Thursday, January 28, 2016, 5:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “What the Lord Says.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 1:14-20 (NASB). Repent and Believe (vv. 14-15) Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” There are many people these days who purportedly are preaching the gospel of God (of Jesus Christ). And, yet, their messages are not all the same. In other words, there are many different teachings out there which fall under the name of “Gospel of Jesus Christ,” but not all of them are truly teaching the “Gospel of God.” So, how do we know which ones are teaching the true gospel, and which ones are not? How can we discern truth from error? Paul said that he did not shrink from declaring “the whole counsel of God.” So, what does that mean? It means he did not, out of fear of consequences, withhold any truth with regard to God’s will and purpose for us in salvation. He did not disguise the gospel or withhold any imperative truth contained therein in order to appease people, or to not offend, or to make people feel good about themselves. He did not twist the words of scripture in order to make them more culturally relevant, either. He also did not concern himself with being “seeker sensitive,” i.e. with trying to present the gospel in a way which would be friendlier and not so hard for the listeners to receive. He taught what Jesus taught about our salvation. When Jesus called Paul to preach the gospel he told him that he was sending him to open the eyes of the (spiritually) blind, to turn them from darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus, the truth, righteousness), and from the power of Satan (away from his control over our lives) to God (to come under his control), “that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (See: Ac. 26:16-18). Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin), and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). And, Paul said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). So, here in Mark’s gospel it is stated that Jesus, in preaching the gospel, said that we must repent and believe in the gospel. Many preachers today are telling people they don’t have to repent, or else they are saying that “repent” merely means to have a change of mind, and that change of mind takes place when someone decides to believe in Jesus. True, that is a change of mind, but when Scripture uses the term “repent,” in most all cases, in context, it is speaking of a change of mind about sin, i.e. it is in reference to forsaking our former way of living for sin and self, and it is about dying with Christ to sin so that we can be resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (See: 1 Pet. 2:24). This is the essence of the gospel, not that he died merely to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but that he died that our sinful flesh would be crucified with him, and that we might now live to God’s righteousness in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, and not in our own flesh. The message of the gospel is death to sin, alive with Christ, living to righteousness. Follow Him (vv. 16-20) As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. I love this depiction of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. It means we leave our former way of living behind us and we follow him in obedience and go the way he goes, wherever he goes. Yet, there were people in Jesus’ day who said they wanted to follow him, but they had not yet counted the cost of what it would mean to follow him, and/or they said they had other things they needed to do first. So, Jesus let them know the cost of following him, and he reprimanded at least one of them by telling him that anyone who looks back, i.e. who is still engaged in the things of this world, is not fit for the kingdom of God. He let them all know that following Christ does not mean we have security in the things of this world, but now our security is in heaven and in what is of God’s eternal kingdom. He told them that following him was to be an immediate response of leaving all behind (See: Lu. 9:57-62). Although it is true that the Christian life is a growth process, and that daily, by the Spirit, we are to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh - and that we are being conformed into the likeness of Christ, and that we are being made holy - we cannot enter into a true relationship with Jesus Christ thinking we can still hold on to our old lives and that we can just gradually let go of things when we decide. We can’t say, “I will follow you Jesus, but first let me continue to live my life the way I want, and then later, when it is convenient for me, I will follow you.” Jesus demands total surrender, but not sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1). Yet, the Word teaches us that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), that we are liars, and the truth is not in us (See: 1 Jn. 1:6). If we continue to walk according to the flesh, we will die, and we won’t have an inheritance with God in heaven. We can’t serve two masters – the flesh and Christ. One will cancel out the other, i.e. we can’t serve Christ and the flesh, too. Yet, not only does following Christ mean we cease going the direction we were headed with our lives, and now we go the opposite direction in following Christ with our lives, but it means a life of service to our Lord, to do his will, his way. When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, we were bought with a price, so our lives are no longer our own to be lived the way we choose (See: 1 Co. 6:20). We were crucified with Christ so that we no longer live, but Christ now lives within us, and the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and who gave himself up for us (See: Gal. 2:20). Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life for us (See: 2 Co. 5:15). A saved life is a crucified life. A saved life is a surrendered life. Jesus said that his sheep (followers) know his voice, they listen to him, and they follow (obey) him (Jn. 10:27-30). So, if we want to follow Jesus Christ with our lives, we must leave our old lives of living for sin and self behind us, and daily we must die to sin and self and follow our Lord in surrender and obedience to his will for our lives – all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, as we yield our lives to the Spirit. We must listen to him, and do what he says. And, we must live our lives as though they are not our own, but as though we belong to Jesus, and he is the one now in control, and as though he is the one calling all the shots. A saved life is a life of service to our God. It is a life that is called of God for a very specific purpose, which is to live holy lives, pleasing to God. To believe in the gospel means we live like we believe that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Our walk matches our talk. So, when the temptations or trials of this life weigh in on us, we commit our way to the Lord. And, we keep following him, trusting him with the results. What the Lord Says / An Original Work February 24, 2014 / Based off Isaiah 43:1-44:5 This is what the Lord says to you: Fear not, for I have chosen you. I have summoned you by your name. You are mine. I died, you to save. When you go through your trials, so deep, I will be with you; you will not sink. You are so precious always to me. Trust in your Lord, Savior and King. This is what the Lord says to you: He who gave salvation to you; Who delivered you from your sin; Takes your burdens now upon Him: Forget the former things of your life. Give of your heart not now up to strife. See all the new things I have for you. Walk in vict’ry. Trust in what’s true. This is what the Lord says to you: He who made you; who will help you: Do not fear what humans may do. Walk in freedom. Follow what’s true. Drink of my Spirit given for you. Trust in my mercy, for I love you. I have a plan for all of your life. Follow my ways. Do what is right.