The very first sermon Jesus preached was only nine words long - “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”. The bible tells us that throughout his ministry, Jesus did two things.
(1) He healed the sick, cast out demons, etc – that is, he helped people.
(2) He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom.
What does that mean – Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand?
We are part of a kingdom. God’s kingdom. God created all that is in the universe and therefore all that is in the universe belongs to him – including you and me. It is his kingdom and he is its Sovereign King. He is sovereign. He is majestic – high and lifted up. He is Holy. Because he is holy, he requires his subjects to also be holy. Because it is his kingdom, he requires his subjects to be loyal and obedient.
God’s kingdom is at hand. He is returning and when he does, there will be judgment for all who have not been loyal. The King demands loyalty and obedience and will punish all who do not submit to his authority.
That may offend you, but if it does, it only goes to prove that we are ALL rebellious at heart. We have all already failed in such a way as to deserve judgment and punishment. That is why we will all eventually die and why eternal punishment in hell is our destination. But it is also why Jesus preached that there is “good news” about the kingdom. That good news is the grace and forgiveness that is offered through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His death on the cross made our forgiveness possible. His resurrection makes our resurrection possible. We can avoid the punishment of hell and look forward to a resurrected, eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
But here is the tricky part. God did not send his Son to die on the cross so that you may escape punishment and continue to live your life according to your own will and pleasure. As King, he still demands your loyalty and obedience. Jesus’ first sermon began with REPENT – and that repentance requires a complete forsaking of all the things we need forgiveness from in the first place. God still demands our loyalty. He still demands our obedience. And he still demands that we be holy. None of us will ever reach perfection in this area and so that obedience can never save us - only our faith in Jesus can do that. Hoever, an unwillingness to even try to live according to his standards – to worship him, to gather with other believers in worship, to learn and grow in faith, to serve him by using your gifts to build the body of Christ – is merely evidence that you either did not understand the prerequisite – repentance – or you are still just as rebellious as you ever were. Either way, Jesus’ words are still relevant… repent.