Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jesus's Commands - Matthew 4:17

Matthew 4:17 reads “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Repent, literally means “to perceive afterwards” or in essence to change one’s mind after something has occurred.

The Jews understood repent. There was no need to go into an explanation of what repentance is. Of course today anyone can ask “What did Jesus mean by change your mind?” It is wise to keep things in their historical context.

What is the purpose of Judaism? To maintain a pure relationship with God that comes through the careful obeying of his laws. Of course Jews (no matter how the Pharisees acted) knew that humans messed up. The whole reason for the sacrificial system in Scripture was to temporarily cover the sin of the individual and the nation. So people mess up.

Repentance then is seen more fully as not just changing one’s mind but coming to an understanding that what was previously done, whether it be once or on a regular basis, is wrong. In order for real repentance to happen there must be confession that something is wrong and a perception that such action continues to perpetuate the chasm that exists between man and God. As a result of this confession and perception a person chooses to do the opposite.

Jesus said “Repent!!” Why? “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus would later say “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except through me.” Whose kingdom is heaven? God’s kingdom. The only way to get there is through Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do? He took man’s penalty of death upon himself so that man could enter into a repaired relationship with God and become a part of his kingdom.

When a person accepts citizenship they accept all the laws and rules that go with it. Before we were citizens of God’s kingdom we were citizens of the world and fully accepted the laws and rules that went with it (basically live for yourself). How is God’s kingdom different? Live not for yourself but for others. First God and then those around you!

Paul said “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What Paul calls transformation is nothing more then repentance in action.

One question remains. Do Christians need to continue to repent? Absolutely!!! Where in Scripture does it say that we Christians become perfect upon the accepting of Jesus’ free gift? No where. We become righteous in God’s eyes as a result, but we do not become perfect. On the other hand we do begin a process of being perfected. Just like any other process there has to be some force that is in control of it. That force is God. So regular repentance needs to take place as we undergo our process of perfection and obtain full active citizenship in God’s kingdom.

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