Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Message of Repentance - Matthew 3

In order to prepare hearts for the coming Christ, God sent His messenger - John the Baptist. John's message was a message of repentance: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" This is the exact same message that Jesus later preached (Matt 4:17). Likewise the Apostles preached repentance on the day of Pentecost:
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Even the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin.

From the third chapter of Matthew, we can learn a few lessons on repentance:

1. Repentance comes before Forgiveness (v. 2,3)
Repentance involves the changing of one's mind about sin and turning to God. God sent forth a message of repentance so that people will be ready to receive His Son. Before we can come to receive Jesus as our Saviour, we must first realise why we need Him to save us, and that is because we are sinners who deserve only God's wrath.

John, Jesus and the apostles all preached repentance. So must we. Preaching against sin might seem hard but it is necessary because if a person does not realise his need for forgiveness, he is not going to seek it and be saved.

2. Repentance comes with Confession (v. 6)
Confession is simply agreeing with God about our sin - that it is wrong and that it goes against all that God is. God takes a very serious view of sin. So must we. And the expression of it on our part is confession.

Confession comes with forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9). God has promised the Christian that if we confess our sins to Him, He will surely forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The failure to confess is evidence of the presence of pride, and "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

3. Repentance must be Evident (v. 8)
Whether a person is truly repentant or not is evidenced by the way he or she lives. We can come and be baptised, and even confess our sins publicly, and yet still be unrepentant. Repentance is a heart attitude that is expressed through one's deeds. It is not the deed. We need to examine ourselves if we are truly penitent people by the way we live our lives.

4. Repentance is required of Everyone (v. 9)
John destroyed all thoughts that the Pharisees might have had that they have certain rights before God because they were "children of Abraham". God is not a respecter of persons. Everyone is a sinner, therefore everyone has to repent. Whether we are Jews or Gentiles, young or old, born into Christian homes and brought up in church or not, we all need to repent before we can come and receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

Has God revealed to you any need to repent and confess a particular sin? Wait no more, and make no more excuses. God's forgiveness is free to those with a penitent heart, and He forgives instantly to those who confess their sins to Him (1 Jn 1:9).

Friday, September 03, 2004

Three Responses to Christ - Matthew 2

The thing that stands out most in the second chapter of Matthew is the three different responses given by three different groups of people to the news of His birth. Oddly enough, though the Jews were in expectation of His coming, and though they had all the prophecies, and though the shepherds had announced His birth, it was the Gentiles who told them that He had come! That goes to show that much knowledge about God does not necessarily mean much love for God.

Three responses to Christ:
  1. Those who received Christ - the Magi
  2. Those who rejected Christ - King Herod
  3. Those who could not care less - the religious leaders

Those Who Received Christ - The Magi
The Magi arrived at Jerusalem after the shepherds had visited baby Jesus and spread the news about him. Somehow they knew from what little revelation God had given them that the King of the Jews was born, and they came from afar to worship Him. Imagine their surprise when they found out that the Jews themselves did not know anything about His birth. Strange that these foreigners were more interested in seeking out the Christ child and worshipping Him than God's own people, and this child was not even their own king, nor had He grown or had he any army, power or fame. They had no reason to be interested in this child at all.

These men travelled great distances facing much danger just to worship a king who was not theirs, and who was only an infant. Their devotion and enthusiasm is commendable: They sought Him diligently, they rejoiced exceedingly to find Him, and they worshipped Him humbly.

What a sight it must have been to Mary and Joseph, that powerful rulers were bowing down to a baby. Even though Jesus was "King of the Jews", they treated Him as their own king. Though they knew little about Him, they sought Him and worshipped Him and received Him. Lord, help us follow their example and seek You as they did. Let position and pride be put aside when we come into Your presence to worship You.

Those Who Rejected Christ - Herod
Herod was the first persecutor of Jesus Christ. The reason he reacted so violently to the news of the birth of the King of the Jews is very simple: He saw Jesus as a threat to him. Herod is known in history as a wicked and murderous king who killed even his own family because he was afraid they would have his throne. When he heard that the King of the Jews was born, he knew that this was the One prophesied about. To Herod, this newborn babe would one day replace himself as king, and he loathed the thought of it. He wanted the kingdom to himself, and did not want to give up his position, possessions and power.

People everywhere today still reject Christ for the same reason. They do not want to give Jesus His rightful place - they do not want Him as their Lord and ruler of their lives. Are we like Herod today? Is there anything that we refuse to surrender to the Lord? May we truly and honestly with all our hearts accept Him as our Master and Lord.

Those Who Couldn't Care Less - The Religious Leaders
Here lies a great irony: Those who knew the most about the coming Christ were the ones who were most apathetic about Him. They knew all the scriptures and were even able to pinpoint where He would be born. And yet when they heard that He had come, they did not seek Him out.

These were no ordinary laymen. These were the chief priests and experts of the Mosaic Law! They were charged with the responsibility to lead people to God. They were to study the scriptures day and night in order to seek God and His purposes, and lead the nation in His way. And yet this was the very thing they failed at, and the very thing they failed to do themselves. Religion for them had become little more than an academic pursuit. May God save us from such a disease! What use is it to us if we know so much about the Bible and yet fail to live it out and let it make a difference in our lives? What use is so much knowledge if it does not draw us any closer to God?

It is such a shame and tragedy when we know so much about God and yet are so lukewarm. It is embarrassing that people who know much less than us are much more zealous for God. We criticize the Charismatics for their lack of doctrine, but how zealous are we for the Lord when compared to them? Can we not have both knowledge and zeal? And yet so many of us are content to learn more and more, yet remain doing so little for the Lord. Lord, let us see how we grieve You, and how much like the religious leaders we are - people who know much, but care little for You. For apathy towards You is worse than rejecting You.