February 21, 2015

Repentance Is the Doorway To Heaven (Lent 1 Readings)

The Gospel message (Mark 1.9-15) is that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a remote, faraway place, but a place that is near. In Jesus the Heavenly Kingdom has historically broken into our physical world. These divine interventions go back to Creation. In the Noah story God seems almost sorry for the mass destruction of life in the great Flood. God seems to be searching for a better way to bring humanity back into a relationship of love. In Jesus we see that this has happened. In the new Covenant of Jesus God has created a way - the way of repentance in Faith, to bring people back into a relationship of forgiveness and love.

1. The Good News is that there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ
Lent is a time of deep personal self-examination and repentance as we prepare to celebrate the Good News of Jesus Resurrection at Easter. Many people have confused ideas about what this Good News is:

·         Banker theory of salvation – good deeds minus bad deeds
·         Being a good person – sin of rebellion and pride
·         Baptism automatically guarantees salvation
·         Believing Christians cannot be tempted and deceived by Satan
·         Salvation through knowing the right doctrine vs relationship of love

What the Bible does say is that God has created a new way to be forgiven. That new way is through the doorway of repentance.
·         Repentance is not just self-centred sorrow for being foolish.
·         Repentance must be God-centred - being sorry for our rebellion
         against God’s order and being destructive to others, Gods’ creation.
·         Forgiveness is based on grace - Faith that Jesus died to pay for our sins
·         Faith is trust in Jesus, His death on the Cross for our forgiveness.

 This way to forgiveness is the Good News of the new Covenant made by Jesus. Repentance, based on the hope of forgiveness; is the doorway to a relationship with our Heavenly Father and eternal spiritual life in heaven.

2. The apostle Paul explains the importance of Baptism in Forgiveness
The Good News of Christianity is that “Christ died for sins, once for all...” (1 Peter 3.18) The divinity, human baptism, sinless life and sacrificial death of Jesus all created a new way for individuals to be forgiven. The Hebrew baptism of John was symbolic of sinners and non-Jews – pagans; washing away (dying emotionally) to their old way of life and beliefs and being re-born as reconciled members of the Jewish Faith. Jesus modelled this in the baptism by John to show us the importance of dying to / washing away past sin and guilt and making a new beginning.
·         Replaced the worldwide cleansing / mass death of the Biblical Flood
·         Individual Christians are Baptized into a spiritual Covenant with Jesus
·         Renounce Satan and spiritual forces of evil
·         Turn to Jesus in faith for forgiveness – intention is critical
·         Promise to repent and return to the Lord if we fall into sin
·         In Baptism we die emotionally and spiritually to all our past sins.
·         Our life is linked spiritually to the life, death, resurrection of Jesus.
     “If we have died with Him we shall rise with Him”.
·         Theology of substitution death is hard to understand and believe.
·         Time is different in the spiritual world - today’s sins can be repented and taken back 2,000 years to the Cross and be paid for.
·         We still die for our own sins - die emotionally and spiritually That is the Good News of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Name.

3. Repentance is a lifelong process
In the Lords’ Prayer Jesus taught us to ask God to “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Like Jesus, we are led into temptation as soon as we are baptized. This seems like a bad thing but it is actually a good thing as we are forced to choose between loyalty to our Baptism promise to be loyal to God – and the temptation to rebel.
·         We are forced to move either closer to the Father or farther away
·         Those who move closer grow spiritually and experience God’s love.
·         Rebels suffer, realize they are in trouble, repent and come home.
·         Confession and Absolution is a regular part of our worship
·         Healing Ministry is often helping people examine their lives to identify, repent and be forgiven from the guilt and shame affecting their life

Jesus calls us to “repent and believe the Good News”
He explains that the Kingdom of God is near. The Kingdom is here in the form of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit is seen descending from Heaven to land on the earthly Jesus at His Baptism, so we all receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism.
·         Holy Spirit wants to guide our lives and give us gifts – love, joy, peace
·         Holy Spirit cannot bear to be around the un-holy, spiritual pollution
·         Need to repent and seek forgiveness to create a holy space.
·         Reason for self-examination, repentance

The message is that if we want to find real spiritual joy and experience Heaven in the form of the Holy Spirit; we will have to go through the painful doorway of repentance. The doorway is painful because we must be very specific and actually die emotionally to each specific act of rebellion. Each act of repentance is an experience of emotional death and spiritual resurrection.

The Good News is that we are not alone - Jesus is with us in our Baptismal life and the Holy Spirit is guiding us as we go through the doorway of repentance to the fullness of our life in Christ.

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