In the Image of Christ
Colossians 3:8-11


    “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  What a sight John the Baptist must have been, coming out of the wilderness dressed in camel hair and a leather belt! But even more astounding was the message he declared. John, the fore runner of Christ, came proclaiming this message to a very religious people, telling them to turn from their ungodly ways. Oddly enough he was not the only one who came preaching repentance to the people, because the Lord Jesus Himself cried out, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” as He preached to the multitudes. Christ was the one who would actually open the kingdom to those who would believe the gospel, for He came to seek and to save those that were lost (Lk. 19:10). Again we see this message being proclaimed in Acts 2. The apostle Peter had just finished proclaiming the gospel to those that were listening. These men were moved by the message of the gospel and cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  What was the first word out of Peter’s mouth in reply? Filled with the Holy Spirit, he said, “Repent.”

        The message that ushered Christ onto the scene was the same message the Savior Himself brought forth, and is also the same message the Apostles were left to preach with power and authority after the ascension of Christ.  Is this coincidence or is God trying to make a point here? Clearly, repentance and the gospel are connected. It’s sad today to hear those who preach a “gospel” that leaves out repentance. Some pastors and theologians believe repentance was only for the Jews. This is a serious mistake, for the Apostle Paul announced from Mars Hill in Athens that God, “commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).The gospel and repentance are tied so closely together that they cannot be separated. Yet repentance has almost become a forgotten word or an ugly word among modern Protestants and Evangelicals, many of whom are religious but unrepentant. Far too often today people call themselves Christians without ever having repented of their sins, without any change in their lives. But, if one isn’t saved from his sins, from what is he saved? Is it not a blessing to turn from sin? (See Acts 3:26). To repent is for the sinner to recognize and acknowledge his lost sinful condition before a holy and just God. Repent means to think again, to change one’s mind and hence one’s behavior. This change of mind is so complete that the repentant sinner is totally convinced that his life is without hope and that the way he lives displeases God. His whole frame of mind changes from living the way he desires, to living as God desires. He realizes that he needs the grace of God to save him from his sins and change him from the inside out. There is nothing glorious about repentance. It is not a ceremony like penance. It is a humbling act before God, where one dies to self and self-will, and recognizes the filthiness of his lost estate. No wonder preachers don’t proclaim this message. People would empty the pews at a rapid rate and their congregations and financial support would diminish! This isn’t what people want to hear today; it is too hard on their self-esteem. People don’t want to recognize their sinful condition before a righteous and holy God. They compare themselves with those who are worse, and thus feel they aren’t that bad, and have no need of repentance. But I tell you, preaching that does not expose man to his sin and guilt before God produces what we are seeing today; many false conversions with no real power to change one’s life (false professions of faith).  The ranks of Evangelicals may be swelling, but it is like the puffing up of dough with leaven in it; vain and superficial growth. Like it or not, repentance is what is brought about by the Holy Spirit when one hears, understands and believes the gospel, and in order to truly believe the message of the gospel, one must first repent. The Lord said, “Repent and believe the gospel.”

        Repentance should not be taken lightly, for God commands it! “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). He also makes it clear that this is something that every person must do. To be in violation of this is to go directly against what God says He wants men to do. However God does not force men to repent. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” This is a statement of fact! Christ tells His listeners that unless they repent they will perish. Not that they are going to physically die, but rather they will remain dead in their trespasses and sin, and for those who stand before God in this state, He has prepared an everlasting death. They will be separated from Him forever, banished into everlasting judgement with wailing and gnashing of teeth, into outer darkness, alone and without hope. Their bodies will burn with unquenchable fire, and never be consumed by this fire. Not one moment of relief! It will be an endless torment to remember that once they had a chance to do what God commanded them, but instead they refused so that they could have pleasure in unrighteousness. “For our God is a consuming fire”  (Heb 12:29).

    “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,  And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:14-15). This verse points out many things to us. It reveals to us a kingdom, it tells us that this kingdom has a message (the gospel), and also that this kingdom is at hand, very near. However, it also shows us that there is a unique relationship between the message of the kingdom and repentance. The message of the kingdom is the gospel, Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Sin has separated mankind from God. Because we are all sinners none is worthy to enter into His kingdom. We learn from this message that there is nothing man can do to earn his way into the kingdom. Being born of Christian parents or being baptized as an infant doesn’t help, no amount of money will do, and good works are of no help. Humanity is hopelessly and helplessly lost with no way of entrance to the kingdom. But the King has the solution. From the beginning He set in motion the only plan that will solve man’s problem of sin. He sent His only beloved Son, who was without sin, to die sacrificially for us, His sinful creatures. Think about it, the King was sending His only Son to sacrificially die for those who were rebels against His kingdom.

        Jesus Christ came into this world by being born of a virgin. His unique purpose in coming was to die one of the most cruel deaths known to man, death on a cross! He allowed Himself to be taken by sinful men who drove nails through His hands and His feet. They mocked Him with a crown of thorns, spit upon Him, and beat Him with their fists. As bad as this was, the worst was yet to come. While He hung on that cross, suspended between the earth and heaven, His father (God) poured His wrath out upon His only Son. He unleashed His anger upon Jesus our Substitute, who was thus punished in our place, that we might live and be delivered from the wrath of God. I mentioned a unique relationship between the gospel message and repentance. That relationship is this, when a man understands the gospel it should drive him to repentance before God. It is this message that enlightens man to see what he really is before a righteous and holy God who can allow no sin into His presence. A wretched filthy sinner cannot stand before a righteous and holy God without Jesus Christ. The verse says, “repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Friend, make no mistake about it, we are just as guilty as those that swung the hammer and drove the nails through His hands and feet. It was our sins that helped nail Him to that old rugged cross.

        Earlier I mentioned that there was nothing glorious about repentance. This in itself is very true, but something very beautiful takes place when someone repents and believes the gospel. This beauty lies in the fact that when a sinner repents and believes the gospel, God forgives his sins. The repentant sinner who believes is forever changed, delivered from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of heaven. No more do death and darkness rule his life, for he is given the gift of eternal life. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

        Think about the thief on the cross for a moment. In Matt.27:44 it says the two thieves who were crucified with Christ were mocking Him while they all hung on crosses. But something happened. In Luke 23:40 we learn that one of the thieves had a change of heart. He rebuked the other thief for mocking the Lord, and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. The Lord responded, telling the thief that he would join Him in paradise that very day. Clearly this thief repented of his ways and believed in Christ as his only hope for getting to heaven. It is also clear that Christ forgave this man all his sins, and assured him of eternal life, right there on the cross. And Jesus Christ desires to forgive and save those who are lost. Being born into a religious family, being a member of a church all your life, and keeping religious traditions will not save anyone. Friend, no matter how “good” or “bad” your life has been, the Lord Jesus Christ calls on you to repent and believe the gospel. If you have never done that, then you are still lost and heading towards judgment. Yes, the stakes are high: either you will spend eternity in the presence of God or you will spend eternity in the lake of fire. Which do you choose?

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