Matthew 3-4, Psalm 82
Recently, when sharing the gospel message with one of my patients I encountered, by far, the most common reason as to why this message is rejected. When I pointed out that we are all sinners and really deserving of hell and not heaven, because even one sin is enough to keep us from being in the presence of a perfect God, she disagreed and claimed that a loving God would never send her to Hell, because she's a pretty good person. The religion of being, "pretty good", is the most important yet the most difficult thing for a person to realize if they are to enter into a relationship with Jesus. We must see ourselves as broken needing to be reborn, not pretty good in need of a little patching up. I went on by pointing to the 10 commandments and showing how we have all broken all 10. Lastly, I pointed out that I wasn't coming from a place of being better. I wouldn't want my past or many of my thoughts to be highlighted on the news ticker at Times Square. I, like her, am a sinner that falls completely upon what He has done for me and not on what I do.
So important is the message of repentance that it was the cornerstone of John the Baptist's ministry, as we read in Matthew 3:1-2, "...John the Baptist came preaching..., and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" We read the purpose of this in the next verse, "..Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight." We next see the first words in the book of Matthew showing what Jesus preached in 4:17, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." " Again to illustrate how important this is, in tomorrow's reading, which includes the popular section of the Beatitudes, we read the first two beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-4, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they will be comforted." Being poor in spirit is the opposite of pride. Once we see ourselves not in comparison with others but in light of Jesus, any ounce of pride should be gone. Once this occurs we can't help but mourn over our sins.
Martin Luther said, "The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation." Simply apologizing for one's sin, or even confessing one's sin is a good start, but it is not the same thing as repentance. The first two (apologizing and confessing) reveal that we feel bad for what we have done. But repentance means that we have changed our minds about the issue. It means that we realize that we were heading in the wrong direction, but now we have accepted God's way as the correct way, rather than our own. During this generation of Biblical illiteracy, it's easy to understand why people feel so good about themselves, because they don't have any knowledge of the true standard which would drive them to their knees. So important is God's Word, we see when Satan tempts Jesus in Matthew 4:1-10, though Jesus was the most powerful, wise, and brilliant man who ever lived, rather than relying on this, He responded to each of Satan's attacks by quoting Scripture. We know from Ephesians 6:17, that our weapon in defeating any attack by the enemy is, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." I pray as we all continue through our study of the entire Scriptures in one year that we will rely on the Word of God and use it as we reach out to our family, friends and neighbor; boldly proclaiming the gospel message and, as Jesus did, focusing on the necessity of repentance to begin a relationship with our Savior.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: