Meditating on the Commands of Christ (5): Repent and Believe the Gospel

In the book of Mark, Christ’s first public imperative: “Repent” was coupled with a second command: “Believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Sounds simple, and it is for some people, but for others, faith in the gospel seems nigh unto impossible. Why? Well, until a person repents—humbly examining himself, admitting to sin, feeling saddened by his failures, and wanting to change—he probably feels satisfied with his life as it it and perceives no need for help or the good news of the gospel. Is that where you’re at? If so, faith will come very hard for  you.

The first time I heard the gospel, I was overjoyed! To think that God created me (even thinking that God existed was novel), loves me with an everlasting love (as He loves all of us), and came in the person of Christ to die in my place for my sins (yes; by age twelve it was easy to recognize that I was a sinner in need of a Savior) . . . well, that was absolutely good news of great joy, and I felt like I had wings on my feet as I practically flew up the aisle to receive Christ as my savior when the invitation was given. I’ve been overjoyed ever since and have never for one minute regretted becoming a child of God that night fifty-five  years ago!

On the other hand, one of my profound early memories of sharing my joy with others was one night passing out gospel tracts with the young people from our church. We lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and would sometimes go down to the Soo Locks to share our faith with the many tourists who came to watch the locks operating. We usually walked down the sidewalk from Ashmun St.(the main street in our little town), passing out pamphlets and engaging tourists all along the Locks Park, and then on our way back, we’d cross the street and pass out tracts to tourists visiting the shops, restaurants, motels, and bars across from the locks. One night, someone very drunk was literally thrown out of a bar onto the street right in front of me as I was walking by. I hurried to help him up and then asked if he’d like a gospel tract that explained how he could become a Christian.

“Why would I want to do that?” he slurred.

“Well, because God loves us and wants to help us! Jesus came to save us from our sins,” I answered enthusiastically.

He hardly looked at me as he stumbled off, mumbling loudly, “I don’t need nothin’ cause I’ve never sinned.”

I was dumbfounded, but he was oblivious! Until we repent, we won’t see a need to believe. On the other hand, those of us who are willing to face the fact that we intentionally do things wrong sometimes: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), believe that the good news that Jesus died in our place so we can receive forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to God is the best news ever! Forgiveness for sins and the gift of eternal life is better than a cure for cancer or hearing that we might live forever here on this earth (which will never happen, and could you imagine how awful that would be . . . growing older and feebler year by year but never able to die?)!

So, if you ever get to the place where you’re ready to admit that you’re not perfect, would like God to forgive you for your sins and make you his child, guiding you through this life and giving you the gift of eternal life . . . then I pray that you will believe in Jesus! As Jesus taught: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What exactly do you need to believe to be saved? Paul explains it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”   Most people believe that Jesus was a real person who lived two thousand years ago and died by crucifixion. The hard part is to believe that Jesus rose again from the dead. There are some great books dealing with evidences for the resurrection, such as Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. (If you need a list, just ask me.) During the first few centuries after the death of Christ, the church fathers wrote what is commonly known as the Apostles’ Creed, a concise statement of what is pretty much universally accepted as the basis for the Christian faith:“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.” Another ancient creed from the fourth century that has almost universal acceptance is the Nicene Confession:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.” (— Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer (1979), The Book of Common Prayer(PDF). New York: Church Publishing Incorporated. 2007. pp. 326–327.)                          I hope this helps, and I hope you come by faith to Jesus!

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears,
Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”
(Mark 9:24).

Little Known Facts about the Cape of Good Hope

beautiful-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveSouth of Cape Town is a spectacular peninsula,
most of which is part of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. cape-point-lighthouse-south-africaFrom the nearby lighthouse on Cape Point, vistas-from-cape-point-south-africayou can see beautiful vistas of the entire area. baboons-traveling-along-road-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveBaboons, ostrich-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveostriches, cormorants-and-seals-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reservecormorants, and seals roam freely.wildflowers-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveIn the spring the hills are lush with wildflowers.

cape-of-good-hopeSometime during childhood I was taught that the southernmost tip of Africa was called The Cape of Good Hope, but I didn’t know why it was so named until we visited. Near the end of the fourteenth century, the Mongolian Empire was crumbling and the Ottoman Turks gaining power, making  passage along the Silk Road unsafe for Europeans and putting pressure on traders to find sea routes to the East. In 1487, the Portuguese navigator, Bartholomew Diaz, took three ships to explore the southern extent of Africa. They were gone over sixteen months and first encountered the cape during fierce December storms, so they named it The Cape of Storms. point-where-atlantic-and-indian-oceans-meetHowever, after further exploration, they realized that this cape marked the beginning of the end, so to speak, because at the cape the warm Mozambique-Agulhas current from the Indian Ocean seemed to converge with the cool Benguela current from Antarctic waters and the Atlantic Ocean. the-cape-of-good-hopeOnce this was understood, the cape was renamed The Cape of Good Hope, because European sailors were overjoyed to think a route to India and the East had been discovered. indian-ocean-1Diaz was lost at sea in 1500 during a storm off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope, but he had a grandson, Paulo Dias de Novais, who founded the first city in southern Africa and governed Angola a generation later. southern-tip-of-africa-wiki-johantheghostToday, Bartholomew Diaz is considered the greatest Portuguese navigator to explore the Atlantic during the fifteen century, although we now know that the Cape of Good Hope isn’t actually the southernmost point in Africa; that honor goes to Cape Agulhas, some miles ninety-three miles to the southeast. cape-of-good-hope-peninsulaDid you know that? I did not! Here it is, nearly five hundred years later,
and misinformation is still being circulated as fact! How does that happen? cape-point-south-africaKnowing exact details of geography aren’t critical to life, but some facts are. breathtaking-ocean-views-in-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserveIn particular, the existence of Christ and his resurrection from the dead are facts that are often misrepresented or denied, but they are critical to spiritual life, faith, and hope. Do you know the truth about Christ?southern-tip-of-africaMoreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Do You Know What You’re Doing, Lord?

Do You Know What You're Doing, Lord?Do you ever wonder what God is doing…and if He even knows what he’s doing? While visiting Jon and Linda to help out with their new baby, they held a big breakfast/ prayer meeting in their home to pray for the beginning of the school year…and really needs all around the world. While there, I met Carol Lee Anderson, who wrote “a jungle journey in search of God” called Do You Know What You’re Doing, Lord? She and her husband, Neil, were missionaries for 34 years with Wycliffe, translating the Bible into the Folopa language for former cannibals in the jungles of Papau New Guinea…and learning how to love and minister to the needs of these people in numerous practical ways as well. Along the way, they had all sorts of adventures, including Carol’s developing a reaction to malaria medicine that almost killed her and plenty of encounters with “all spiders, great and small,” etc. In fact, they seemed to experience just about every imaginable scenario of raw life among a very remote tribe of precious but wild and woolly people.

Carol speaks with transparent candor and a wisdom only possible after you’ve “lived through the war” (so to speak) and have survived with grace rather than bitterness. Still, she’s retained great clarity of memory and openly describes her failures and flounderings along the way as she struggled to live out what she believed to be God’s call in her life. Or…was it?? Or, was she mistaken? Or, did He really know what he was doing? Carol deals very effectively with the inevitable doubts that come to those who attempt to follow God by doing those impossibly difficult tasks that can only be done through supernatural grace.

I think this book would be especially valuable to anyone considering the mission field, but I also found it inspirational reading for myself. Missionaries are sort of like the marines of Christian living, although rather than “the few, the proud, and the brave,” they are “the few, the humble, and the brave.” Thank you to every Christian missionary who leaves home and family to carry the love of Christ to others. May you be blessed, safe, and live to continue ministering to others even into older age, as Carol and Niel are continuing to do.

And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).