often taught so as to leave the hearers without a sense of moral obligation (A. W. Tozer, Exposition Meaningless without Application, via Pulpit Helps, May 2004).

 

Repentance brings us to the crossroads of life. Jesus began his preaching with a clarion call, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). This call was echoed by the apostles.

 

Acts 17:29-31

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." NIV

 

What is repentance? We would like to hear some theological discussion concerning repentance. Let’s make it real simple. Let’s listen to Jesus call us to repentance. Jesus’ sermon on the mountainside marks the beginning of his ministry. Matthew informs us that Jesus began preaching repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, then he calls his disciples. Matthew reveals Jesus’ sermon on the mountain as introduction to the kingdom. The sermon itself is a call to repentance. We are taught not to do our righteousness before men. In the example prayer we are taught to seek God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. This is the message of repentance. We are to go the second mile. Treat others like we want to be treated.

 

Repentance was taught throughout Jesus’ ministry. He told those desiring to be served by others, to render a life of service to others. He instructed those desiring to be great to become least, for the least is the greatest. Jesus taught that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Repentance is a change in behavior.

 

Christ’s baptism is a baptism of repentance. It’s not any different than John’s baptism of repentance. Listen to Paul explain the purpose behind baptism.

 

Romans 6:1-14

6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

 

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

 

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. NIV

 

Do you know why there is so much confusion about the kingdom of God today? We are not experiencing God’s reign in our own hearts. We’ve turned God’s kingdom into a church—into a church doctrine? We are looking for a church to attend, but we are not seeking the kingdom of God—God’s rule in our personal lives.

 

Some believe the kingdom came on Pentecost. Some believe it is yet to come. The important aspect of God’s kingdom we miss is that it must come afresh in every generation. That’s why we must continue to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the kingdom of God—God’s will being done on earth.

 

We must Receive the Kingdom

 

Hebrews 12:22-29

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens."  27 The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things-so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

 

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our "God is a consuming fire." NIV

 

The Hebrew writer spoke of a time when God shook the earth at Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Ten Commandments. He shook the world for forty years as he led the Hebrews out of Egypt through the wilderness. Listen to Rahab’s conversation with the spies just before Jericho was overthrown by God. She recognized God as the one who was shaking her world to its very foundation, but must remember her trust in God made her personal world unshakable.

 

Joshua 2:8-16

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.  11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death."

 

14 "Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land."

 

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 Now she had said to them, "Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way." NIV

 

God shakes the world to bring us to repentance. God is shaking up the world order of things today. Do you know what God is saying? Take inventory of your life.

 

What shall we do as we live in a shaking world? Listen to God speak and obey Him. Receive grace day by day to serve Him "with reverence and godly fear." Do not be distracted or frightened by the tremendous changes going on around you. Keep running the race with endurance. Keep looking to Jesus Christ. Remember that your Father loves you. And draw on God's enabling grace.

 

Notice the Hebrew writer indicates, “. . . we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken . . .” Notice the present tense “we are receiving.” It is not past tense. It is not future tense. “We are receiving the kingdom of God.”  How is this? We receive the kingdom daily as we receive God’s rule in our daily decisions.

 

Do you know what happens when you receive God’s kingdom afresh in your life daily? Your life becomes unshakable. God is shaking the world order of things, but those who choose his rule live unshakable lives. John’s vision given to him by Christ revealed God’s unshakable order as he shakes the world to bring it to repentance.

 

You have probably gigantic statue of Atlas straining with all his strength as he holds the world on his shoulders. That is the way some of us go through life we carry all our problems upon our own shoulders. Imagine a statue of Jesus as a twelve year old child with his hand outstretched palm facing upwards upholding the world in the palm of his hand with no effort at all. He does have the whole world in his hand.

 

We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say I give up, Lord; here’s my life. I give you my world, the whole world. This is what we must do when we come to God in repentance.
 

Psalms 45:6

6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;

a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

NIV

 

Psalms 103:19

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all. NIV

 

Psalms 145:11-13

1 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your might,

12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures through all generations. NIV

 

Conclusion:

 

You must follow Christ to receive his Kingdom.

 

Matthew 16:24-28

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." NIV

 

Do you see Christ’s kingdom coming in your life. Will it come before you die? Jesus threatens our rule over our lives.

 

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