By Russ Ramsey
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-45, Nahum 1:15, Malachi 3:1
Jesus’s first words in Mark’s Gospel are a call to repent. He says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
This is an audacious thing to say, if you think about it. Jesus is essentially saying all of history has been waiting for Him, and He’s wrapping His arms around all of humanity, saying, “The kingdom of God has stepped into your world in the form of a man. What you have needed has come, and that’s me.”
Then Jesus issues a two-fold call: “Repent and believe the good news.” Literally, the term “good news” means “information that brings great joy.” The implication here is that Jesus’s message should draw from us a response of joyful belief. This is a different kind of call than you’ll find in any other religion—including the religion of unbelief. Why? Because Christianity isn’t merely advice for how to live a good life. It is news of something that has happened. A kingdom has come.
Notice how Jesus joins His call to believe the gospel with a call to repent. What a juxtaposition! The good news that the kingdom of God has come near calls us to recognize that we have reason to admit fault, confess sin and brokenness, and reverse course. The gospel is a liberating insult to our pride. What Jesus is saying is that there is no other way to find the life we were made to live outside of a relationship with God, and the only way to heal that relationship, which is broken, is through faith in Christ.
Jesus’s call to repent is a call to recognize that the path we’re on is the wrong path, and we need to turn from it. But it’s not a spiteful or shaming call. It is a loving call. Jesus calls us to forsake all other paths and follow Him. In this call to repent lies great joy and life because He isn’t just calling us out of a life we weren’t meant to live. He is calling us into the life we were meant for since the beginning. On that basis, it is a call into joy.
There is a life you were made for. You were meant to live in right relationship with your Maker. The call to repent is the call to examine your heart before God and enter into the joy being restored. The call to repent is always a call into joy.
Written by Russ Ramsey