The people asked Jesus and I ask you, are those suffering in Ukraine, Tigray and Myanmar more evil than you that they are so horrifically afflicted by sin, death and the devil? Were those Christians who were executed by the Islamic State so faithless that God allowed for them to die? Were those Christian martyrs flayed, beheaded, stoned, sawn in two, burnt alive, because they were worse sinners more guilty than you? Jesus tells you no! But unless you repent, you too will perish.
Talk about a hard hitting truth! And I thought the New Testament was all mercy, grace and Gospel! But unless you repent, you too will perish. Unless you turn away from your enacted love of sinful habits, your trusting the lies of this corrupt world, your fear of death; unless you turn away from those and turn toward Jesus, to fear, love and trust Him, you too will perish. Peter says at Pentecost, repent and be baptised everyone of you (Acts 2:38). Jesus began His ministry with the proclamation, ‘repent and believe the Good News!’ and ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven in here!’ (Mark 1:15; Matthew 4:17). John the Baptist called the people to a baptism of repentance (Luke 3:3). And now, in this Christian season of Lent, the Church calls you to repent.
For, if you think you are standing firm in the Faith, in Christ, as a Christian, be careful you do not fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). The Christian life is not an easy life, lazy and relaxing; Jesus came down from the mountain of Transfiguration and was immediately confronted by the enemy (Luke 9:37-42). Immediately after His Baptism the Holy Spirit drove Him out into the desert to fast and suffer the attacks of the devil (Luke 4:1-2). You will not be free from the attacks of your own sin and guilt, from the attacks of death and sickness, the attacks of the devil and temptation, until Christ returns in glory or takes you to be with Him. So, take these attacks as opportunities to pray, to turn back to God; for as Paul wrote, if you think you are standing firm, be careful you do not fall.
Repent, turn to God in trouble and triumph; when it’s going well or going worse, pray and listen to His Word. In the Lenten studies this week we spoke about the ‘domestic church’ or how we bring Christ to each other in our home life. We said, ‘the family that prays together stays together,’ then spoke about how we read God’s word separately because of other commitments. We talked about our mealtime prayers, thanking God and asking His blessing regularly at every meal, or not so regularly. There was also the mention of singing God’s praises together in the home. When things are going well, or going worse; we can always repent, turn to God together, as family, to pray and listen to His Word. For we need Him each and every day, together as family we need Him, together as a congregation we need Him; His strength, His wisdom, His compassion, His words.
But why do we need Him? What strength does He provide? What kind of wisdom does He grant? What is His compassion? For this we turn back to the Old Testament, dark and dusty, brimstone and fire; to God’s words through Isaiah whose sin was burnt from his lips by the Divine fire. God says, ‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.’ (Isaiah 55:1). He shows compassion to the weak and poor. God says, ‘Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.’ (55:3). He has great strength to give life and make a promise that lasts forever, for of course the Word of the Lord stands forever! God says, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (55:9). His wisdom beyond our comprehension, and in that wisdom He has made an everlasting and never-changing promise of life to Adam, to Abraham, to David, to Daniel, to Peter, to Paul, to countless others and today again to you.
Jesus, the fulfillment of the Promise, complete reconciliation of God and man, the first born of the New Creation, the goal of humanity; Jesus is life. That is why we need Him everyday. That is why we repent, turn back to Him. And that is why He says, unless you repent, you too will perish. Because just as when you wander away from light you find darkness, when you walk away from life you have death. So repent, cling to Him who is life everlasting (Psalm 63:8), cling to Jesus who is for you and your whole family and all the world.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.