The first direct quote of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel says, “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” The other week I came across a man standing at the corner of Trade and Tryon loudly and boldly repeating this phrase. Unfortunately, what Mark’s Gospel calls “the good news of God” has been transformed into a phrase of anger, judgment and ridicule. Repentance has become an angry rejection of life. Preachers are fond of saying that repentance means “turning from something” but they forget to tell us that it is a turning to do something—to pursue God.
It is not a rejection, but actually an acceptance of a new direction. It is a catalyst; the beginning of the climbing towards God. As Eugene Peterson says, “Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision…that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ.”
Psalm 120 is a psalm of repentance that pilgrims to Jerusalem would first pray as they began their ascent to Jerusalem—God’s Holy City. By saying no, they were saying yes to God’s plan for their lives. It set heir feet moving forward and drew them closer to God. Though the climb required discipline and commitment, it was worth it.
What ways are you seeking to draw closer to God? Are you seeking God in prayer? fellowship? worship? scripture? service?
Do you feel the discipline and commitment necessary to follow Christ to be worth it? Why or why not?