Sunday, 18 February 2018
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Meditation: What is the significance of Jesus spending 40 days and nights of solitude, prayer and fasting in the Judean wilderness? In the Old Testament 40 days was often seen as a significant period of testing and preparation for entering into a covenant relationship with God. In the days of Noah, God judged the earth and destroyed its inhabitants in a great flood because of their idolatry and total rejection of God. Noah and his family were spared because they obeyed God and took refuge in the ark for 40 days. When the flood subsided God made a covenant with Noah and promised that he would not destroy the human race again. Jesus came to fulfill that promise.
As soon as John the Baptist had finished his ministry, Jesus began his in Galilee, his home district. John's enemies had sought to silence him, but the Gospel cannot be silenced. Jesus proclaimed that the time of restoration proclaimed by the prophets was now being fulfilled in his very person and that the kingdom of God was at hand. What is the kingdom of God? The word "kingdom" means something more than a territory or an area of land. It literally means "sovereignty" or "reign" and the power to "rule" and exercise authority. The prophets announced that God would establish a kingdom not just for one nation or people but for the whole world. God sent us his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, not to establish an earthly kingdom but to bring us into his heavenly kingdom - a kingdom ruled by justice, truth, peace, and holiness. The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus' mission. It's the core of his Gospel message.
How do we enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news of the Gospel Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do in order to receive the kingdom of God: repent and believe. Repent means to turn away from sin and wrong-doing in order to follow God's way of love, truth, and moral goodness. When we submit to God's rule in our lives and believe in the Gospel message the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live a new way of life as citizens of his kingdom. He gives us grace to renounce the kingdom of darkness ruled by pride, sin, and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31). Repentance is the first step to surrendering my will and my life to God.
Repentance means to change - to change my way of thinking, my attitude, my disposition, and the way I choose to live my life - so that the Lord Jesus can be the Master and Ruler of my heart, mind, and will. Whatever stands in the way of God's will and plan for my life must be surrendered to him - my sinful pride, my rebellious attitude, and stubborn will to do as I please rather than as God pleases. If I am only sorry for the consequences of my own sinful ways, I will very likely keep repeating the same sins that control my thoughts and actions. True repentance requires a contrite heart and true sorrow for sin (Psalm 51:17) and a firm resolution to avoid the near occasion of sin. The Lord Jesus gives us the grace to see sin for what it really is - a rejection of his love, truth, and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do what he says is right and good for us. His grace brings pardon and freedom from guilt, and breaks the power of bondage to sin in our lives through the strength and help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. If we yield to the Holy Spirit and not to our sinful inclinations, we will find the strength and help we need to turn away from all wrong-doing and whatever else might keep us from living in his truth and love.
To believe is to take Jesus at his word and to recognize that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to free us from bondage to sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace, friendship, and unity with our Father in heaven. He is our Father and he wants us to live in joy and freedom as his beloved sons and daughters. God loved us first and he invites us in love to surrender our lives to him. Do you believe in the Gospel -the good news of Jesus Christ - and in the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms each one of us into the likeness of Christ?
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, your word is life, joy, wisdom, and strength for me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to your will for me.”