“In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. ” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’””
Matthew 3:1-3 NLT
From the prophet Isaiah:
“Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!” Isaiah 40:3 NLT
My Thoughts: Today’s notes are a little longer than normal, but it’s all important so please stick with me!
The notes of my Bible tell me that almost 30 years have passed since Joseph was told in dreams (at the end of chapter two) that it was safe for his family to return to their homeland.
But suddenly at the beginning of chapter three, we change characters and immediately see John the Baptist burst onto the scene with one main message: Repent!
Note: John the Baptist (JTB) was a relative of Jesus and was specifically sent by God to make a way for Jesus. You can read more about JTB in Mark 1:1-8 and in the gospel of Luke. JTB is not to be confused with John, one of the twelve disciples.
Repent is a word we don’t hear much today—unless we are in a Bible believing, Christ following church or reading our Bibles. Unfortunately, some churches either teach a very “watered” down version of repentance or they do not even discuss it.
Not only that, our sinful nature and the world encourages us to blame someone else for things we have done wrong. We sometimes believe mental illness causes us to sin or make bad choices.
However, I believe it is not nearly as complicated as we try to make it. I believe we sometimes just make bad choices and when we do, there will be consequences, meaning we will have to clean up the mess we made. Cleaning up the mess does NOT mean we are to blame someone else or use mental illness as an excuse.
(Please understand, I am not saying mental illness isn’t real or shouldn’t be addressed. I’m saying pretending we have a mental health condition to excuse a sin, is wrong and usually leads to more sin. Or worse, if we are aware we have a mental condition but refuse to get help for it, there could be a selfish motive involved. Selfish motives, even when mental illness is real, usually lead to more sin.)
What does it mean to repent? It means turning away from our sins. It means making an about face, a 180 degree turn, to get far away from those sins. It might even mean to run as fast as possible from a bad situation and stay away for awhile!
Someone I love once made a decision to literally leave the state and go far away in order to separate himself from a very destructive and addictive lifestyle. Most importantly, his departure separated him from his set of “friends” who encouraged his addiction. He went where he knew no one, and where he had to start all over again with everything. However, that choice caused a renewal of strength and character in his soul from the inside out. Eventually he acquired a new set of friends who weren’t involved in addictions, he surrendered his heart to Jesus, met a godly woman whom he married, and he decisively overcame that destructive lifestyle and addiction. This is a perfect example of choosing and turning (running!) away from sin!
We don’t like to hear it, but sin is wrapped in self-centeredness, it’s all about making decisions to please ourselves above God or any other person. This is what it looks like:
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
A person who repents stops rebelling against God and his fellow man, and instead follows the ways of God. When we choose to turn from our sins, and follow Jesus this is what we produce and others see in our life:
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Galatians 5:22-24 NLT
Pretty clear, right? I love the last part of these verses that tell us we are to nail those sins on the cross and leave them there. I don’t know about you, but I like clear direction(s) for how to do things and there is no misunderstanding in these verses about how we are to live or not live. It doesn’t mean we won’t slip up, but when we do, we TURN from the sin and in some cases we might have to run from it!
Here is another important key to help us make right choices: have accountability partners.
Who or what is an accountability partner? A Bible believing, Christ following church, along with people who will come alongside of us and speak Biblical truth with love and grace.
Also, staying close to God means we understand churches don’t provide salvation, Jesus does, but a good Bible believing, Christ following church will help us get to salvation and provide guidance to continue to make right choices and show us how to repent when we make wrong choices.
CAUTION: If you know you need to apologize for a wrong done to someone else, or for bad behavior, and the word “but” is included anywhere in that apology, you just landed back into the “blame-game” sin. When the word “but” is in an apology, it’s simply you trying to justify your bad behavior! So be very careful because if blame is a habit you have formed in your life, you will have to be very intentional about breaking that bad habit/sin.
Finally, here’s the real deal: Jesus is calling you and the first step? It’s to repent.
Closing Prayer: Father God, thank you for this hard lesson today because we know that when we repent of our sins, it allows You to produce far better qualities in our life. I truly want to be the kind of woman who follows hard after You more than I want to satisfy my own personal desires or sins! Bury these truths in my heart today as I go about my day. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Maybe you find yourself in a place today where you want to surrender your heart to Jesus? Some people want to “wow” us with their theological knowledge and make things complicated, but that is not the message Jesus wanted us to hear or share. I love how the late Billy Graham just told it like it was when he used to travel and preach:
- We are separated from God because of our sins.
- Jesus filled that gap of separation by dying on the cross for us as the last and final blood sacrifice.
- Jesus rose from the grave in three days, and is now with God in Heaven.
- Jesus intercedes for us when we accept and believe in Him as our savior
- We receive all the blessings available to us at the time we say “yes” to Jesus, including forgiveness of our sins (yes, ALL of our sins!).
- And when we leave this world, we will go to heaven and have everlasting life.
If you believe these truths, then please say this simple prayer, also from Billy Graham:
I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sin and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will.
I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer from your heart, praise God, you now have eternal life with Jesus! We are related! The next step is to get involved with other believers so you can grow in your relationship with God, and start that process of repenting. Hallelujah!