Introduction: Repent & Believe.
We set out 5 weeks ago attempting to explore the exclusive claims of the Christian faith. We’ve said all along every religious and non-religious person make exclusive claims, therefore to give any religion a fair hearing we need to examine those exclusive claims. If someone wants to truly examine the exclusive claims of Christianity then we must start with the historical figure of Jesus Christ. One of the best places to do this is in the Gospel of Mark.
We have considered the main things Mark has conveyed to us throughout his historical Gospel narrative. The last thing we talked about last week was what do we do with all this information? One-way many Christians respond to the information on Jesus Christ is by neutering Him. In his book Radical David Platt speaks about this:
“American Christians have a way of taking the Jesus of the Bible and twisting him into a version of Jesus that we are more comfortable with. A nice middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism…A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes.”—Platt, Radical
Modern Christians are not the only ones who want to neuter Jesus—READ Mark 8.31-33. As soon as Jesus began talking about what it will cost for to save the world one of his closest friends tells Him to tone it down. Peter offers Jesus the crown without the Cross. Peter thinks he knows what the Savior of the world should look and sound like. Jesus scolds Him for this. The first thing Jesus wants us to do with all this information we have on Him is accept Him on His own terms not ours.
When Christians neuter Jesus what do you think the world does? They follow our lead. But this is not what Jesus demands from the world. Jesus died for our sins so that we would no longer be enslaved to this world. Listen to how Jesus describes what our response to Him—READ Mark 1.14-15. Jesus’ expectations are clear. Jesus expects everyone, everywhere, to REPENT and BELIEVE. This is the response Jesus expects from us, so with the rest of our time today I want to explore those two ideas.
Theme:The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is built when we regularly repent and believe.
1. What Is Repentance?—Mark 8.34-38.
There are 3 things we see in this text that inform Jesus’ understanding of repentance. First, in true repentance we witness the death of self-centeredness—READ Mark 8.34. Jesus lists 3 things in the verse—denial, death, and following. What does Jesus tell us to deny? OURSELVES. Jesus calls us to treasure Him more than anything else. Throughout the Bible Jesus offers us instructions on how we can DENY OURSELVES. We know from Luke 9.23 our death is a daily habit. Clearly this is not a literal death, but a metaphor describing a change from the inside out. The Spirit of God through the Word of God is transforming our thoughts and desires. There are old thoughts and desires that will need to die in order to follow Jesus Christ. The transformation will be slow and painful, but following Jesus is worth it.
Second, true repentance will require the death of self-safety—READ Mark 8.35. The “FOR” in these next few verses gives us the basis for what Jesus said in verse 34. The people who want to stay comfortable and cozy will end up killing themselves in the end. Jesus tells us a refusal to follow Him is suicide. But Jesus also tells us the one willing to take risks, the one willing to die if necessary, for Jesus Christ, will reap great rewards. Many of the great missionaries in Christian history not only died for Jesus Christ, but also died that others might know Him. The missionary CT Studd once said, “We will dare to trust our God…We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man.”
Finally, true repentance will see the death of self-service—READ Mark 8.36-38. Whatever you are living for is what you are in service to. If you are living for your finances than you serve your finances. Your mind is consumed with your finances. You talk about it with others, you get advice, you give advice, you are always plotting to improve your finances. What Jesus reveals here is those who are in service to Him talk about Him—they are consumed with Him. Those in service to Jesus Christ talk to others about Jesus, get advice on Jesus, give advice based on Jesus, and are always to plotting on how they can improve their and other people’s relationship with Jesus. John Piper once said:
What’s the opposite of being ashamed of somebody? Being proud of them. Admiring them. Not being embarrassed to be seen with them. Loving to be identified with them.—Piper, The Son of Man
Repentance is about not being ashamed to be associated with Jesus Christ. It is about dying to ourselves and living for His glory. It is about living our personal comfort behind and truly following in the footsteps of Jesus. Repentance is about trusting Jesus’ ways above our own.
2. What Is Faith?—Mark 5.21-43
In order to explore this idea of faith I want to look a one passage in Mark’s Gospel that shows us two unique dynamics of faith.
In Mark 5 Jesus had an intense encounter with a mentally ill man. After that He makes His way across a sea, and there is a large is waiting for Him. One man, a religious leader, asks Jesus to come take a look at His daughter. And on the way there we have a unique encounter that reveals a dynamic about faith—READ Mark 5.24b-34. Here we have a sick desperate woman who has been consistently bleeding for 12 years. She has exhausted every medical professional and nothing has changed. Mark 5.27 tells us Jesus she heard reports about Jesus, and what was her response? She BELIEVED them, so much so that she thought to herself, “If I touch even his garment, I will be made well.” How do I know she believed the reports? Look again what Jesus told her—READ Mark 5.34. The first dynamic of faith is believing Jesus Christ is who He says He is. The first step in a saving faith is trusting in the PERSON of Jesus Christ.
There are many people who believe in Jesus Christ, but they really believe in a Jesus they are comfortable with. At the beginning and end of Mark’s Gospel there are declarations of who Jesus really is—He is the “SON OF GOD.” James Edwards reveals to us some of the more recent theories of who Jesus is, “’Jesus’ figures of historical criticism or Enlightenment rationalism or feminism or Aryan and racist theories or the Jesus Seminar or the various sociological models in our day.” (Edwards, p. 248) I plead with your friends to resist these trends, and rest in the Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible.
As the story continues we see another point of tension arise—READ Mark 5.35-36. Some people came and said the little girl this religious leader asked Jesus to heal was dead. Those same people encouraged the man to just let it go. But Jesus encourages the man to not the trust the words of those people, but His. Jesus takes His 3 closest friends with Him. When Jesus arrives He assesses the situation, takes the girl by the hand, and brings her back from the dead (Mark 5.37-43).
Let’s go back and think about this for a moment. The man had a little girl who was dying, recruits Jesus to help, but she dies before Jesus can do anything. Can you imagine the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual state this man was in? But despite all that Jesus calls this man to trust HIS WORDS—HIS PROMISES. Far too many people today want to turn faith into a feeling or intuition. People want to look at their circumstances and say, “It’s to late. God can’t do anything about this.”
The Christian faith is first about trusting in the person, because the person making the promises is vital to security of the promise. Faith is not about putting trust in yourself or some other human being, but about putting our trust in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. No matter the circumstances, no matter how dark, no matter how terrible, we believe Jesus will accomplish His purposes. The Christians trains their heart and mind to trust God and His promises.
Where we find a lack of faith we go back to our first step today—we REPENT. Until Jesus returns this is the Christian life—REPENT and BELIEVE. It is how Jesus began building His Kingdom 2000 years ago, and nothing has changed.