The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

The world is a dark place in the light of the holiness of God the creator. The Lord God established His law that we should know how to live as He both in this world and in the Kingdom of Heaven at the throne of His grace. Because sin has entered into the world man has lost his direct fellowship with the Creator. We no longer have a union with the pure and righteous Kingdom from where God sets His throne. All of His Kingdom is pure and exist in Righteousness. The fellowship was broken because a Holy God cannot abide in wickedness. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor.” (Habakkuk 1:13)

The sin of men has separated them from their Creator. Man who stumbled by the same pride fullness as the arch angel Lucifer, thinking that he a created being could be as the Most High, man also thought with his new knowledge of evil he could be the master of his fate. God has no equal, there is none like Him, He is Holy and separate from His creation. “To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)

Man needed a way to find salvation from the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death. God chose a nation to set the example of righteous living for the world to follow and they failed. God provided a way of animal sacrifices to discipline man for the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God but it failed to change the hearts of wicked men. God sent Himself as a man in His Son Jesus Christ to live a righteous life and sacrifice Himself on the altar of the cross that the sins of man would once and for all be paid. But He was rejected and men would not believe and follow Him in faith. Still today man’s sin continues to separate man from fellowship with his Creator. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

The Prophet of the New Testament came from the wilderness where God gave him the Word to call man to repentance. “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19) He came to herald the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, that through Him we could find forgiveness and be seen in His righteousness in the eyes of God the Father.

That through His Word and deed we would know the righteous way of life for here and in the Kingdom to come. That through confession of our sins and repentance from our sins we would turn away from this world and walk into the next. That through Him we could be holy and acceptable in the sight of God. “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Repentance in my simple thought is turning from and moving forward in a new life perspective. Turning away from the flawed moral standard of the world towards a righteous moral standard of the Kingdom of Heaven. “Repentance, which literally means to turn, is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs. It generally [citation needed] involves a commitment to personal change and the resolve to live a more responsible and humane life.” (Wikipedia)

Jesus began His ministry with a since of urgency in His teaching, as no one knows that hour that he will depart this world and be trust into the next. We make our plans, some short and some long, but we do not know when our time here will come to an end. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) So if we live in this world and for this world we might find ourselves caught when our time here ends. True we are in this world but we should not live as if we are of this world. We need to turn from it and live for the Kingdom of God which is soon to come. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

The work of Jesus did not end on the cross as He rose from the dead on the third day. This is where the follower of Christ finds his greatest hope that on the last day he will be raised up with and by Jesus on the last day. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

This is the message of the good news that the believers in Jesus are to share with the world. That we share the Word that we have received that all may know the need for their confession of sins and repentance from the old way of life into the new way of righteous living. After the resurrection Jesus commissioned His follower to tell the good news of God’s offer of salvation to all the world beginning in Jerusalem. “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)

Our repentance from sin should cause a remission of sin that the baptism we received signifies. Our baptism is a symbolic death to the sin in our live and a resurrection to a new life living in righteousness. As the Apostle Paul explains: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:1-13)

This is why the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost instructed the crowd to repent from their sinful lives. “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Paul goes on to teach that God has been merciful but the day is coming when all of mankind will be held accountable for their words and deeds. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

Repentance is the proof of belief. Once the gospel of Jesus Christ has been heard and the Holy Spirit has convicted the one hearing is a sinner a change in that life must be seen. Repentance is not just being sorry for the past and present wickedness of their life but is it the compulsion of a penitent heart. The heart that seeks a cleansing of baptism. A heart that turns from its worldly living for the desires of the flesh to a life of living within God’s law. Being sorry without change is not repentance it is just being all the more sorry. Repentance must bear the fruit of repentance. “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

Repentance is not a secret attribute but a visible action that can be seen by others. It is action that clearly distinguishes one as a follower of Jesus Christ. It is a behavior that will draw others into the fold. When John the Baptist was preaching repentance he was asked what people must do to repent. John gave this answer. “And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:10-14)

Jesus was asked how one could receive eternal life and He answered saying that to find eternal life one must keep the commandments. “And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17) Later Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is. God is love, God is the very definition of love. All the commandments are based in the context of God’s love. Therefore Jesus answer: “One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith is required to believe in the unseen. It is easy to believe in what we can see with our eyes but it requires faith to believe in the coming Kingdom of God. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) When one believes in God he has trust in the Word of God and confidence that His Word is true. In faith we can live by His Word. Confidence causes one to begin to act in accordance with what they believe. Paul expresses this in his letter to the Romans. “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:8-10)

A living faith enables us to live in the face of hardships as well as the good times. Faith enables us to live in times of sacrifice as well as times of plenty. Faith enables us to live in opposition to our family and friends as well as in the fellowship of our Church family. Faith enables us to face death with a light of hope in our heart. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

The urgent command to repent and believe in the name of Jesus provides us with the positive benefits of godly living. It provides us with purpose of life and the hope of eternal live in His Kingdom. This leads us to our salvation in a life of righteousness in the character of a loving God. “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2 Peter 1:2-11)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 6, 2016

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