Sermon: Repent and Believe the Gospel | Mark 1:14–15

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Repent and Believe the Gospel | Mark 1:14–15
Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 29 January, 2017

Mark, like Matthew and Luke, propels us forward roughly a year into Jesus’s ministry. He and His disciples have been baptizing people for repentance, but with the arrest of John the Baptist, they move northward with a message. John 4 records all of this, including the fact that Jesus traveled through Samaria and shared the Good News of God with them. Jesus now comes to Galilee with those same gospel tidings. This text answers two key questions about Jesus’s preaching—why and what He preached.
I. Why did Jesus preach the gospel?
A. The time is fulfilled
B. The kingdom is at hand
II. What did Jesus preach about the gospel of God?
A. We must repent
B. We must believe the gospel

Sermon Notes
Repent and Believe the Gospel | Mark 1:14–15

Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 29 January, 2017

Heavenly Father, • We thank You for coming with the good news. • Please open our minds and hearts to the kind of faith that You teach here.
I. Introduction Whenever a preacher gets to application, he can sometimes find himself trouble. This was the case with John the Baptist, who was arrested after calling on Herod Antipas to repent of his marriage illicit marriage (cf. 6:17–19). Since Mark gets into that arrest later, we’ll save studying some of those details until then. What we should note from there, though, is the resolve of John the Baptist—all people, kings and peasants alike, must repent of their sins and turn to Christ.
It’s surprising to see just how connected the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist were at the beginning. They both come preaching repentance, and this is the same word for preaching used of John in v. 4. It is a lifting up of one’s voice, a proclamation, but their preaching was remarkably similar. The Gospel of John gives us insight into the time before John the Baptist’s arrest (Jn 3:22–30, cf. v. 24), and in John 4:1–2, we read that Jesus and His disciples were also baptizing, and that their baptisms were even outnumbering John’s.
There’s a bit of foreshadowing with John’s arrest. John here was paradidomi, “delivered over,” and in 3:14, Jesus would be paradidomi, “delivered over” by Judas Iscariot. It’s not that John the Baptist was betrayed by one of his disciples, but God will allow similar outcomes. Jesus knows this, so He also uses paradidomi to speak of His own destiny (9:31; 10:33; 14:41). Specifically, in 9:12–13, Jesus links His treatment to that of John the Baptist; “12 And he said to them, ‘Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’ ”
It’s dangerous sometimes to be in the work of the Lord, which is why Mark also uses paradidomi of faithful Christians. In 13:9, 12, we read, “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. … And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” This is why Jesus says in Lk 14 that we have to count the cost of being His disciple—for “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (v. 33).
The two preaching ministries similarly highlighted repentance. Now that John the Baptist is arrested, Jesus moves north preaching the same message with this addendum—the Good News of God. (Now, as an aside, there is a textual variant here that doesn’t belong, but it was picked up by the KJV and NKJV—Jesus didn’t come preaching “the gospel of the kingdom of God” but simply, “the gospel of God.”) Whereas John preached only repentance, pointing people to Christ, Jesus came with the glad tidings of God.
So, to sum this up—Mark, like Matthew and Luke, propels us forward roughly a year into Jesus’s ministry. He and His disciples have been baptizing people for repentance, but with the arrest of John the Baptist, they move northward with a message. John 4 records all of this, including the fact that Jesus traveled through Samaria and shared the Good News of God with them. Jesus now comes to Galilee with those same gospel tidings. This text answers two key questions about Jesus’s preaching—why and what He preached.
II. First, why did Jesus preach the gospel? Jesus revealed two major events on the prophetic calendar. Sometimes, we wonder just how much He wanted people to know because He sometimes asks people to keep something quiet. It’s clear, though, that He wanted to reveal Who He was and why He was there in stages.
A. The time is fulfilled The two, main words for expressing time in Greek seem to be kairos and chronos. The latter word communicates the idea of chronological time, the passing of minutes and hours. The first term seems to focus more on particular moments in time.
God, in His sovereign control, determined the right time. Mt 13:17, “For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” So many of God’s people waited and waited, and now is finally the time.
God determined that the Old Covenant would come to an end and the New Covenant would dawn. Gal 4:4–5—“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Eph 1:10—“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” One commentator says here that it’s “a time heavy with eternal significance.” Somehow, either through His own study of Scripture or through His own divine nature, Jesus came to know that the time was fulfilled.
B. The kingdom is at hand Not only is the time fulfilled, but the kingdom of God has been brought near. This doesn’t mean that God is instituting the kingdom in its fullness yet. This only means that Jesus is establishing His reign and His people who will comprise the future kingdom. So, there is an already and not-yet aspect to the kingdom.
First, good people believe that there's a difference between what Matthew calls “the kingdom of heaven” and what Mark calls “the kingdom of God.” I don't hold to that for a couple of reasons. First, the Bible never describes a difference between the two, which is a big problem with the idea. Another problem is interchangeability of the terms; when Matthew and Mark record the same moments, the former says “kingdom of heaven” while the later says “kingdom of God.” Remember that the Jews did not like to use God's name lest they take it in vain, so they would use terms like “temple” and “heaven” to euphemistically refer to God. Matthew writes with those sensitivities in mind, but Mark writes to a Gentile audience. It's actually a demonstration of being aware of taboos that are not sins but may still damage your message.
God’s people hoped for the kingdom. There would be no more sin and God would be worshipped everywhere (Is 11:9). The nations would be subject to the Lord (Dan 7:13–14, 22, 25). The Messiah would bring a worldwide government of peace (Is 9:7). Even the animals would respond, as Is 11:6–8 promises “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.”
Now, God is already the king of Israel (Is 41:21; 43:15) and the world (Jer 10:7; Mal 1:14). This refers then to the kingdom over which God will reign. This was the state of the world before the Fall, in Genesis 2. Jesus is saying it’s brought near, and it will again be the state of the world in Revelation 22. Until that day, we live in-between, and we also need to know what is expected of citizens of the future kingdom. Is 45:23—“To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” (not a present reality). Zec 14:9—“And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.”
So, clearly there’s an already and not-yet aspect to all of this. Scripture clearly teaches that the kingdom is still a future reality. Mk 14:25—“Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Jesus instructed us to pray saying, “Your kingdom come” (Lk 11:2).
So, in what way is the kingdom near? Primarily, the kingdom is in Jesus, because He later says to the Pharisees surrounding Him that the kingdom of God is in their midst (Lk 17:21). His people also bring it near. Those who approach Him like children, with nothing in their hands, are members of the kingdom (Mk 9:33–37; 10:13–16). So, today, it’s in the people of the kingdom of God that it is felt most at hand.
III. Second, what did Jesus preach about the gospel of God? We’ve seen that Jesus explained that the time is fulfilled and that the kingdom is at hand. He preached at that time because God had so ordained it. He informs people about these facts.
However, the gospel message isn’t academic. Jesus Christ didn’t come simply to provide more education. He knows the problem is deeper than the presentation of new facts. He therefore calls people to respond, and He continues to do so while the time is still at hand and the kingdom is still near. Jesus calls us to repent and to believe the gospel.
A. We must repent Command extended to all the people—“Y’all Repent and y’all believe.” Repentance, then, is essential to our salvation. It is not just a change in mind, but an intellectual, emotional, and volitional change in direction. It is a change in how we view a beloved sin, how we feel about it, and how much longer we will tolerate it in our lives.
You might ask whether repentance is vital to biblical faith. In the parallel passage in Mt 3:2, we don’t even have the word “believe;” “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Acts 2:38, when asked what to do in light of the gospel, Peter says, “Repent.” In Acts 17:30, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
What is an example of repentance? Example: Mt 22:19—“ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.” You may remember in the story of Huckleberry Finn, pappy tells the whole court he’s a changed man, he won’t drink again, and every cries together at this sign of repentance. What does he do that night? He gets drunker than he ever had before. There was no true repentance there.
It’s a shame that churches neglect this command. One commentary I read this week said that this doesn’t have anything to do with an inward battle or decision. A pastor in town here told his congregation not too long ago to stop telling people to repent—just invite them to church, he said. I’ve heard supposed teachers of Scripture say that commanding repentance adds to the gospel of free grace.
It’s more than true that the God of Scripture makes the offer of salvation to us as a gift. We can’t earn it, lest we could boast in our abilities. We can’t buy it, because it was offered with the imperishable blood of Christ. There is no way in which we make ourselves more attractive to God, for our righteousness is filthy rags before a Righteous Judge.
He condescends to us. He delivers us because we cannot help ourselves. He cleans us because we’re dirty with sin.
Yet, we must understand what this means for us. We must be cleaned. We must be delivered. This means that our sin isn’t cutting it, but neither are our efforts of reform. We need to reject sin and self and turn to God. Indeed, Jesus commands you to do so.
Repentance is necessary for salvation. But, what is it? It is not simply a change of mind regarding sin—a child may change his mind about an act after he is caught. Judas Iscariot changed his mind so much that he cast down his blood money in the temple and then hung himself from a tree—and he went to the place prepared for him. Repentance isn’t just a change of mind, or simply sorrow over sin and its consequences. It’s a change of mind, desire, and will.
B. We must believe the gospel I want you to note that it’s not just “believe.” While that makes a nice greeting card, faith must have an object. Faith is only as good as its object. We see shirts with pictures of Santa that say, “believe.” We see bumper stickers from Disney World that say “believe.” That might be fun, but it’s not biblical faith. You must believe “in the gospel,” in the message of good news that He brings.
Jesus said in John 14:1, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” Gal 3:26—“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. John 3:18—“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” We’re justified by faith, Rm 5:1.
Even so, not all faith is saving belief. Scripture reveals that there’s a useless faith. If you don’t have a biblical faith, then you will not be saved. You can easily identify it, too. It’s a faith that lacks any evidence of existence.
Heather has been going through the Book of James with the women’s ministry. James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” It’s not controlling our language that gets us into heaven, but a faith that doesn’t ever grow up and guard our mouths withered on the vine under the influences of the world.
James 2:19 says there’s a faith that the demons have. Believing facts like “God exists” or even “Jesus is the Savior” do not get one into heaven. V. 20 says, “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that [the kind of] faith apart from works is useless?”
You might ask, “Aren’t we saved without works?” and you’d be right. But, the kind of faith that says, “I want to escape Hell (and keep on sinning)” is not saving faith. Genuine faith transforms us—it delivers us from death into life; it doesn’t leave us in darkness. Genuine faith will cause us to hate the sin within us; not continue clutching to it.
You ask, “How can I create such a faith in me? Believe harder?” Many Christians struggle with this. They’re told to “really mean it,” and if they’re only 99%, they’re 100% lost. The truth is, as sinners, we can’t generate such world-tilting, soul-altering faith. Actually, if you are trusting in your ability to believe in Christ to be saved, then you are not trusting Christ.
Genuine faith is a gift from above. James 1:17–18 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” We must have the kind of faith that God gives.
Genuine faith, we see in the words of Jesus, comes with repentance. It calls us to turn from sin to God. And then it gives us the strength to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the kind of faith that moves us to turn from the sins that we love to begin loving the Lord.
IV. Final Thoughts
MacArthur explains it this way:
Systematic theology usually recognizes three elements of faith: knowledge ( notitia ), assent ( assensus ), and trust ( fiducia ). Augustus H. Strong and Louis Berkhof both refer to notitia as the “intellectual element” of faith. Assensus is the “emotional element.” Fiducia is the “voluntary [volitional] element.” Real faith therefore involves the whole person—mind, emotions, and will. The mind embraces knowledge, a recognition and understanding of the truth that Christ saves. The heart gives assent, or the settled confidence and affirmation that Christ’s salvation is applicable to one’s own soul. The will responds with trust, the personal commitment to and appropriation of Christ as the only hope for eternal salvation.
[John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel According to the Apostles: The Role of Works in the Life of Faith (Nashville, TN: Word Pub., 2000).]  

Citizens of the future kingdom have been wholly transformed—they care about loving God and loving their neighbor. Eph 2:8–10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The time is fulfilled and the kingdom is at hand. Have you placed your trust in Christ? Maybe you prayed a prayer, but you know now that you lack the faith Scripture teaches. You don’t have to wait. Today is the day of your salvation. Know that time is right, that the kingdom is being brought near. With ease you can come in through repentance and faith. Trust and believe before you leave here—seek the Lord while He may be found. Grab one of us and ask for prayer if you wish, but trust in the message of the kingdom.
Dear Lord, • Thank You for coming and teaching us about Your coming kingdom and the glorious gospel. • Lord, we want to repent, to turn from our sins to You, and believe the gospel. For those in here that have not received such a gift, I pray that You would give it now. Save these lost souls, Oh Lord—grant them the repentance and faith they need. • May we never leave the gospel behind as Christians. May we live lives of repentance, continuing to hate sin and to turn to You and Your promises everyday. We thank You for the faith You’ve given us!

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