Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazaraus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. A lively discussion started about repentance.
The chief priests want Lazarus dead simply because he is a living witness to Jesus’ power. This is a warning to us to avoid sin. Sin leads to more sin, a downward spiral that can be stopped only by repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit to change our behavior.
John the Baptist’ theme was “Repent!” Repentance means doing an about-face – a 180-degree turn – from the kind of self-centeredness that leads to wrong actions such as lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing, and indulging in sexual immorality. A person who repents stops rebelling and begins following God’s way of living prescribed in his Word. The first step in turning to God is to admit your sin, as John urged. Then God will receive you and help you live the way he wants. Remember that only God can get rid of sin. He doesn’t expect us to clean up our lives before we come to him.
Like Isaiah, John was a prophet who urged the people to confess their sins and live for God. Both prophets taught that the message of repentance is good news to those who listen and seek the healing forgiveness of God’s love, but terrible news to those who refuse to listen and thus cut off their only hope.
When you wash dirty hands, the results are immediately visible. But repentance happens inside with a cleansing that isn’t seen right away. So John used a symbolic action that people could see: baptism. Here, baptism was used as a sign of repentance and forgiveness. Repent means “to turn” implying a change in behavior. It is turning from sin toward God. A changed life with new and different behavior makes your repentance real and visible.
Repentance has two sides – turning away from sins and turning toward God. To be truly repentant, we must do both. We can’t just say we believe and then live any way we choose, and neither can we simply live a morally correct life without a personal relationship with God, because that cannot bring forgiveness from sin. Determine to rid your life of any sins God points out, and put your trust in him alone to guide you. John the Baptist put it this way,
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance… The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Confession of sins and a changed life are inseparable. Faith without deeds is a dead faith. Repentance must be tied to action, or it isn’t real. Following Jesus means more than saying the right words; it means acting on what he says. John the Baptist also added,
JOHN THE BAPTIST
His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Those who refuse to be used by God will be discarded because they have no value in furthering God’s work, Those who repent and believe, however, hold great value in God’s eyes because they are beginning a new life of productive service for him. Jesus put it this way,
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Each individual is precious to God. He grieves over every loss and rejoices whenever one of his children is found and brought into the kingdom. Perhaps we would have more joy if we shared Jesus’ love and concern for the lost. Or another way Jesus put it is,
Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
People who repent after leading notoriously sinful lives are often held in suspicion; we are sometimes unwilling to admit them innto our group or lives. Instead, we should rejoice like the angels in heaven when an unbeliever repents and turns to God. Like the father, we need to accept repentant sinners wholeheartedly and give them the support and encouragement that they need to grow in Christ. Jesus settled it with this,
I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
The kingdom is personal, and its entrance requirements are repentance and spiritual rebirth. Jesus’ kingdom will be fully realized when Jesus returns again to judge the world and abolish evil forever.
- Judgement (georgehach.wordpress.com)