Mark 6:7, 12-13
The disciples choose their message wisely. They are preaching on the cusp of the coming of the kingdom of God, so fittingly their message is one of preparation to receive what God is about to do in Jesus. And what is the preparation they admonish? Repentance. We stand on the other side of the cross looking back over two thousand years at the content of their preaching and yet their message stills rings true. Even now repentance is required of those who would receive the Lord Jesus. Turning to a new life in Jesus is inextricably linked to turning away from your old life apart from Him. Asking Jesus for forgiveness cannot be done apart from an acknowledgement that you are a sinner who has sinned not in a general sense but against God Himself and are therefore in need of His forgiveness. Rejoicing in the righteous standing you now have before the Father in Christ does not happen apart from mourning over the depraved condition you were in prior to Christ. There is no salvation apart from repentance! (Isaiah 30:15, Jeremiah 18:8, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:12, Acts 2:37-39, II Corinthians 7:10, et al) It has always been and even now remains the necessary preparation for right standing with God.
Is this all there is to repentance though? Is it merely a moment of grief prior to salvation that is then left on the trash heap of forgotten spiritual gleanings for the rest of the Christian life? Certainly not. Repentance is a necessary part of the everyday life of Christians which we must persist in if we are to be conformed into the image of Christ. It is repentance day-by-day in the life of the believer which opens the door to freedom from sin and victory over the enemy.
Few are the men and women who have repented of alcoholism a single time and upon setting down the bottle never pick it up again. The same could be said of many sins, because the habitual practice of sin and the power which it gives sin over our lives is rarely overcome in a moment. Although there are times when the Lord provides us with a supernatural leap forward in our process of sanctification, more often than not we win the war against the sin in our lives one day at a time, one battle at a time. The Christian woman does not miraculously learn to take every thought captive unless she first realizes that she has allowed the enemy into her head, repents and begins to fight her sin in the mighty power of the Spirit. The Christian man does not stand victorious over the power of lust, pornography and masturbation in his life unless he first perceives the exceeding sinfulness of his sin and weeps over it, then upon repenting of it seeks God's power which is more than capable of setting him free.
Each day there must be a rejection of the love you have for that sin. Each day the faithful believer must take the shame that weighs him down and the thoughts of helplessness and inadequacy and unburden himself of these at the foot of the cross. We must remind ourselves that our sin has been paid for. The charges against us were nailed to that cross and no longer have any merit (Colossians 2:13-15). And then...oh how important this next step is and how often we forget it...then we must remember the resurrection. We must remind ourselves daily that Jesus beat the power of sin when He conquered death. And because we know that it was by the mighty Spirit of God that Jesus was raised from the dead, and because we know that this same Spirit now dwells in us who believe, we then have every confidence that no sin, no shame, no condemnation, no force (supernatural or otherwise) can claim ultimate power over us. By the power of the Spirit, sin no longer has power over me any longer! I still need to learn how to walk in the freedom of the Spirit, but every sin and every addiction that I struggle with has already been beaten at the cross; I am already victorious in Christ. I must simply learn to apply that freedom to my life and walk in that victory over my sin here and now.
For further reading...
- Matthew 3:1-2- John the Baptist preached the same message.
- Matthew 4:17- Jesus did too!
- Acts 2:37-39- Repentance was fundamental in the sermon preached at Pentecost.
- Acts 11:18- This is a "repentance that leads to life."
- Revelation 2- Consider how many times Jesus admonishes the seven churches to repent in his letters to them.