2017-10-22 Keep Turning, Keep Believing

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          October 22, 2017

“Keep Turning, Keep Believing”
Text: Mark 1:14-15

Watch the lead story on your preferred newscast.  Listen to the first story on your radio news.  Read your newspaper headline—or the top story from your preferred Internet news outlet.  What do you discern?  You discern that, most of the time, that leading story is bad news.  Whether bad news sells, or whether bad news gratifies some sinful part of our American collective, or for some other reason, our news publishers would have us believe that our world is a bad-news world.

Did a land, or a people, ever need good news like ours?  After all, our souls can endure only limited amounts of bad news per time period—and, above that limited amount, our souls both struggle to bear the load of sorrow and suffer while bearing it.  Even we, the redeemed of God in Christ, continue to need good news.  If our Christian training has been good, then we know how things ought to be.  When we see that we are not as we should be, and things are not as they should be, we feel the pull toward a form of sorrow that feels more like despair.

Resist that downward, beloved ones in Christ Jesus.  We have good news—glorious good news at that—in God’s Word, the Bible.  Let’s hear it again, and let’s note our proper ongoing response to it.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

 

Mark, led by the Holy Spirit, opens this narrative by noting John the Baptist’s arrest.  John, Jesus’ kinsman, humanly speaking, served Jesus as the forerunner to His public ministry—as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3-5.  Jesus called John the Elijah who was to come (Matthew 11:14, par.)—which invoked Malachi’s prophecy to this effect four hundred fifty years earlier (Malachi 4:5-6).  Now John, Who must decrease that Christ may increase (John 3:30), exits the scene after his imprisonment and subsequent execution—and Jesus strides onto it.

Mark tells us that after John’s arrest, Jesus came into Galilee.  He came from the Judean wilderness—the site of His temptation.  Jesus, led to the desert by the Spirit, endured forty days and nights of fasting in a climate that can only be called inhospitable.  The daytime heat in certain seasons of the year can reach one hundred twenty-five degrees, and the nights can seem very cold due to the wide temperature swings facilitated by very dry desert air.  There is precious little water there—and precious little shade to boot.  Jesus, enduring this brutal setting, rebuffed Satan thrice and came into Galilee.

Jesus came into Galilee preaching (Greek kerusso [khrussw]).  That is, He came announcing Gospel truth as a herald—publicly, visibly, and audibly—urging acceptance of and compliance with His message.[1]  What did He announce?  First, He announced certain facts.  He said, “The time is fulfilled.”  Mark uses the Greek word kairos (kairoV) to denote this time.  This Greek word I often render into English with the gloss opportune time—as I did in this passage this week, for the time of His earthly ministry is an opportune time indeed.[2]  Old Testament redemptive history, pointing forward to Jesus since the Fall (Genesis iii.15), finds fulfillment in Him.  The hope of the Godly in every Old Testament generation now appears in public ministry in Galilee.

Jesus next announced, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”  The Kingdom of God (or, for Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven) is God’s righteous reign over all things everywhere.  It occurs already at a significant level, but it has not come to the full—when Jesus returns and the evil one, plus his host, will be vanquished eternally.  Yet this Kingdom now is at hand (literally has come near, Greek engidzo [eggizw]).  It is at hand literally in this narrative; Jesus is in earshot.  The Kingdom, in this narrative, is near figuratively also, for He soon will atone for sin—and that atonement will rescue elect sinners unto salvation.  Indeed, the Kingdom is at hand, and—since Jesus’ first advent—ever shall be.

Second, Jesus, having announced certain facts, exhorts His hearers.  He first exhorts them, and us, to repent.  The dictionary definitions of the word repent denote contrition or sorrow over wrong, self-reproach at wrongdoing, and desire to amend future behavior to avoid wrongdoing.[3]  In both Testaments, the words used for repent and repentance involves turning: turning from sin and turning to Christ—and these predicated upon a God-given godly sorrow, with antecedent saving faith, that works repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  Hence, God calls us, by the very saving faith He gives us, to turn from sin unto His Son.

Jesus then exhorts us to believe in the Gospel.  By believe, we mean two things: cognitive assent to Gospel facts and volitional trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  We assert that Scripture’s claims are true and right, and we place our trust wholly in Jesus as Savior from sin and as Lord of life.  By Gospel, from an Anglo-Saxon word which means good news, we mean the Good News about Jesus Christ—which includes, among other things, His sinless life, His atoning death, and His glorious resurrection.  These truths declare Him Who is our sole hope in life and eternity.  We, then, are to turn from everything else unto Jesus as He offers Himself to us in the Gospel.

John Newton, that one-time slave trader turned evangelical Christian and preacher, wrote, “How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”  For us who have believed, that first hour of belief indeed induced us to prize God’s grace precious.  Yet, as we know, repentance and faith—though noteworthy at conversion—have significance far beyond that initial transformation from darkness into light.  Life in Christ is one of continual repentance and continual trust in Jesus; repentance and faith are not once-done-for-all-time items at conversion.  By ongoing repentance, and by ongoing faith, we glorify Christ and grow into His likeness.

This Good News, the Gospel, is the sole hope for our lives.  Edward Mote, one-time cabinet maker and later Baptist preacher in England, wrote, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”[4]  We build on any other foundation but in vain.  The same is true for our families.  Marriages and families not built upon the Savior Himself well may fall in the day of trouble, whereas He causes those houses built upon Him to weather storm upon storm.  The same is true of our nation.  Only God can heal our idolatry, our immorality, and our incivility and hatred—but, lest we think God cannot heal us, let us remind ourselves that He Who ordained this nation’s existence can move her repentance and bless her yet.  Let us, the people of God in Christ in this land, both keep on repenting, and keep on believing the Gospel.

AMEN.

[1] This sentence rises from the definition of kerusso (khrussw) in Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

 

[2] The Holy Spirit in some cases uses kairos and chronos (cronoV) [time, chronological time] quite distinctly, whereas in other cases He apparently uses them interchangeably.  As ever, the context determines the proper translation.

[3] These denotations rises from the definitions of the word repent offered at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/repent?s=t. (accessed October 20, 2017)

[4] Edward Mote, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less.”  (quoted from http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/tlh370.htm., accessed October 20, 2017.)

Advertisements