I haven't posted to this blog since middle of October. Got to get back on it. At least once a week. I am starting a new Bible study at Mizzou this semester. We will be looking at the Commands of Jesus as we survey the gospel of Mark. When we see that Jesus issues a command, we will stop and look at it, examine it in context and ask "how does this apply to us?" The first lesson is "Repent and Believe" (Mark 1:14-15).
I was reading the book, Radical by David Platt and he discusses two questions that confronted him as he examined his call to pastor a huge church against the reality that Jesus spent his time “shepherding” a smaller group of about 120. And Jesus gave those early followers (and those on the outer edge of his inner circle) some very serious commands. The questions that confronted Platt were, “Was I going to believe Jesus?” and “Was I going to obey Jesus?” We are going to try to ask those same questions as we look at what Jesus demanded of his followers.
Repent and Believe – Mark 1:14-15
Context – The writer is setting the stage for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He calls his story about Jesus “good news” (or the gospel). Mark immediately connects this story of Jesus to God’s story in the OT as he tells about John the Baptist. The OT prophets prophesied that there would be a forerunner to prepare the way for God to visit his people.
Read Mark 1:2-3 – Mark shows how John the Baptist fulfills this role of a forerunner who was predicted in two OT passages, Malachi 3.1 and Isaiah 40.3. If we go back and read those passages, we see that it was God himself who was going to come and visit his people. The one who would follow after John (Jesus, the presence of God himself) would give the power of the Spirit to those who would believe.
Read verse 4 – John’s message was one of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. The word for repentance here means “to change one’s opinion, feelings, (more importantly) change one’s purpose.”
John’s call to repentance was in line with the OT prophets. Their call for repentance meant:
1. Obedience to the will of God (Hos. 6:1; Jer. 34:15a)
2. Trust in God in rejection of all human help and false gods (Jer. 3:22-23)
3. Turning aside from everything that is ungodly (Jer. 26:3; Ezek. 18.26-27)
Keep all this in mind as well look at the first commands of Jesus.
John has prepared God’s people for this message of turning away from your own agenda, purposes and will. Jesus comes and preaches a message in line with John’s.
Jesus declares that the Kingdom of God is near. In what manner has the Kingdom of God come near? Mark has declared that Jesus is Messiah/Christ. To the ears of the hearers, Mark was declaring that Jesus was King. The Kingdom has come near because the King was near.
And because the King was near, Jesus is calling his people to repentance. Jesus was calling for a “once for all” turning to God in total obedience. Anything that might be put before God must be renounced. Repentance applies to everyone, demanding a complete commitment that seeks forgiveness (regret for our former way of disobedience) and full trust in surrender to God’s will. Why should we repent, change our agenda for God’s agenda? Because Jesus is King and deserves our obedience and allegiance.
After our call to obedience, the next command is to believe. Believe what? Believe that this is good news.
So, we are called first to repent, that is to change our agenda, our way of life, our purpose to conform to God’s agenda, God’s way of life, God’s purpose. Why, because the King is here.
We are called to believe that this is “good news”. An important feature in this “good news” is that Jesus gives us the power to change our agenda to follow his.
Read Mark 1:8 – I (John) baptize with water, but he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. This baptism with the Holy Spirit is the bestowal of the power of God to enable you to change your agenda and follow God’s.
Do you believe that Jesus is King? That is the basis of following the commands of Jesus, because you believe he is king.
Does this passage apply to us? If it does, then have you made a break from the past? Have you turned to God in total obedience? Do you reject the help and wisdom of human and false gods? Do you turn aside from everything that is ungodly? Do you follow God at the expense of your desires and purpose?
Maybe you don’t have enough information yet to believe that Jesus is King. If that is so, then stick around let’s look at the claims of Jesus and his commands. Maybe we’ll see together that he is worthy of our allegiance and obedience.