“And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins... Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him... ‘After me will come one more powerful than I... I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”
~Mark 1:4, 5b, 7b, 8 (NIV).
The gospel message is a remarkably simple message, but it’s confounding in its complexity when it comes down to its applicability to the human context—this is such that human beings are remarkably foreign creatures to the truth.
This is not simply a proud statement.
Jesus says himself, “Light has come into the world, but [humanity] loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19 NIV [gender inclusive]). This was Jesus’ assessment; his “verdict”!
Without God we can only hate the truth. Even with God, we’re necessarily ‘trained’ in truth so we can more naturally—though never perfectly—love the truth.
To love the truth is to live; there was never a fuller dimension to that word, “live”.
True Belief is Rejecting the Default – Every Day
The default—i.e. the rejection of truth to live ‘our own way’—must be rejected every day, if we wish to live closer to true belief.
The truth is we must repent, and repent well and consistently; habitually. This is no shameful experience—it’s the true light of, and agreement with, God. It’s the turning back to God, even as this living God gives us back our choice. It is God’s searching of us; us as willing vessels to ‘hear’ God, seeking more and more to do God’s will. We will do these things freely, and in that, we’ll demonstrate our belief. In this—and basically this alone—we show our love of God.
This is to live.
The gospel is repentance. That’s a turning to, or back to, God. It’s living the inordinate fear of the Lord—which is the scaling horror to even consider displeasing God; and not from a legalistic sense of having to do anything... it’s simply acknowledging that without God we’re marooned hopelessly and that life without true belief is a ‘nothing’ life.
Evangelism’s Target – the Ones Who Show They’re Ready for Belief
I hope to never forget a sermon of A.W. Tozer’s I once heard: “How will you convince a person of his sin?” the words were, as I recall. It’s a really simple answer. We can’t. Only the Holy Spirit can bring a person to that destination, convicting them of what we accept if we truly believe.
And until anyone sees they’re a sinner, the gospel is no good to them. It’s craziness to them. This is where the rubber meets with the road. It’s like the story of the separated wife and husband almost at the point of getting back together; then a condition—“come to church, darling...”—we know how this story ends... some things were never meant to be.
A condition of true belief is the willingness to face the truth about one’s life. That we own sin as we live and breathe. That we need a Saviour. That the only way to true peace is through a truly penitent life, no matter who we say we believe in.
A condition of true belief is the need within to know we need a Saviour—not to make us feel better about ourselves, but to provide the bridge toward acceptable fellowship with a God who cannot abide in sin without a Mediator taking for us the sin upon himself, quashing it in heavenly grace—the only kind.
Here is redemption—the only kind—the forgiveness of sin; unconditional, unparalleled and mighty in wonder.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.