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March 15, 2010

John the Baptist began his ministry with a strong cry for repentance: …“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew 3:2. There had not been a prophetic voice for about 400 years since the prophet Malachi. The first thing God wanted to communicate to the Jewish people was what He said 400 years before: “Repent”.

After John the Baptist finished his call to announce the coming of the Messiah, Jesus began His ministry by calling people to repentance. …Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

Jesus sent the Disciples out with the same message, “they went out and preached that people should repent. Mark 6:12

Peter did the same thing. His message to the Jews in Jerusalem after the coming of the Holy Spirit was … “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

Repentance is not a bad thing. It is good! However the word does have a bad connotation in our culture too! The undertone of the word suggests that something is wrong. Really it is someone that is wrong, Me! We don’t like to hear that message.

The word “repent” (μετανοέω) means to think differently, or change your mind. We would say today, “reconsider”. The Biblical idea carries a sense of compunction or regret, second thoughts, guilt.

When God is the one initiating repentance there is always a sense of “sorrow”, sadness, heaviness [2 Cor. 7:10]. There are really two kinds of sadness when it comes to feeling guilty or sorrowful for having done wrong: godly and worldly. When God is at work you repent. When the world is behind your feelings of guilt you can’t repent.

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Cor. 7:10

In this series we are going to look at repentance and what it means to truly repent. We will start in Matthew 12. Jesus has an encounter with the religious leaders which began as a result of Jesus and His disciples “breaking” a couple of Sabbath traditions. It escalates into much a more serious issue: the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the only sin that cannot be forgiven.

A careful reading of Matthew 12 shows that the root cause for the religious leaders’ downfall was their failure to see their own sin and to repent.

Jesus uses the example of Jonah to illustrate the remedy for Nineveh’s pending doom. The remedy was repentance! This was the very thing the religious leaders refused to do. We need to be alert to the fact that our religiosity can keep us from Jesus.

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