Repent and Believe in Jesus
By Fr. John Kanichery V C
Jesus began the ministry of the word with the exhortation to "repent and believe in the good news" ( Mk 1: 15). He preached that the kingdom of God is for those who repent. First comes repentance and then acceptance of the good news.
The good news means the message of salvation. "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household" ( Acts 16: 31). This belief requires of us to repent and accept Jesus. Jesus presents repentance as an absolute requirement for being saved.
God speaks through Isaiah 1: 6: "From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil." This is generally our state - one of pain and disaster. Through Jeremiah, the Lord says, "I will heal your wounds" (30: 17). God invites us to the experience of salvation in order to heal us. "Come now, let us argue it out" (Is 1: 18). The word of God exhorts us to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus.
What is first required for repentance is the renewal of the mind. "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds" ( Eph 4: 23). Renewal of the mind takes place through renewal of the conscience. There are false convictions about sin lodged in the conscience. This prevents an awareness of one's sinfulness and causes the loss of renewal. For example, the young man who plans sexual relationship with the girl he is planning to marry, thinks to himself: "This is not adultery. It is just an expression of love and so is not a sin." The youth indulging in masturbation thinks, "This is not wrong. It is only a means of release from the emotional tensions common to young people." When convictions of such false values enter the mind, repentance does not take place. And the life of sin continues. This results ultimately, in deformities of one's personality and causes mental conflicts and physical ailments (cf Ps 107: 17). The first phase of repentance is to correct wrong values and convictions and enter into an awareness of one's sinfulness.
The second phase is to cast away the old man. "You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts" ( Eph 4: 22). This is to consciously reject the sinful acts one is currently engaged in. The messenger of God told Joshua, "Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy" ( Josh 5: 15). Sin gives us pleasure and when we experience pleasure we sin again. Our minds that crave for pleasure are not ready to give up sin. We are naturally reluctant to give up the benefits we have been enjoying. For example, though we know accepting bribes is wrong, it is an easy way of making money without having to work hard and, therefore, we refuse to give it up. But repentance demands a complete turning away from the old way of life. "Come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean" ( 2 Cor 6: 17). We have to give up all the idols that we have installed in our minds and bodies. Everything that is against the will of God is an idol.
The third stage of repentance is to put on the new man. The demonic inclinations that have been banished from us, keep longing to return to their former dwelling place (cf Lk 11: 24). If the powers of evil should not re- establish their reign, we should be filled with goodness. The new man must be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power (cf Eph 6: 10). With mere deliverance from sin, no man attains salvation. Where evil has been banished, goodness and virtues must enter. An alcoholic gives up drinking through a retreat. But in a month's time resumes it, because the desire for alcohol has not been substituted for by good acts. He should have been immersed in working for the Gospel. Therefore, putting on a new mind means becoming like unto Christ. Be full of Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit, accept and practice goodness in your lives.
This is the way to attain the experience of salvation- regulate your life according to the word of God. Jesus' exhortation to repent and believe in the Gospel is the heavenly experience of putting on the new man and accepting Jesus as your Savior.
Let us pray: O Jesus, our God, who is our Savior and Redeemer, give us the experience of salvation. Liberate us from our former way of life, our old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts and let us be renewed through the grace of repentance. Let us give up all evil ways and be clothed with the new self. Give us the grace to receive a new life and spirit through righteousness and holiness. Thank you, Jesus! Praise you, Jesus!