This Good Friday/Easter Sunday has all of us thinking about spiritual things perhaps a bit more than usual, especially when it comes to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we ponder spiritual things, it’s a good idea to think about why it all happened. What was the purpose, the plan, and the primary message of that cataclysmic event from the very man who split time in two?
He [Jesus of Nazareth] was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?’” –Matt. 16:13-15 (NASB)
That is the most important question ever. Here, now, 2000 years after He came and walked the earth… who do you believe that Jesus is?
At this point it does not really matter what other people think, whether they say he was just a prophet, a good moral teacher, a political revolutionary, a demon, or God… what matters at this point is what you believe, as it may have incredible consequences on your life. So what was this Jesus all about?
When Jesus began His ministry he had a very clear and direct message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus was saying that the time has come for God’s Kingdom (His Country) to begin coming near to the inhabitants of the earth. In other words, God was making Himself known to people in a very tangible way. He Himself was coming near to them.
As a result of God coming near them, Jesus gave two very clear instructions to everyone who heard Him – and the same message echoes loudly to all generations after Him – repent and believe the gospel.
What comes to your mind when you think of the word repent? Do you think of an angry red-faced preacher with a King James Bible in one arm and a hand shaped in the form of a gun pointing directly at you in the other? Is that what Jesus had in mind when he came, or was it something else? Was it no big deal, or was it something extremely urgent and crucial to your very existence?
Repentance simply means, “To think differently afterward, reconsider.” It means to have a change of mind. You are thinking one way, and then a message comes along that causes you to change your mind or “repent” of the way you are thinking. This same message of repentance can be seen being preached throughout Scripture to everybody Jesus and His followers came in contact with. Everybody has had his or her own conceptions about God and religion from close to the very beginning of time, and now Jesus is coming to make a clear command to change your thinking, and believe in His message – the Gospel.
But please do not be fooled, repentance does not begin and end with a change of thinking. Your mind is very powerful, and when your mind is truly changed your actions will soon follow suit. Paul of Tarsus, an early Christian preacher, boldly proclaimed to Jews and non-Jews alike “…that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate with repentance” (Acts 26:20).
It begins with a change of thinking, and results in a change of life! (in a good way, I promise)
Of course, the question then becomes, what about our lives need to be changed?
The Scripture and common experience make it clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have all sinned (broken God’s commandments) and thus come short of God’s standard – perfection. If you don’t believe this, I would encourage you to take a look at some of God’s commands in Scripture yourself…
—Honor your father and your mother – Did you always obey your parents and honor them in all your speech and actions?
—You shall not murder – The Bible compares hatred with murder – 1 John 3:15 – Have you ever hated someone? Or… actually killed someone?
—You shall not commit adultery – You married folks – Jesus said if you look at a woman with the intention of desiring her – lusting after her – you have committed adultery in your heart – ever done that? This would apply to women also.
—You shall not steal – Have you ever stolen something, even if it is small? (e.g. downloaded software illegally, stole a pack of gum at the store, or, maybe, uh, robbed a bank…)
—You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor – This is in the realm of lying, which is also forbidden (Leviticus 19:11). Have you ever lied? If you said no this is AT LEAST the second time you’ve broken that one. I mean, seriously…
And when we look at other commands in Scripture, there is no doubt we have all sinned, whether we are guilty of dishonoring God’s name, gossip, sexual immorality, drunkenness, jealousy, pornography… the list goes on. And the Scripture goes on to say, “that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10, Gal. 5:21).
Such is the great problem of our sin – it stops us dead in our tracks from entering God’s Kingdom. Please consider the severity of what is written…
“…dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…” (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
“The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23)
We have all broken God’s commands, and like a good judge must punish criminals, so God must punish us for the crimes we commit against Him.
We should by now find ourselves screaming, “What must I do to be saved from God’s punishment and enter the Kingdom of God??!!”
The word Gospel means, “To announce good news, to bring a good message.” This is what Jesus was bringing.
The good news is that God’s Kingdom has come near and is available to everyone who would have a change of mind by embracing what God was bringing to the people of the earth – Jesus Christ Himself!
God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, loves you so much that He chose to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for the sins of the world, to be buried, and to be raised from the dead on the third day. God sent Jesus to save us from our sins, from what we deserve as a result of committing them (death) and giving us the power to live free from them. That’s good news!
You cannot earn your way into heaven – it’s impossible! God requires perfection, yet none of us come close. This is why God had to send His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins – to be our sacrifice – in other words, to take on Himself the punishment we deserve by dying on the cross. Scripture is clear that we are saved not by our works, but by faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-10). Don’t even try to earn your way into heaven – it won’t work!
So what will work? How exactly do we become adopted into God’s family and live forever with Him starting today?
First you need to humble yourself by admitting to God that you’ve broken His commands. Admit to God that you’ve sinned against Him, and make a decision to turn from your sins. Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, believing that He is the Son of God, and that He died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead.
If you are ready to commit your life to Jesus Christ you can pray to God something like this: “God, I admit that I have sinned and broken Your commandments. I now choose to turn from my sins and believe in Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you that He died for my sins and rose from the dead. I now commit my life to following Jesus and obeying His commandments.”
If you have chosen to turn from your sins and have put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible is clear that you are a child of God and have entered God’s Kingdom! You have repented and believed in the gospel, and can now enjoy growing in a close relationship with your Creator, who loves you very much. Here are some practical suggestions in getting started following Jesus.
- Get Baptized – this is the first command to those who become followers of Jesus (Matt. 28:19).
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. These are the first and second greatest commandments, according to Jesus your new King (Matt. 22:36-40).
- Surround yourself with other believers – be in fellowship with other believers who can encourage you in your walk with Jesus, and whom you can encourage as well (Heb. 3:12-13). If you would like help in finding other believers or have any other questions feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to get you connected.
That’s a good start. God will lead you further as you seek Him through the avenues laid out above. May God richly bless you as you follow Jesus daily. Remember that He loves you with an everlasting love and is with you always, even to the end of the age! (Matt. 28:18-20)