The Ministry Begins

If one didn’t know better they might think that Jesus could have benefited from a savvy P.R. marketing manager. We know that first impressions are lasting, and it is imperative for any public figure to get their debut right.

The society in which Jesus began his ministry was very religious. At the top of the hierarchy of life were the religious rulers who held sway over every aspect of daily living. The temple sacrifices were an acknowledgement that the nation had one purpose in life – the coming of the Messiah.

To common logic it would seem Jesus would make a grand announcement that He had arrived. I can see Him now giving a press conference outlining his agenda and the wonderful gifts He would give to the people.

It would seem to help His cause if He affirmed the people in a way that was non-threatening. Change is difficult for anyone so it would make sense to not disturb the comfort zone of the masses. Just give out some vague generalities and promises that He would make the nation great again and His chances of acceptance would be greater. But man’s ways are not heaven’s ways.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

It must have arrested the attention of all to hear this message from Jesus. He spoke with an authority that could not be denied. His message of repentance had to cut to the heart of all who heard, both high and low. It was a call to confess and put away sin because the Kingdom of God was at hand.

We don’t hear much about repentance today. Our churches have become almost silent on this aspect of living. We embrace the Jesus that provides solutions to the difficulties of life. We embrace the Jesus that gives us the ability to become our greatest selves. We embrace the Jesus that will give us what we want, even if it’s not what we need. That is the Jesus we promote. That is the Jesus we use to draw people into our fellowship. That is the Jesus that is a marketing homerun – not the Jesus of Repentance.

Come as you are but don’t stay as you are.

Today in many of our churches there seems to be an overemphasis on worship at the expense of repentance. We take great pride in our ability as a church to create an atmosphere that is euphoric and rapturous. Yes, there is much to praise God for. Yes He has delivered us from dangers both seen and unseen. But as a part of true worship there must be a call to repentance. There must be a recognition and an abandonment of sin.

As we look carefully at the life of Jesus we must pay careful attention to what He said, how He said it and to whom. The closer we can imitate His life, the safer we will be, both as individuals and as a church.

Being more than a human moralist, Christ taught that man needed a total transformation. Mathew records His parable of a wedding celebration. A king’s son was getting married and a great feast would be given. Those invited refused to attend. They had other priorities in life. After the initial invitees refused, the call went out again to come to the supper, and eventually the wedding hall was filled.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:11-14

“The man who came to the feast without a wedding garment represents the condition of many in our world today. They profess to be Christians, and lay claim to the blessings and privileges of the gospel; yet they feel no need of a transformation of character. They have never felt true repentance for sin. They do not realize their need of Christ or exercise faith in Him. They have not overcome their hereditary or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing. Yet they think that they are good enough in themselves, and they rest upon their own merits instead of trusting in Christ. Hearers of the word, they come to the banquet, but they have not put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness.” Ellen White, Christ Object lessons, 315

The call of Christ to repentance is still present truth.

Repent! Turn from your evil ways! That was the message of John the Baptist as He prepared the people for Christ’s ministry. And when Christ began His public ministry, He preached, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 In His call to repentance is the greatest call of mercy man has ever been given. Without a change in life (the new birth experience), man cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And without repentance there will be no desire for this change.

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “present truth” mean to you?
  • How does a person repent?
  • Is it true that if I truly love God there is nothing for me to repent of? Explain your answer.
  • What can one do, if anything, if they honestly don’t feel sorry for sin but know that they are committing sin?
  • Why did Jesus ask religious people to repent?
  • What, if anything, makes it difficult for religious people to repent?
  • What, if anything, is the difference between being born again and being a really good person?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: God is more concerned with my heart than with my actions. Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson on The Ministry Begins with an invitation from Jesus. Let’s follow His example and His message, including His call to repentance.

“Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:18-19

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

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