Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.".19And He said to them, "Follow Me."
Its a very simple message, even a child can understand the words, and yet, so many keep on getting it wrong. There are 3 parts to todayís message. Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, follow me. Lets take a look at them.
Repent is very simple. It says Iím sorry I did wrong. I donít ever want to do it again. I know it hurt you. I know it was not good for me. Even though I deserve punishment, and you have a right to reject me; have mercy on me, and forgive my sin.
Now to understand what repent means, lets take the case of "caught red handed in the cookie jar." When I was growing up we had a simple rule. No eating between meal. 3 cookies per meal. 3 meals a day. No cookies at breakfast. We also had a cookie jar that had a screw on lid, and my mother could hear anyone if they should turn the lid. She also counted the cookies in the jar. Sometimes we would be tempted to eat between meals, but we never got far, "who is at the cookie jar, the voice would come and catch us." We were sorry we got caught. We were sorry we didnít get a cookie. We were sorry that we got a lecture about the cookie rules. But for a long time we never really repented. So it was that the temptation was always there, and we didnít seem to have power to overcome. We knew that we would be forgiven. We knew that we wouldnít be abandoned. We couldnít see how it was hurting anyone. And this sin, small as it is, was enough to destroy our lives. The only thing on our mind was the overwhelming desire for a cookie, who could resist?
Repentance finally came one day, when instead of the lecture about the cookie rules, my mother cried and said, I guess you donít love me, because if you loved me, you wouldnít keep going to the cookie jar. And this is what changed us, we didnít want to not love our mother, we didnít want to make her unhappy, that made us even more unhappy than a spanking. And so due to love, we found the power to overcome temptation.
All repentance is rooted in the love with which God loved us. Repentance is rooted in seeing our sin pounding nails into Jesus hands, once we can see that sin hurts God, and hurts us; once we can see that sin is saying to God, I donít love you and I donít need you; then love came move us to actually be sorry that we did wrong, and want to change and never do it again.
Part 2. The Kingdom of God is at hand. - what you hear when these words are spoken depends on whether you are repentant or not. Those who are unrepentant hear - God is coming, and He will punish. They hear a call to repentance. Those who are repentant hear something else. They hear that the promised perfect place that Jesus has prepared for us, heaven, is just around the corner. Its kind of like hearing that Christmas is near, because for repentant believers, heaven is better than a thousand Christmases. It is something to look forward to, something to prepare for, and something to keep us busy, for once we are ready, then we want to make certain that al we know, repent, believe and are saved, so that they too can share in this, the bestest of all things.
Part 3. Follow me - again what you hear, depends on whether you are repentant or not. For those who are unrepentant, these words are more law, things they have to do, or they will be in trouble. They hear, follow me or else. And the or else is: you will perish, you will rot in hell, you will suffer, you will be punished. Those who are unrepentant, when they hear follow me, hear law, and the laws says you canít do what you want, you canít do your own thing, you canít have fun. Those who are repentant know that God loves them, and when Jesus calls us to follow, it is being lead into the toy room, because Jesus loves us and leads us into good things. When Jesus calls us to follow, we follow because he loves us, and because he gives us good stuff, and because we love him we want to follow, we donít want to miss out on anything good. Those who are repentant do not hear, follow me, as law. Those who are repentant hear follow me, and they know that what ever they had planed, what ever they had wanted, what Jesus is leading us to is so good, that it is easy to leave all of "our stuff behind, because the things that Jesus gives, last forever. Jesus gives that which lasts forever, the cookie I want lasts a few seconds - how will you choose?