The Necessity of Repentance

I’m reading through the Gospel of Matthew right now, and was struck by the words of John the Baptist, at the beginning of chapter 3.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

It started me wondering, why is repentance a necessary precursor to receiving the kingdom of heaven. Let’s define first: the kingdom of heaven, aka the kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is done, wherever the sphere of obedience to God is operative.

And repentance is primarily a state of heart, not a state of mind. The mind can assent to all sorts of truths about Christianity, but in the end, the ready heart is required. The unready heart is dry and arid like the picture above. But the repentant heart is ready to acknowledge:

  • I am a sinner
  • I don’t have it all worked out
  • I need help
  • I know hard hearts cannot receive the goodness that God has promised
  • that I need to go in a different direction

Even outside of Scripture, in the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem, we find the line: Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in

Pride and repentance are water and oil. They do not mix. James 4:6 offers this comment:

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

1 Peter 5:5 states the same thing.

And here is the cure, they both recommend for this sorry state of prideful hardheartedness:

Submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (! Peter 5:6-7)

Submit to God. Resist the Devil. Humble yourself. Don’t worry.

Particularly in my current state in life, I need to hear that, that God will lift me up in due time, and that, until then, I can cast my cares on him, confident that he cares for me.