In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 3:1, 2
In this season of Advent (meaning “arrival” or “coming”), we have asked the Lord to plant in us seeds of expectation for His coming. This second week of Advent, we ponder the words of John the Baptist as we turn to the theme of repentance.
John tells us that because “the kingdom of heaven has come near” it is time to repent. The word “repent” is often defined as being sorry for our sins and changing our behavior accordingly. It is certainly true that in order to prepare our hearts for the Lord, a primary starting point is to become honest with God about our sin and to agree with Him that our only deliverance is through Christ. But that’s not the end of the story.
The people to whom John was speaking would have understood the word repent to mean “change your thinking” or “change your mind.” Why would we need to change our minds in order to get ready for the kingdom of heaven as John suggests? Have you ever booked a hotel based on a beautiful photo on a brochure only to show up and find a hotel resembling the photo only in the sense that it had a door and some rooms in it? It’s disappointing to say the least. When Jesus showed up announcing His kingdom, it was nothing like the brochure. The Messiah they were expecting would bring deliverance by overthrowing the political powers of the day and ending the Roman oppression. Instead they got a guy who avoided power plays and asked us to “turn the other cheek.”
Jesus was a living snapshot of the kingdom of God…a kingdom that is about much more than just not sinning. Jesus told us that to be great in the kingdom, we must become servants. He told us to let our light shine so that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. And He showed us through the cross that ultimate power is demonstrated not by domination but by restraint. God knew that our way of thinking about lots of things—money, sin, success, power, relationships—would need to be turned upside down in order to embrace life in His kingdom. Our actions reflect our changed thinking—we live a new way in light of the reality that a new kingdom is at hand.
Set aside some time this week to sit with the Lord and ask Him to show you any areas of your life that call for repentance. Ask for the power of the Spirit to think and live differently. If there is sin that needs to be confessed, accept and trust the forgiveness that Christ offers. Whatever comes to light, trust that the Lord will come alongside and help you make the necessary changes so that you can settle deeply into His kingdom.
Scripture to reflect on this week:
An Advent Prayer
Lord, show us every area of our lives that call for repentance
Where there is sin, we ask for forgiveness
Where there is resistance to change, we ask for a heart of surrender
Where there are unkingdom-like ways of thinking, we ask for the mind of Christ
By your grace, empower us to live as good citizens in this upside down kingdom