I’ve always been interested in the Messiah’s first words when He began his ministry, which are found in the first two gospels. Matthew records: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4: 17) and in Mark, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1: 15).
The word I want to focus on here is ‘REPENT’. The Greek word that both Matthew and Mark use here is ‘metanoeo’ which means to ‘change one’s mind’ or ‘to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sin*’. (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3340/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/). *(And just quickly, according to 1 John 3: 4, ‘sin’ is described as disobedience against God’s law).
Now if Jesus’ first words as He began His ministry here on earth was to tell His hearers to “repent”, that is to ‘change their mind regarding sin’, you could argue, by inference, that those hearers were behaving or committing actions that were sinful, and possibly believed, that they were still right with God.
I’d like to argue that Jesus’ first words for His ministry, are still very much applicable today. The Lord still calls people to repentance; He is still calling people to ‘change their minds regarding sin’. But what does a repentance look like?
King David was known as a ‘man after God’s own heart’ (Acts 13: 22). But how could he still be known as a man after God’s own heart after committing some very terrible sins? i.e., Adultery and murder. The prophet Nathan confronts David about this, but starts by telling a story:
There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.
Now when David hears this, he was furious: “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” (2 Sam. 12: 5-6)
Then the moment Nathan does the mic drop: “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12: 7a)
Nathan used this story to convict the king of his horrific sins. He had committed adultery with a married woman, which eventually lead him to murdering the woman’s husband, and to top it off, he tried to cover it up in a lie!
Now, how does David respond? Being king, he could execute the prophet Nathan to continue covering up his sin; maybe he could be indifferent and say, “Ah well, it’s in the past, let’s move on”; or he could be sorry, but continue in his sin.
Thank God King David’s response wasn’t any of these. Instead, what the bible records is a picture of someone with a repentant heart. My best mate and ministry brother, Tevita Fonokalafi, takes us through a look at Psalm 51: 1-17 to see what this looks like:
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
So, what lessons can we draw about repentance through King David’s experience:
1. Look at your current behaviours and actions – are they in disobedience against the Lord? Do they transgress God’s Law? Here’s a quick test: Have you ever lied? Or stolen anything? Small or big? Then you’ve broken God’s law. You break one, you’ve broken them all. (James 2: 10)
2. Once you’ve identified your sinful nature, humble yourself and seek God’s forgiveness for your sins – don’t try and excuse it!
3. Recognise God’s amazing character: He is Holy and Just, meaning that any unholiness or sin, needs to be punished; however, He is also merciful and gracious, so if you confess your sin’s and take on His ‘cleansing’ (through Jesus Christ), “He is faithful and just to forgive…” (1 John 1: 9).
4. “Go and sin no more” (John 8: 11) – true repentance shows a change in the mind regarding sin, which should ideally result in a change of behaviour. It won’t be easy, but it is absolutely needed.
Thanks for making it this far. I know there’s a lot to process so I’ll end this writing with our Saviour’s first words of ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. If you want to be a part of His kingdom, you know what to do.
by Richard Misilei
Some Questions to Consider:
- How do you understand and live out a repentant faith life?
- What are some realities Christians must face in practicing repentance?
- Who might need prayer in relation to todays Blog?