~August 25, 2013~

"Repent Ye,

and Believe the Gospel"

by Pastor Immanuel Roth

“And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” - Mark 1:15

The first message that Jesus preached as He walked this earth was “Repent.” The message was preached with urgency because “The time is fulfilled.” What time was fulfilled? Jesus is referring back to the 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9 which accurately foretells of the time and nature of Christ’s ministry. The scholars of the day recognized that time of the prophecy was soon to expire, yet they missed who was coming which led to their rejection of the Messiah.

The Lord’s message of “repent” was directed to those who should have had a close relationship with Christ, who should have welcomed Jesus with open arms. Unfortunately God’s chosen people had become self-absorbed and concerned with the affairs of this world. Notice this statement from Desire of Ages, p. 235:

"The Jews misinterpreted and misapplied the word of God, and they knew not the time of their visitation. The years of the ministry of Christ and His apostles,--the precious last years of grace to the chosen people,--they spent in plotting the destruction of the Lord's messengers. Earthly ambitions absorbed them, and the offer of the spiritual kingdom came to them in vain. So today the kingdom of this world absorbs men's thoughts, and they take no note of the rapidly fulfilling prophecies and the tokens of the swift-coming kingdom of God."

The primary concern of the Jews was to be freed from the oppression of the Romans. Their primary concern should have been to be freed from the oppression of sin. The priorities of the Lord’s chosen people were reversed. So the urgent message of the Messiah to His people was “repent” which is a call to a change of thinking and a change of behavior.

Sadly, few heeded the call to repentance for they supposed themselves safe because they were the descendants of Abraham. They were the keepers of the oracles of God so they felt secure in their standing with God. Their mindset was that of righteousness by association. But those traits were not and are not what lead to salvation. Again from Desire of Ages, this time from page 309, we read:

"The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory."

Romans 15:4 tells us “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” We must learn from the experiences of those who have gone before us. The Lord placed these accounts in Scripture so that we would not repeat the mistakes of those who have gone before us.

The lesson that I see from what we have looked at so far is that it is critically important to heed the Lord’s call to repentance. Where does the Lord call us to repentance? In the message to the Laodicean church. The Laodicean church is God’s chosen people in the last days, His church, the body that should be loudly and boldly proclaiming the message to the world that “the time is fulfilled the kingdom of God is at hand, the hour of His judgment is upon us.” The Laodicean church has a knowledge of the Scriptures but, like the Jews, believe a mere assent to the truth is sufficient. The Lord declares the true condition of Laodiceans in Revelation 3:15-17:

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

Laodiceans believe that they are spiritually wealthy and need nothing, but the declaration of the True Witness is that they are spiritually bankrupt. My question to you is are you a Laodicean? Surely, with the description that the Lord gives, no one would want to be a Laodicean, but does that mean that you are not one.

The rather paradoxical reality is that if you boldly declare that you are not a Laodicean you are very high danger of becoming a Laodicean. We cannot go on in our own strength, we daily  need the power of Jesus in our lives. Laodiceans do not have the power of Jesus in their lives, but trick themselves into believing that they do. In Testimonies for the Church vol. 4 p. 87, we read “The Laodicean message applies to the people of God who profess to believe present truth.” Do you believe present truth? If the answer is yes, then you need to take seriously the warning given to the Laodicean church. The apostle Paul admonishes us to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith, see 2 Cor. 13:5. In Spiritual Gifts vol. 2, p. 226 we read:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Professors of religion are not willing to closely examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith, and it is a fearful fact that many are leaning on a false hope. Some lean upon an old experience they had years ago; but when brought down to this heart-searching time, when all should have a daily experience, they have nothing to relate. They seem to think a profession of the truth will save them. When those sins which God hates are subdued, Jesus will come in and sup with you and you with him. You will then draw divine strength from Jesus, and you will grow up in him, and be able with holy triumph to say, Blessed be God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be more pleasing to the Lord if lukewarm professors of religion had never named his name. They are a continual weight to those who would be faithful followers of Jesus. They are a stumbling-block to unbelievers, and evil angels exult over them, and taunt the angels of God with their crooked course. Such are a curse to the cause at home or abroad. They draw nigh to God with their lips, while their heart is far from him.

If, as you examine yourself, you find yourself to be spiritually bankrupt then come to the Lord and accept is solution, His gold, His eyesalve, His raiment. This is what He longs to do for every person! The Laodicean class is not a class that we want to be a part of! Let us be part of the other class, those who are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. It is this class that those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus have the privilege of being a part of.

Those who are not overcomers in the power of Jesus must accept what their condition is so that they can also accept the Lord’s remedy for our condition. We find the Lord’s remedy in Revelation 3:18, 19:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
We could spend a lot of time analyzing the Lord’s remedy but I want to focus on the last word from that passage: repent. The same message that Jesus preached when He was on this earth. Repentance is a gift of God. The devil tries to confuse what repentance is. There is a common thought that repentance is what we need to do to make ourselves worthy of the God’s love, that we need to repent to be “clean enough” to come before God. This fallacy has been taught for thousands of years.

It was taught by the Jews that before God's love is extended to the sinner, he must first repent. In their view, repentance is a work by which men earn the favor of Heaven. And it was this thought that led the Pharisees to exclaim in astonishment and anger. "This man receiveth sinners." According to their ideas He should permit none to approach Him but those who had repented. But in the parable of the lost sheep, Christ teaches that salvation does not come through our seeking after God but through God's seeking after us. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way." Romans 3:11, 12. "We do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent."  – Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 189.

God’s love is what drives Him to declare our true Laodicean condition, to rebuke and chasten us. It is because He loves us that we have the opportunity to repent. To repent is to acknowledge and turn from our sin. To repent is to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

"True repentance will lead a man to bear his guilt himself and acknowledge it without deception or hypocrisy. Like the poor publican, not lifting up so much as his eyes unto heaven, he will smite upon his breast, and cry, 'God be merciful to me a sinner;' and those who do acknowledge their guilt will be justified; for Jesus will plead His blood in behalf of the repentant soul." – Testimonies for the Church vol. 5, p. 638.

As we come before the Lord with a repentant heart, acknowledging our weakness, acknowledging our constant need of His strength, then He can do His powerful work of revival and reformation in our lives.

The first message that Jesus preached as He began His earthly ministry was “repent.” The last message of love that He presents to His people is “repent.” May we each, in the power of Christ, be zealous and repent.
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