“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What does that mean? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Why is that the call John the Baptist made to all who came to hear him preach: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
There are obvious sins. And not so obvious sins. We don’t know, save for the obvious, what things are troubling the souls of the person sitting near us. But there is a general question - not what are the specific sins that people around us are struggling with - but, what was John getting at? Why did he especially pick on the Pharisees?
Everyone there had some schooling in the law and were acquainted with the sacrificial system. They new about the sacrifice of atonement. They knew about the blood of the lamb which caused the angel of death to pass over them in Egypt. If ever a nation on the face of the earth knew about sin, were schooled in their sins, were forever dealing with their sins, Israel was it. Did they really need another prophet coming along and saying, “Repent for the kingdom for heaven is at hand.” Apparently this call to repentance was the way of preparing for the in-breaking of the kingdom through Jesus. So what was it exactly they were called to repent of? And, if I want Jesus to come to me in the way he did for them, in power, what would John call me to repent of?
So I asked myself, “Ian (that’s my name), what do you need to repent of? The list I came up with at first was familiar to me. My top three were,
1. Lack of zeal for the person of Jesus. -> Doing so. In process. Action toward it.
2. Fear of man. -> Key thing I am pressing for as I seek Jesus.
3. Being reactive rather than proactive to too much of life. -> In process.
So I meditated on them for a bit and thought, how am I doing? I was, for the most part, pleased that over the last 7 weeks I have made real progress in turning back to a godly life with respect to all of these. So, being somewhat satisfied I went on with my devotion. I began reading a book and it was out of the context of that book that I began to realize a fourth thing I needed to repent of that really shocked me.
It was wrong thinking about who I am in Christ; a negative instead of a positive vision of myself. You see the first three repentance issues were the story of my life. That is, when I ask, “Ian, what do you need to repent of?”, my first response is to search my heart and focus on all the ways I am failing God; the ways I fall short. But what if my biggest problem in life is that I have the wrong focus; that I am focused on the deficit of my life and not the sufficiency of Christ to fill it to overflowing?
Bill Johnson says,
“What is more important to me is for the Body of Christ to be absolutely possessed by the revelation of the greatness of our destiny. Without this understanding, we will probably not be willing to pay the price of learning to strengthen ourselves.”
And I think this is what John was getting at. The biggest problem the Jews had was NOT their failure to be aware of the shortcomings, sins and lack of measuring up to God’s holiness. It was primarily a failure to understand the nature of the Messiah and what it meant for Him to bring a kingdom to earth. They were so focused on sin, failure, and anger at their oppressors, they couldn’t comprehend that a Messiah’s main focus would be to change their heart through relationship and through the endowment with His own Spirit to make them holy and loving from the inside out. They couldn’t imagine that breaking the power of an oppressive kingdom would not mean liberating them from the Romans, but liberating them from the power of failure, shame, guilt, judgment, bondage, sickness, disease, torment, broken relationships, religious oppression, law, sin and death. They just didn’t have a grid for a good God or a loving Father. And their demonic belief structures, fueled by a bankrupt religious system that constantly focused on their sins and the works righteousness of an elitist group of religious leaders who thought, and who they thought, were the only ones holy enough for God to come to, were what they really needed to repent of. I think most of us do too.
How has the religious preaching and teaching, and the evangelical Christian formulas, bankrupt of power, led you into the bondage of believing that focusing on and growing beyond your failures, shortcomings and sins are what this life is really about? How many of you need to instead receive a Christ and His kingdom and a view of yourself that are radically glorious?
Jesus is different you know. He is. He’s different. He’s always different than who we peg Him to be. He’s more loving than we can conceive. He’s more forgiving than we’d believe. He’s more patient with our sins and infirmities and failures than we can see. He’s different. He’s most different in how he sees us as glorious in Him and destined for regal dominion, made holy by His power. Repent!
Repent of thinking low of yourself and look and see yourself already seated with Christ in the heavenlies!
Repent of focusing on how sinful you are and look to see how holy and perfect the sacrifice of Jesus is to cleanse you.
Repent of seeing how big your inadequacies are and turn to see the adequacy of Christ.
Repent of a fear-based relationship with God and open your heart to the love of your Father in heaven.
Repent of never trying because of past failures and turn to pursue the power of God to get you to victory until you have it!
Anybody know Nehemiah? You know who he is. He’s the leader who helped rebuild the temple after its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. He’s the guy who recovered the reading of the word of God which hadn’t been heard in the land in decades. And when he read it in the assembly, the whole church began wailing because they had drifted so far from God’s law. Oh, man! They saw God’s holiness in pure form for the first time in decades and they were horrified.
So Nehemiah stood up and said, “That’s right you wicked sinners. That’s how bad your life is; how far you’ve fallen. Get on your knees and you put on sackcloth and throw ashes over your head. I proclaim a fast or God will come in here with a hell of fire and consumes us all and send us to the pit. Now get on your face!”
NO!!! NO. He didn’t. Do you know what he said? He said, “Cut it out!!”. He gathered the leaders. He said tell everybody: Stop lamenting! We have been restored in God’s word. We have life through His law again. Rejoice! Tell everybody. Break out the wine. Get out the cakes. Man get Dorothy on the pie detail. Get the sweets out. It’s time to party; to rejoice! Hallelujah! We were lost and we’ve been found. God is so good. Proclaim a national party across the land. Nobody is allowed to mope, whine, talk about sin or cry a tear. Celebrate! Celebrate! Party time!!!
That - brothers and sisters - was Nehemiah’s call to rejoice in the face of God’s holiness and the revelation of falling short of God’s standard. (Nehemiah 8:9-12) I don’t know about you, but I need to repent of some bad thinking about God and about who I am in Him. Listen!! Hear what the Lord says about three people. He gave me these words this week. He gave them to me as I was praying over this message. They are what I mean about needing to repent of the way we view the kingdom of heaven and our Jesus who brought it in. Listen!
A daughter first and foremost. Imagine the greatest father you could ever have. God is greater. Imagine the most loving words a father could ever say if he was the best dad in the world. God speaks better words over you. Imagine the most loving expressions of a father holding you, hugging you, protecting you, kissing you. God is a better Father to you. You, Dorothy, are first and always a beloved daughter of your Father in heaven. When the enemy rises up to accuse you of being a failure, you are first and always a beloved Daughter, cherished by your Father in heaven; when your children make it look like you weren’t a good mother, you are first and always a successful daughter of your Father in heaven; when you are rejected by people and told you are not worth relating to, you are first a beloved daughter, accepted by your Father in heaven. And I say to you, Dorothy, there is now no condemnation for you because you are in Jesus, my Son, and the power of the law and sin, death and condemnation has been defeated and replaced in you with a Spirit of life, revelation and the knowledge of God himself who is your Father, first, always and forever. Amen.
A warrior always. I believe the Lord told me to say this to you: “You have never not been a warrior. Though men and circumstance have tamed you, I have not. It is not my taming that has tamed you. It is religious thinking about men that has tamed you. You were born to fight and you have become lame and your pain rules your body because when you aren’t fighting you have nothing else big enough, nothing else captivating enough, nothing else worthy of a warrior to focus on. Only as a warrior will the pain diminish in the joy, the fierceness, and the shout of the Lord that will fill and consume your heart. Rise up O son of man; rise up O son of God. This, my body, needs a fighter. So fight! Will you stand tall Gary, my son? Will you rise up? Will you pick up your sword? Will you fight for the money? Will you fight for the timing? Will you fight for the moving? Will you lead to the new ground I have for you? Will you take them with you? Gary - rise up! You were born for this. Your were equipped for this. Your whole childhood was a symbol of this. Strengthen your weak joints in Me, and fight for the ground. For the enemy trembles with you, and the church trembles without you. You are my Joshua. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. And in hinderance you shine like the breaking day. You are a classic overcomer.
The shoes have not left your feet since the day you put them on and Ian prayed over them; when you took them off in the physical, they were still there; when you sinned against your call, they were still there; when you were too weak to fulfill your call they were still there; for the I say to you, Aaron, “My gifts and my call are irrevocable.” You will never offend me so much by sin or neglect that this gift will be taken away. You will have it in season and out for the rest of your life.
These are just the three God gave me. Just three. Can you hear what God is saying? Can you hear the tone and the affirmation of God in these words? He is like that for all of you. It doesn’t mean He will overlook sin. But too many of you have forgotten why He deals with sin; not to harm you, but to fulfill His plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a blessed future. Anything that takes away from the pure glory of God in you as His child, He is out to destroy it - from wrong thinking, to wrong behaviour, to sins that have come against you, to hurts you have suffered. He is out to deal with it all - decisively - a death blow, so you can know the fulness of the height and the depth and the breadth of the glory you were created to be in Him.
Repent church. Repent. He’s different! His kingdom is different!! See differently. Having eyes to see, do you not perceive? Having ears to hear do you not understand? See the vision of you that God has in Christ. Hear the words that echo across eternity and are whispered in the creation concerning the greatness of His love and purpose for each of you. See, church! See. Hear church. Hear! This is what the Spirit says to you today. He’s different. Open your heart and see and hear what the Spirit says about the glory of your life in Christ.