Repentance, Hope, and Baptism.
A Reflection by Rev. Dr. Scott T. Arnold
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, 1/12/2021
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17.
       Why did Jesus begin His ministry with similar words as John the Baptist?  “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near.”  One key difference is that John stated, “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”. While it sounds essentially the same, and Jesus continued the message of repentance, the meaning of Jesus is that of arrival, that of “coming”.  John prepared the way, Jesus was the “way”.  John the Baptist could baptize people outwardly, Jesus the Savior could baptize people inwardly by the Holy Spirit. John could preach prophetically for people to repent of their sins, Jesus came to forgive our sins and save us. Jesus came as John said, “Behold, the lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  There are many things that come to pass, and while there is good news of God’s Kingdom that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior, there is also the bad news of human depravity and evil. We are living in a time when the message of Jesus and John the Baptist is relevant “Repent”. 
      The recent evil uprising that was fomented by Donald Trump and various ill-minded people who were deluded and deceived in various ways, revealed that they were blinded by their own assumptions and the evil narratives they had ingested in their hearts and minds. It is obvious that such heinous actions of sedition and insurrection in our democratic society were evil, so repentance is necessary for such people. What has become more evident, and where repentance is also needed, is the complicity of support that many people have given Trump and the false narratives he and others have espoused. Sadly, there are many people of the Christian faith, many Evangelicals and church leaders, who have aligned themselves with this leader and his intoxicating malignant cancerous influence.  Repentance is needed if there is to be reconciliation and healing in our land, society, and faith communities.  We pray that honest repentance and reconciliation may occur between people in our nation and world.  Confession is the first step, contrition follows, and in the completion of repentance (turning) through new actions of humility and compassion that are to then bear the fruit of righteousness. We are not as near the Kingdom of heaven as we sometimes think, and for this reason we are to repent, turn to Jesus our Savior, and ask for God’s truth and grace to prevail. 
    In prayer, may we continue to pray for God’s grace to help us during both the pandemic of COVID 19 and the pandemic of sin in our world.  We need Jesus more than ever.  Jesus is at hand in that He has come and will come to anyone who confesses their sin and opens their heart and soul to Him to forgive and save.  Jesus has also promised that He would come again, and that there will be a time of reckoning at the Harvest, where He will sift the grain from the chaff, and through the baptism of fire, there will be a judgment.  The kingdom of heaven is not an abstract concept, it is God’s promise for this broken and weary world, the message that we are to prepare the way in our hearts and minds for God is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  May we be careful not to be deceived.  May we repent and come to a right relationship with God and one another. 
   Pastor Scott Arnold  

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