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Sermon text: Mark 1:14–15

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” As the in-breaking of the kingdom of God penetrates human history, the urgency of the end of all things comes into focus.

The prophets of Israel had spoken much about the coming kingdom. When the kingdom comes, God would take up His reign, the Messiah would preach glad tidings,[i] Satanic powers would be subverted,[ii] and God Almighty would make bare His holy arm to make His salvation known to the ends of the earth.[iii] The light of God’s glory would shine out of Zion to all the nations and envelop the Gentiles within its hope.[iv] Righteousness would replace the peoples’ unrighteousness,[v] resurrection would subvert the empirical dominion of death,[vi] heaven would invade earth,[vii] and the highway of holiness would be paved to lead Zion’s captives to the glory of the Celestial City.[viii]

Jesus is announcing that now that time had come. The age of grace had begun; heaven’s door of mercy was flung wide open, bidding all to enter in and be saved. But the flinging open of the door wouldn’t last forever; for proximate to these events from the prophetic perspective would be the shutting and sealing of heaven’s door like the shutting and sealing of the door of Noah’s Ark, leaving all who failed to repent to suffer the fate of those submerged under God’s fearful wrath.

So the time of prophetic fulfillment had arrived. God had begun the initial step of bringing human history to its consummate end by inaugurating His kingdom through the Messiah. The momentous nature of this newly introduced epoch of redemptive history called for urgency. “The time is fulfilled,” Jesus proclaimed. The apocalypse, the cataclysmic unveiling of the Holiness from heaven, had begun.

Yet it began in a mysterious way, by the paradoxical preaching of this King who comes in the way of humility and suffering and triumph through death. God was inaugurating His reign of grace through His appointed King, the Lord Jesus Christ. And this inauguration called for a momentous, urgent response. That response is here summarized in terms of repentance and faith.

I. Evangelical vs. Legal Repentance

The first thing Jesus says in Mark 1:15 is “repent.” In a sense we could say this was our Lord’s first and last command, summing up the only rightful response that sin-laden sons of Adam should have to the revelation of the holy God. Jesus not only began His ministry with a call to repentance; He also issued this command to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” His call to repent stems from His love for our souls. It is His call both to the world and to the church. This side of eternity, we never grow beyond our need to heed it.

“Repent” has, however, become a despised word in our culture. When you hear it, you might think of angry preachers who stand on street corners, holding up signs of doom and gloom. “Repent or perish!” “Turn or burn!” “God hates sinners!” Maybe there’s some truth to what they say. But their portrayal of Christ as He comes to us in the gospel has a harsh tone, a condemnatory emphasis, an overbearing judgmentalism about it. The Savior they portray is not one who extends a gracious welcome to those burdened with sin and guilt. His command to repent is presented as if He came into the world to condemn it rather than save it (see John 3:17). Such negative associations with this imperative are misguided. As Jesus issues this call, he’s not scolding a sinful world with a disgruntled brow; He is promulgating the King’s kind, merciful, gracious, and free offer of amnesty to all who are willing to receive it.

But the world scoffs at Jesus’s call to repent. Nowadays, social, societal, and technological progress are the be-all and end-all of the world’s prominent thinkers. “To turn from our own ways,” they think, “is to hinder us from making progress.” “It is to turn us back to primitive notions of sin and guilt,” “to impinge upon our need to transcend traditional moral strictures so that society can advance through philosophical and technological evolution.” “We need to expand our possibilities beyond the limitations of what the archaic value systems of Christendom would deem permissible.” In their view, this command to repent is a straitjacket, a threat of enslavement to a religious system. In reality, to repent and believe the gospel is to be emancipated from bondage—to experience freedom from the tyranny of evil (2 Tim. 2:26; John 8:31–32).

Our Lord’s call to repent doesn’t hinder human flourishing; it doesn’t hold us back from realizing our God-given potential to the fullest. It rather enables human flourishing in the best, healthiest, most beneficial ways. Repentance is the path of godliness, of true likeness to God in the right ways. The moral strictures imposed by Christ’s call to repent are for our good. They not only prevent us from self-destructing, but they inform us about how to honor God and prosper under His blessing, both in time and eternity. By repentance, we avoid what is harmful to our being, our lives, as well as our families. We also prevent what would be detrimental to the wellbeing of society.

The fact of the matter is: individuals, nations, or cultures that refuse to repent place themselves on a collision course with God. The day of their reckoning will come. The Righteous Judge whose eyes are flames of fire, whose feet are burning brass, out of whose mouth proceeds a sharp sword, will slam down His gavel sooner or later. History bears abundant witness to the fact that nations deteriorate and die out—or are destroyed—when they fight against this command of Christ. Societies are blessed when they honor Him. And they fall when they rebel against Him. Ninevah’s repentance in the Book of Jonah didn’t hinder their flourishing. It prevented their destruction, thereby enabling them to function and progress as a symbiotic society under God.

Then there is, of course, the misguided notion that autonomous self-expression is the path to liberty and happiness. To achieve it, traditional morality, according to its advocates, needs to be rejected. Men who dress like women insist that morality needs to be redefined (while assuming, of course, that they’re the only ones qualified to re-define it!). Things like biblical manhood, womanhood, traditional marriage, and binary conceptions of gender need to be expunged, even criminalized. “These things suppress our humanity,” they insist.

Such ideas sow the seeds of the destruction of the categories that inhere in the created order, categories which constitute the structure and order of society. Any society that gets rid of God’s categories in these matters cannot long retain its being (let alone its well-being). Jesus’s command to repent is urgent for our Western world to heed.

The gospel call to repent and the mandate to heed the commandments of God don’t suppress our identity, they are the path to truly finding it. They are the path to being restored into the image of God, leading to true liberty—the liberty of the soul from guilt, shame, and defilement. The call to repentance doesn’t suppress or hinder self-expression as God intended it to be, it rather enables us to find and express our greatest satisfaction in communing with the God for whom our hearts were made.

Morality cannot be relativized any more than God’s holy nature or moral law could be changed. Moral law is as immutable as the Moral Lawgiver. So Christ’s call to repentance calls us to reckon, in the first place, with the moral law. It presupposes our sin and guilt, but it also contains within it the promise of mercy if we heed it.

And this leads us to an important observation based on the words of our text, because misconceptions about this are all too common. When popular thinkers in our world think about repentance and Christianity, they think of prohibition: what you can’t do ‘or else.’ They see Christianity as nothing but a straitjacket. It’s all law to them and nothing but law, and a law that they hate at that. But repentance is not all law. Repentance, as our text indicates, is the call of the gospel.

The passage before us implies that connection. Our Lord says in Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Repentance is not separate from faith; it’s concomitant with faith. The call to repent is conjoined with faith in the gospel as two aspects of the one act of turning to Christ in conversion. The repentance to which we’re called is gospel-based, gospel-grounded, gospel-motivated, even gospel-enabled, and gospel-empowered. And there is a difference between gospel repentance and mere legal repentance. This is the difference between true and false repentance, and this concern is not foreign to the intended meaning of our Lord when He preached these words.

You see, among the Judaism of the day, repentance was a common concept. It was everywhere spoken about. But do you know how most people in Second Temple Judaism tended to define it? “Stop disobeying the law and start obeying the law.” We see this for instance in 2 Maccabees 12, an apocryphal writing. It says that Judas Maccabees “took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering…. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Macc. 12:43, 45).[ix] In other words, they thought that sin could be atoned for by sending silver to the temple. Their interpretation of the law was misguided, to be clear (making amends for the sins of dead), but that aside, they thought they could attain to God’s forgiveness by obeying the law. Repentance to them meant, “Stop disobeying the law, and start obeying it.”

Listen to what Paul said in Romans 9:31–32: “Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling.” Repentance that is merely works-based will only lead you to stumble and fall and be shattered to pieces by the justice of God. It cannot atone for the soul or remove the guilt of a single sin you’ve committed (let alone all the sin you’ve done).

True repentance, you see, is motivated by the law and the gospel. It can only be had as you are believing in the gospel, looking to the Christ of the gospel as the object of your faith. Let me explain the difference between legal and evangelical repentance. Jonathan Dickinson (1688–1747), who was Princeton’s first president and was a pastor, lawyer, and physician, explains the difference really well so I’ll draw from his work:

[1] A legal repentance flows only from a sense of danger and fear of wrath, but evangelical repentance is a true mourning for sin and earnest desire of deliverance from it.

[2] A legal repentance flows from unbelief, but evangelical repentance is the fruit of saving faith.

[3] A legal repentance flows from aversion to God and His holy law, but evangelical repentance from love to both.

[4] A legal repentance ordinarily flows from discouragement and despondency, but an evangelical repentance is accompanied with a confiding trust in God’s mercy.

[5] A legal repentance is temporary, wearing off with the convictions of conscience which occasion it, but an evangelical repentance is the daily exercise of the true Christian.

[6] A legal repentance does at most produce only a partial and external reformation, but an evangelical repentance is a total change of heart and life, a universal turning from sin to God.[x]

We can add to this that legal repentance leads to “the spirit of bondage” and fear (Rom. 8:15). But evangelical repentance leads to “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Legal repentance is seen in Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:18–24:

“And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.’ Then Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.’”

Simon wasn’t concerned that he had offended and dishonored God; he was only concerned for what would happen to him. “Pray that these horrible things don’t happen to me!” But what about the horrible things he had done by which he offended God? He was motivated by fear of punishment, not regard for God’s name and honor. There was no love to God, no faith in His goodness and kindness and mercy toward us in Christ. We can add examples to this list. Judas Iscariot, after he had betrayed Christ, “was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’ Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:3–5). Judas was terrified with a sense of guilt but he had no trust in God’s mercy, no sincere love to Christ, no hope in God’s promises. So Paul talks about this difference in 2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Contrary to Simon, David shows us what evangelical repentance is in the 51st Psalm. He said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight” (v. 4). He was grieved out of His genuine affection for God and saw his sin not just in the light of its personal consequences for him but especially in the light of how He had offended the God of his love. And he says, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions” (v. 1). He was trusting in the lovingkindness of God, God’s חַסְדֶּ֑, His covenantal mercies revealed in the covenant of grace. He wasn’t looking at the moral law merely as a big stick in the hand of a Judge, but as a gracious guide in the hand of his Father.

So when our Savior calls us to repent, He is calling us to turn from our own ways and to turn to Him as the One who is gracious and willing to receive us. He’s not simply saying, “Stop sinning and start obeying Me!” Rather, He’s saying, turn from your own ways and turn to Me, trust in Me, follow Me, and I will pardon you, purge you, empower you, and enable you to walk in My ways.” It’s impossible to turn from sin truly and fully without the mercy, the grace, and the help of Jesus Christ.

II. True vs. Spurious Faith

Our Lord says in Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” “Believe in the gospel.” This is a call to faith. As we pointed out, the Savior joins faith with repentance because in their genuine exercise, the two are inseparable. Paul would also say in Acts 20:20–21: “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is true that the Scripture sometimes mentions one and not the other; but where it does that, the other is implied by the mention of the one. This is because for repentance to be true, faith must be present in it; and for faith to be genuine, it must show the fruit of repentance.

Now when the Lord said, “Believe in the gospel,” think about what He’s implying. He is preaching to Jews who every day had the habit of confessing their faith in God. The implication is, “truly believe.” And He delineates the act of faith (“believe”) as well as the object of faith (“in the gospel”). The sense is, make sure your faith is genuine in its act and exercise as well as in its object and end. Since the time of eschatological fulfillment had arrived, it was urgent to have genuine faith (as opposed to spurious faith) in the true and biblical gospel (as opposed to false gospels and things that cannot save).

What does it mean to believe? It simply means to trust Christ. Trust in Him to rescue you and forgive you and save you. Trust Christ rather than your idols. Trust Him rather than your false gods.

We all make for ourselves idols and false gods. And they are as numerous and varied as the pantheon of the ancient Greeks. We sacrifice to our false gods rather than bowing to Christ. But false gods cannot save, and they always end up proving that their promises are empty.

Some trust that money and success will bring them ultimate fulfillment, so they pursue their career and sacrifice all their time, talents, efforts, and even their families to achieve it, only to be left empty and unfulfilled. Some trust that pleasure will bring them fulfillment, so they sacrifice all their treasures and time to pursue it, only to be left miserable and without salvation at the last day. Some pursue some kind of cause, like making a change in the world, like reforming society according to some ideal, or changing the way the world is, or changing the way life has turned out to be. But they pursue it above and before pursuing Christ, and what they are seeking to achieve is always fleeting from their grasp.[xi]

And everybody makes a false god of self. That’s ingrained in our fallen nature. “My happiness is the ultimate end,” we think. “My fulfillment is what’s really important.” “My goals, my agenda, my ways are the most important thing in life.” Spiritually, this manifests as man-centeredness in the things of religion. It evinces itself as self-seeking and self-righteousness. We try to use Christ as a means to achieve our own ends and agenda rather than forsaking all and surrendering ourselves to Him (see Luke 14:33). We see Him as the servant of ourselves and our idols rather than seeing ourselves as His servants. We are like the kings of ancient Israel, who would acknowledge the one true God but not remove the idols from the high places.

To truly believe in Christ means to look to Christ alone as the object of our faith and hope. It means to renounce trusting in our false gods, in ourselves, and in our own works and achievements, and to place all our heart and hope and trust in Him alone, so that He would be our salvation, our satisfaction, our atonement, our fulfillment, and our ultimate end and pursuit. It means to trust that He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). It means to surrender all of ourselves to all that He is, so that He would be our All in All.

III. Whole vs. Partial Conversion

When the Lord commands us to “repent and believe in the gospel,” He’s calling us to turn from sin and self-righteousness to God and His provision of righteousness. He’s calling us to a total turn from ourselves to trust with all our hearts in the total Christ. He’s calling us to renounce all that we are to embrace all that He is. He’s calling us to forsake all if necessary so that we would find our treasure, our reward, our satisfaction and delight in Him. He’s calling us to renounce our identity with our false gods so that we find our real identity in Him. He’s calling us to give up trying to deify our own image and to be restored the glorious image of God in Him.

There are many professing Christians who think that they’ve repented and believed, but have not. If your repentance is a mere legal repentance, you might profess faith in Christ just to avoid eternal punishment. If that’s the case, you’re using Him to pursue your own ends. He is your ‘get out of jail free card,’ and you see Him only as a ticket to escape the damnation of Hell. Self is still supreme; self is still sitting on the throne. That’s not true conversion.

In our text, Christ is coming announcing His kingdom. In the last message on Mark, we talked about what it means that the kingdom is “at hand.” It has drawn near and been inaugurated as a heavenly and redemptive intrusion into our present world. The in-breaking of the kingdom of God sets in motion a spiritual dynamism within this present age; it causes radical upheaval of the status quo and overturns the dominion of evil throughout the created order; it turns this world upside down, or rather right-side up. It calls for immediate response, demanding from us all urgent self-assessment, full-scale re-orientation, total allegiance, and permanent, blood-earnest commitment to its cause.

The call of our King urges us to be converted from this world to the hope of the world to come, from our agenda to His agenda, from our cause to His cause. It calls us to trade our shame for His honor, our sin for His righteousness, our earthly mindedness for His heavenly calling.

His call to conversion, in other words, is a call to total, radical, and permanent conversion. His twofold imperative in this text lays an uncompromising demand upon our total being.

  • Repentance and faith must envelop our mind, transforming the way we think about reality, causing us to hate the evils we once loved and to love the cross-bearing we once hated, all for His sake.
  • Our conscience must reckon with the full guilt of sin and manifest absolute alliance with the law of our King.
  • Our emotions and affections must be transformed within us, molded and conformed to heart of Christ.
  • Our acts and deeds must change in the motives from which they spring, the principle by which they’re performed, and the end for which we do them.

True conversion renovates the mind, awakens the conscience, molds the affections, revolutionizes the actions, and transforms the entire life of the person who experiences it.

Myriads of professing Christians say they repent but the evidence is not forthcoming. A lot of people have made the mistake of thinking that repentance means only to change your mind. They change their mind about what they think about God and Christ and the gospel; they go from rejecting the truth to assenting to the truth, but their lives remain unchanged, and there’s no impact on how they live, what they do, how they govern their families, how they spend their money, how they are involved in the church, how they behave in the workplace, how they interact with society. Repentance that leaves you unchanged is not true repentance.

To truly repent and believe means to undergo total, not partial, conversion.

  • Some say they repent but they spare their choice sins and darling lusts. They keep their beloved idol, their personal deity. The Lord Jesus says to them as He said to the rich young ruler: “one thing you lack” (Mark 10:21).
  • Others say they repent but they are averse to Christ’s call to duty. They are unwilling to be active and engaged in His service. Jesus says to them, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
  • Others claim to repent, but their repentance is only initial but not enduring, or sporadic but not habitual. True conversion is to put faith and repentance into ongoing, habitual exercise by the enablement of God’s grace in the gospel.

This is indicated in the words of our text. In Mark 1:15, the verbs “repent” and “believe” are both present active indicatives in the Greek. In this context, this means that they are ongoing, not momentaneous, one-time acts. So dear brothers and sisters, that means Jesus is speaking to us and not just to the unconverted. Repentance and faith must be continuous, ongoing, repeated, daily, and lifelong. If you’ve repented in the past, but you’re not recognizing ongoing sin and repenting of it as a pattern of life, then your past repentance is spurious (it’s not genuine). Genuine repentance is an abiding mindset, a persevering resolve, and a permanent heart-mentality. Repentance and faith are not just past acts but must characterize the present walk of every follower of Christ.

IV. Practice vs. Theoretical Exercise

So the big question is, How? How do I repent and believe? Repentance and faith are gifts from God. Sinners by nature are unable and unwilling to come to Christ in faith. And saints in the state of grace are unable to overcome sin and unbelief in their own power. So how do we repent and believe? Here are ten specific things that you can do. I’ll go through these quickly.

(1) Expose yourself to the Word of God daily and continually. Romans 10:17: “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We have to vigorously root out deeply ingrained thought patterns that contradict biblical teaching. Train your mind to think in biblical categories and in biblical terms according to biblical values. True repentance involves a change of mind, a re-assessment of values, a re-prioritization of objectives and goals. This is only possible by the power of God’s Word.

(2) Search out, become acquainted with, and meditate on God’s promises. 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” You can only experience spiritual cleansing through ongoing faith and repentance as you look to the promises. I’m referring to God’s gracious promises to pardon the sins of His people, to grant them new hearts, to cleanse them from their idols, to give them a new nature, to be their God, to care for them and shepherd them and guide them and take them home to glory. Make the promises yours, and faith and repentance will be yours as well.

(3) Study the gracious and merciful character of God. Joel 2:13 says, “So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness.” It’s true that many people have the notion that God is all-gracious and all-loving, and they distort His character by thinking He will wink at their rebellion. He won’t. But it’s equally true that some people think that God is cruel or hesitant to embrace them, to pardon them, to love them. God is the best of all fathers, and Christ is the best of all shepherds, and the best of all brothers. Study thoroughly what the Scriptures teach about God’s character that you may exercise evangelical repentance toward your loving Father and not legal repentance toward your reluctant Judge.

(4) Pray for God’s mercy earnestly without ceasing. Confess your sins and neediness to God frequently and daily. David prayed in Psalm 51 and he found mercy. After the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, He then sent Ananias to Saul, and the Lord told him, “Behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11). What was Saul praying for? For mercy. And he found it. Pray for mercy like the important man begging for bread in Christ’s parable (Luke 11:5–10).

(5) Take advantage of every opportunity to attend to the means of grace. Prioritize your daily devotional time in the Word and prayer. Read good literature that’s saturated with gospel truth and gets at the evangelical and experiential realities of faith. Read the prayers of godly men and make them your own, prayers by men like Augustine, Calvin, the Puritans, and Spurgeon. Don’t miss attendance to Lord’s Day worship, but attend sincerely to the ministry of the Word and the fellowship of God’s people. Listen to sermons from solid preachers throughout the week. Read sermons from dead preachers that are filled with evangelical substance, men like Martin Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Puritans.

(6) Pluck out the offending eye and cut off the offending hand. I’m referring to Matthew 5:29: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” The same goes with your hand or foot (Mark 9:43–48). In other words, don’t toy around with sin. Pursue the cutting off of every sin and every unnecessary occasion to temptation with earnest spiritual violence.

(7) Examine self and put in check all that is out of line. Examine your motives (as I seeking God’s name and honor or merely self-preservation?); your resolve (am I willing and disposed to heed His authority and do His commandments, or do I buck against God’s will through willful rebellion?); your conduct (am I blatantly engaging in any forbidden sins of commission or omission?). Focus your repentance on heart sins, not just external sins. Let the law of God in all its breadth and perfection scathe you rigorously, to expose to your conscience the full sense of your sin and guilt. And let the law do its work as your schoolmaster to drive you to Christ. Use the law as a tutor to teach you about the righteousness you need and beg God continually that He may impute to you the perfect righteousness of Christ.

(8) Guard yourself from false expectations about what repentance entails. Don’t expect a perfect repentance or a faith that is untainted with some degree of unbelief. Don’t expect a quick and easy, instantaneous victory over long, in-grained habits or deeply entrenched idols of the heart. True repentance is ongoing warfare and includes a process of growth with the help of God’s grace. The smallest seed of faith is efficacious for salvation. It’s not our repentance or faith that saves us; but Christ saves us through faith. If you put your faith in your faith, it will fail. Look to Christ as your sole righteousness and sanctification.

(9) Don’t entertain invalid excuses. “I’ll get right with God later; now, I need to focus on other things.” Procrastination and delay are the devil’s devices to sink your soul suddenly into Hell, for death often comes unexpectedly. As J.C. Ryle said, the Lord saved the thief on the cross at the last minute so that nobody would despair, but He saved only one thief, so that nobody would presume. And beware of conflicting priorities that would distract you from attending to the needs of your soul. We have no greater priority in life than to honor our Creator. Common excuses also include blame-shifting and self-justification. You and you alone will have to give an answer before God. No excuse will suffice if you fail to do the one main thing that the Lord Jesus has commanded of you: to repent and believe in the gospel.

(10) Surrender yourself to Christ with total and reckless abandon. Cry out to Him like Blind Bartimaeus on the road to Jericho (Mark 10:46–52). Say, “Take me, Lord, I am yours, and if I must perish, I will perish with your name and your praise upon my lips; I will perish confessing you and serving you and pursuing you as my chief end in life.” And consecrate yourself entirely to God. And tell Him, “If I must perish; I will do so in your service and at your feet crying out for your grace and mercy and forgiveness for Christ’s sake!”).

We need the gospel every day. Daily, we should be aware of our indwelling sin—battling against it, renouncing it, subduing it, turning from it—especially sins like spiritual pride, reliance on self, carnal complacency, self-seeking, self-righteousness, heart idolatry, and lovelessness. These things are so ingrained in our flesh that nothing short of glorification and bodily resurrection will eradicate them.

But thanks be to God that His kingdom which has come in part will come in full. Our present repentance will one day soon give way to permanent bliss in sinlessness. Our present groaning will be replaced by the purest praise. And our present faith will soon be turned into sight. So don’t give up! Keep repenting, keep believing, and God will be faithful to keep what you have committed to Him until that Day (2 Tim. 1:12).

References:

[i] Isaiah 52:7.

[ii] Isaiah 21:9; cf. Rev. 18–19.

[iii] Isaiah 52:10.

[iv] Isaiah 42:6; 60:3; Luke 2:32.

[v] Isaiah 46:13; 51:5.

[vi] Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14.

[vii] Isaiah 65:17; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17.

[viii] Isaiah 35:8.

[ix] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 2 Macc. 12:43.

[x] Jonathan Dickinson, Marks of True Repentance and Saving Faith (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library), 5–18.

[xi] See Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (repr; New York: Penguin Books, 2009).