Today we are praying for the country of North Korea. Please help us lift up this nation to the Lord today. You can follow the two links below to learn more about the nation and its unreached people groups. You can watch the video below to help guide you in your prayers.
Please take time to meditate on the devotion by Robby as well. He will be contributing a new portion of this message each Thursday for the next several weeks. Stay tuned!!
Please join us in praying for this nation by joining in prayer with the video below.
The First and Last Commands of Christ Part 1
In the 4th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we encounter the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the 28thchapter, we read of the final events of His ministry. In both places, Jesus issued exhortations that are imperatives even in our own time.
Unfortunately, these exhortations are not being preached from our pulpits as often and passionately as they should. The apathy present in our churches is the result of this omission. The revival that we so desperately need will not come until the preaching of these divine imperatives are restored and American Christ-followers respond with a collective “yes.”
Imperative 1- Repent. This was the first command ever issued by the Savior. Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” It is so important that we hear this message because it is at the core of all the commands and teachings of Christ. If we fail to sufficiently respond to His command to repent, then there is no way for us to respond to any other divine proposition.
To repent means to stop, turn around, and pursue the righteousness of Christ. It is a radical decision that does not come without an eye-opening, soul-stirring, and a heartbreaking move of the Holy Spirit upon an individual’s life. The phrase, “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is the piercing point of Jesus’ command that the Holy Spirit would use to awaken those who were dead in their sins.
Jesus, in “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” is saying: Forget about what you were doing before. Forget about your goals and ambitions. Forget about your kingdom that you were building. There is a new kingdom that has come and conquered the world. There is a new sheriff in town. Your jig is up. Turn around now… or face the consequences.
After Germany was defeated in World Wars I & II, they had to sign a surrender. That surrender agreement had certain stipulations and restrictions that would transform the German government and military. The nation came under a new authority; a new kingdom, if you will. It would never be the same for them.
This is the kind of change that Jesus initiated when He stepped onto the scene and began His ministry. He was God in the flesh and King of the kingdom that had come. His singular mission was to overcome the world through His life, death, burial, and resurrection. That is precisely what he did.
His first-century hearers may have had something of an excuse not to obey. After all, who was this man coming out of the desert commanding them to “repent” and telling them “the kingdom of heaven is at hand?” God had not spoken in hundreds of years! How was it now that His kingdom was coming?
Over the three years following the first issue of this command, Jesus proved to them who He was. In His short life, He did what no human being before Him had ever done; He lived a perfect and sinless life. Though He was tempted in every way, He never faltered. Every act He did was an expression of love for the Father and love for others. Every word He spoke was to honor God and to point others back to Him. (Hebrews 4:14-15, John 5:19-21; 12:49-50)
His miracles further proved His identity as the King who had come. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He made lame men leap. He caused the blind to see, and in making them to see, He caused them to know Him as the Savior of all (John 9). He even raised the dead, showing the world that the power of life and death was found in His word (John 11:1-44).
His teaching was like no other Rabbi before or contemporary to Him. Matthew remarks in his gospel, “the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28). The scribes taught the law as men who had read and studied it, but Jesus taught the law with authority as if He were the man, or you could say “the king,” in whom the law originated.
Then there was His death and resurrection that testified of His identity as the King. While the bones of all the other Kings of the earth laid in their burial places, Jesus walked out of His. This affirmed once and for all His authority as the King of kings. Even death could not defeat Him.
In all of this, Jesus proved to be the Son of the Living God, the Christ. He was the one that the world had been waiting for. He was the Son of David, the King who belonged on the throne (2 Samuel 7:12-17), whose task it was to reconcile all of creation to God and usher in His Kingdom on the earth (Isaiah 9:6-7).
When He commands us to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” it is not a suggestion. It is a law issued by the highest of authorities. It comes from the one who has proven to have power over life and death, and not just life and death the way we typically think. This command comes from the One who has the power to grant eternal life… and eternal punishment.
No man or woman anywhere has the option to disobey His command. The kingdom of heaven has come, and the King of heaven is no fool. He created you. He gave you life. He knows every intention of your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows of the deeds you have done in the darkness.
He is absolutely just in His judgments. He cannot and will not overlook sin and wrongdoing. He cannot and will not be bribed. If you hope to receive mercy, then you must, by his prompting, repent.
It may seem as if Jesus was coming into the world as a tyrant, but Jesus did not come to condemn the world. The world was already condemned (John 3:17-18). He came to save the world. He came to grant freedom to the captives and light to those who walked in darkness. However, there can be no salvation, no liberation from the curse of sin, and no light for life apart from repentance. Hence, Jesus’ very first command was to "repent."
What is your response to Jesus' first command?
Please pray and share!