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Eternity 112 - Repentance And The Kingdom Of Heaven

(Matthew 3:1-2 NKJV) In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, {2} and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

(Matthew 4:17 NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The first thing that the New Testament says about the Kingdom of Heaven is that repentance is required before entry. While entering the kingdom is free it is not without the cost of repentance. There needs to be the intention to change one's ways and to adopt the Kingdom lifestyle.

The kingdom is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). It is a holy and happy place and it is only happy because it is first of all holy. Therefore those who wish to inherit the Kingdom must decide to quit with sin.

Repentance means to change one's mind, to decide on new thoughts, to move from a mind set on the flesh to a mind set on the Spirit. It means deciding on a distinct "about turn" in the direction of one's life and is often accompanied by contrition - the emotion of sorrow at sin. But repentance is a deeper thing than contrition, repentance is a decision of the whole person to change and involves the mind and will as well as the emotions.

True repentance bears fruit in a markedly changed life. When John the Baptist suspected hypocrisy among the Pharisees coming to his baptism he warned that an external repentance was insufficient: (Matthew 3:7-12 NKJV) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? {8} "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, {9} "and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. {10} "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {11} "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. {12} "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

The "fruits of repentance" are the sweet things that naturally flow from a changed life under the control of Jesus Christ. They include self-control, patience, love, joy, forbearance of others, and just and righteous living. We see these fruits of repentance when we say "he has really changed " or "she is just a brand-new person". Above all they are the fruits of a new creation, of being born-gain, made new from above.

The most essential fruits of repentance are forgiveness and mercy. If we have truly repented and truly received mercy and are deeply aware of the grace of God towards us then we will be accepting of others also and forgive them as Christ has forgiven us. Thus a truly repentant person is a soft, kind and merciful person full of joy and tenderness. Harsh legalism is a sign that true repentance has not taken place or has been long forgotten. The parable of the unjust, unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 spells out that the person who seeks forgiveness but fails to give it is a fake and will not enter the Kingdom.

Also Jesus, in Matthew version of the Lord's Prayer says: (Matthew 6:12-15 NKJV) And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. {13} And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. {14} "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. {15} "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Lets pull this together. The Kingdom of Heaven is entered by broken, penitent sinners who know they are "poor in spirit", spiritual failures, and who are fully aware that they are in need of grace. Such people are soft, forgiving and tender-hearted, forgiving others as they themselves have been forgiven by Christ. They bear fruits in accordance with repentance and bubble with the joy of the Lord and the love of God demonstrating lives made new, and are clearly new creations of the Holy Spirit. They are not hard-hearted religionists like the Pharisees but spiritual, gentle, kind people full of good works and abounding in the graces of God. Their righteousness is a new kind of righteousness that flows from a repentant heart full of faith in Christ and the love of God and which fulfills the law by living in love.