Our lesson this week comes from Mark’s gospel. It begins with Jesus proclaiming: "The time has come; the kingdom of God is upon you; repent and believe the Gospel." What Jesus asks people to do in this passage is very radical. He is asking them to change their perspective, to undergo a complete change, to turn around and make a hundred and eighty degree change in their lives.
Repentance, for Jesus, was not just a case of saying you are sorry for something. A few of you may recall the movie "Love Story." It was a big hit way back in 1970. That was 45 years ago, and I still remember the most famous line in the movie: "love means never having to say you are sorry."
For many of us, that is all repentance is: saying we are sorry. But Jesus is talking about something else. According to Jesus, true repentance isn’t a matter of regret, it is instead a commitment, a commitment on our part to give ourselves totally and completely to God, to allow him to use us as He would see fit. And it is not a onetime thing that we do. It’s something that should take place daily.
When I was a boy, I remember evangelists inviting folks to make a commitment to Christ "because you may never get another chance." But that’s not what Christ says. I don’t remember much from my New Testament Greek class, but I do remember the tense Jesus uses here in the original language means something that happens once and then keeps on happening. True repentance, in other words, has to be an everyday thing, something that we must constantly do, not a onetime thing.
Certainly, I know from personal experience that is the case. Sin is something that I am an expert on, something with which I have had a lot of experience. It is really more than a hobby; it’s more a way of life with me. I don’t want it to be. So every day, requires a decision on my part to repent. In fact, sometimes it is an every minute kind of thing.
Not surprisingly, repentance is a major theme of the Lord’s Prayer. "Forgive us our debts," it says. We are invited to tell God whenever we foul up. We are invited to tell God about the lies, the exaggerations, the ways we disappoint him by being greedy or unloving. And then we are invited to pray for something else. We are invited to pray God will not lead us into temptation, to seek his protection and strength when we are weak.
If we truly want to "repent and believe," we all need to make the Lord’s Prayer our prayer. I hope you will join me in praying that prayer not just today, but each day this year. If we do, it will change each of us for the better. And I, for one, need all the help I can get.
~ Pastor Terry