On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, there were very few empty seats in the churches across America. Over the prior week, Americans had seen the worst terrorist attack executed on the homeland in history. In the following days, we learned that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by a Middle-Eastern terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and that we were almost certain to go to war in the Middle East.
Middle Eastern wars and world wars have a way of shaking us from our slumber, because they have the potential to fulfill Bible prophecy, which means the end times could be near, and judgment is coming.
Believing the end may have been near, and that judgment was coming, Americans flocked to their local churches to learn whether the attacks of the prior week had prophetic significance, and to learn how close we were to the end.
Within two weeks, fears of the end had subsided, and church attendance slipped back to normal.
There is something about seeing prophecy fulfilled, or believing that the Lord’s return is imminent, that drives people to sudden repentance and religion.
Such was the case in Mark 1:1-15. Mark opens his account of the Gospel by quoting Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner to Christ. In verses 2-3, he writes:
As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
These verses, taken from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, promised that before Christ came, His messenger would arrive and call the nation to repentance. Mark then went on to discuss how John the Baptist fulfilled this scripture:
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
Seeing the messenger promised in the scriptures, the people flocked to John the Baptist to be baptized with the baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Not long after that, Jesus came, was baptized of John, went into the wilderness, and re-emerged preaching repentance and belief in the Gospel.
In recording these events, Mark makes two observations. (1) Those events indicated that the Kingdom of God was about to arrive, and (2) with those events having happened years prior to his writing, we are even closer to the day of judgment than we were before.
Thus, Mark writes his Gospel with urgency, quoting Jesus Christ as He called the nation to repentance.
The words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 are not only the theme of the Gospel of Mark, but they are the sum of the Lord’s teaching. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
The Lord warns us that the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.
What does it mean, “The time is fulfilled?”
If you have ever baked cookies, or even heated a frozen pizza in the oven, you have likely set a timer according to the instructions on the box. When that timer goes off, the time has been fulfilled, and your cookies or pizza is now ready.
When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled,” He essentially said, “Time’s up! Time to repent. The Kingdom is here.”
We tend to live life as if we have all the time in the world to straighten out our Spiritual matters. Within two weeks after 9/11, we collectively decided that Jesus was not coming back, yet, and thus we quit going to church. We tend to put off Spiritual decisions, commitments to Christ, and resolve to take on those decisions on a more convenient day, which somehow never seems to come.
However, the day will come when our time will be up. And that day is closer than you think.
Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow, or whether he comes back next century, you are still closer than you think to judgment day, for scripture tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” While I could tell you stories of people who passed away unexpectedly before their time, the truth is, even if you live to be 100, the end of your life will arrive faster than you think. Consider how fast your life has passed by up until now.
Therefore, we need to place urgency upon our Spiritual lives, and bring ourselves into alignment with the will of God sooner rather than later.
After pointing out the time-sensitive nature of our Spiritual lives, Jesus then called us to repent.
To repent means to change your mind regarding your sin, abhorring the sins of the past, and making the changes in your life so that you never go back into that life of sin. This goes beyond sorrow for sin. It includes a decision, and a change to never allow yourself to be owned by that sin again.
This practice is commonly seen by alcoholics and recovering drug addicts. Sorrowful for the way they’ve destroyed their lives with drug/alcohol abuse, they resolve to never allow that to happen again. Therefore, they avoid certain places, people and things that could trigger a relapse. The repentant sinner would do well to follow this pattern.
Jesus then called us to believe the Gospel.
The Gospel is defined as how Christ died for our sin, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Our hope, our confident expectation of salvation and heaven comes not from anything we’ve done, or overcome, but rather what Christ did on the cross. His death on the cross paid our sin debt and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Being willing to completely trust that, we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
Christ called us to repent and believe, and so we should. Our salvation experience is not only a life-changing event, it is a total life change.
Seeing then that our time is short, and Christ called us to repent and believe, we should do a self-assessment. Have you repented and believed? Are you saved? Are you different now than you were before?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then it is time to get right with the Lord. Go to Him in prayer. Confess your sins to Him. Ask forgiveness. Trust Him to save you based on His work on the cross. Then, as you arise from that prayer, make the changes in your life to leave sin behind.
If you need encouragers to rally around you during this time, we’d love to help at Life Point Baptist Church. Contact us, or come visit our services. We’d love to be there for you during this important time.