“REPENT!” A word that is supposed to strike terror into the hearts of sinners everywhere.
Back when I was a practicing sinner it didn’t work on me. I thought it was was silly — in a deranged kind of way.
So far I’ve found ten versions of the Gospel in the New Testament; in the next few months we’ll take a look at them one by one.
Number One is Jesus’ basic message: “Repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I’ve been to thousands of church services and meetings and never once heard this scripture used as the basis of a sermon. Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Full Gospel, inter-denominational — they all skipped it whenever I showed up.
I was always told that “repent” means, “Stop sinning.” It doesn’t.
I have good news and bad news for you. First the bad news: Getting rid of sin is a very long project. I’ve never known anyone who finished it in less than five years and for most, myself included, the project is still underway after forty years of dedicated work.
So don’t approach this “getting rid of sin” program as a hundred-yard dash.
… if we knew what Jesus meant
when he said, “The work of God
is trusting in the one he sent,”
and,“Mercy is what I desire,
not your sweat and sacrifice,”
we wouldn’t try to save ourselves
by working hard and being nice.
Now the good news: Getting rid of sin is not the prerequisite for experiencing the kingdom of heaven. Experiencing the kingdom of heaven is the prerequisite for getting rid of sin.
By the power of his name,
sin gives way to holiness,
guilt and striving yield to grace
and failure changes to success.
The game is not making myself perfect. The game is contemplating the Perfect One and absorbing his perfection into my life. With him comes
love for envy, fear and strife,
prosperity for lack and debt,
health for weakness and disease,
grace for struggle, toil and sweat.
Avoiding bad behavior is not the way to win. The way to win is exposing my bad behavior to the light of his presence.
So the first thing to do is, “Repent.” Jesus is saying, “Listen, Bubba, just in case what you’re doing is not working, try something different. Look around. Turn around. You might notice that the very thing you are trying so hard to find, what you’re trying to beg, borrow or steal (your personal heaven on earth) is at hand.”
“At hand” means I don’t have to reach for it…
More next week. Meanwhile, what do you think? Leave a comment.
Spirit of Fire news:
We’re officially launching Spirit of Fire on Kickstarter on June 21 of this year.
The goal is simple: Change the understanding of Christianity on earth from condemnation to love by the end of 2022. That done, the human race can begin to walk it out.
(Kickstarter is a way to crowdfund projects that couldn’t be produced otherwise. With Kickstarter, instead of the artist or inventor trying to sell a wealthy backer on the idea of funding the project, many backers give a little to kickstart the project and each benefits by getting a copy of the book, the widget, the album or other rewards. For a one-of-a kind book like Spirit of Fire, it’s the perfect fit.)
We’ve nearly finished the kickstarter video and homepage. The website, which is going to be truly incredible, is under construction. More next week.