From that time Jesus began to preach this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
(Matthew 4:17 ESV)
After being baptised by John the Baptist and facing off against Satan in the wilderness, Jesus began His earthly ministry in today’s verse. His message was simple: “Repent“.
As we learned earlier in our study of Matthew, the word repent in the original Greek is μετανοεο (pronounced: met-an-o-eh’-o) which means “to change one’s mind”. Jesus preached a message calling people to change what they think.
Human beings think a lot of self. While we might admit that we “make mistakes” we generally like to think that we are inherently good. But the Bible tells us just the opposite. The Bible – which is God’s message to us – says that there is no one who is good or who can do good [Romans 3:10, 1 John 1:8 et. al].
People may wonder why good things happen on this planet if this is the case. God explains that also: good things only come from Him [James 1:17]. This explains why hell will be so awful. God will not be there. Only people who’ve retained their sin nature for all eternity will be there. Hence, only evil will happen in hell.
The world takes offense to the idea of repentance. We think it is closed-minded and arrogant to preach against sin. Instead, we are told, we should “tolerate” everyone else’s behavior. But that is without question the most unloving thing we could do.
If you had a friend or relative who exhibited self-destructive behavior, confronting that person about their problem would be a very loving thing to do. If you “tolerated” it and didn’t say anything to them you’d not be helping them.
Sin is the epitome of self-destructive behavior. So tolerating sin in our culture is not loving. When we tolerate we are only thinking of our own comfort – we don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ – and are demonstrating apathy towards others.
People need to change their minds. Without coming to the realization that they are sinful creatures, people will not know that they are headed for an eternity in hell. We need to continue to preach this message because people’s eternity is at stake.
Of course, we can (and should) proclaim this message tactfully and lovingly as we will see Jesus do throughout the rest of this study. This isn’t always easy. But if people aren’t confronted with their sin they won’t repent. And if they don’t repent they will not experience God’s forgiveness and go to heaven. Sadly the majority of people reject this message. They’d rather be fed ego-inflating lies than eternity-saving truth.
This is exactly why God doesn’t “tolerate” sin. He knows what is at stake. So He tells us the truth knowing full-well that many will reject Him in the process. He’s willing to take that chance. We need to approach the people in our lives the same way.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.