As time passes in any Church, different issues come up which must be addressed: immigration, racism, the environment, abortion and many others. But it is also important that we don’t forget the primary teaching of Jesus and the Apostles from the beginning, that is, ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ When we are established in our faith, then we also want to make the world a better place and address these other issues as well, but we have to be established in our faith first.
We believe that God created everything that exists, the universe that we can see and the invisible world which we cannot yet see. We also believe that the human being was God’s most important creation. It says in Genesis that the human being was the last thing God created, which is a biblical way of saying we were the most important thing God created, being more like him than anything else.
We also believe that somewhere back at the beginning, our first parents, represented by Adam and Eve, rejected God’s word, God’s commands. Instead they chose to listen to a lie, by Satan. Jesus called him the deceiver and the ‘father of lies’ (Jn 8:44). He deliberately misled them, to draw them away from God, in order to get at God. Why would Satan be bothered with us, since he is way more powerful and intelligent than any human? Because he hates God’s creation and does everything he can to destroy it, especially the human race, because we are made in God’s image. So out of hatred he continually works to destroy us, to convince us that good is evil and evil is good. That is what we are seeing in our society right now. Good—following God’s teaching—is considered evil, narrow-minded, hateful of others and evil—abortion, euthanasia, immoral sexuality—is considered good. If we criticize what God has taught us is sinful, then we are considered evil and hateful. There is a pastor in Norway who is currently in jail, because he taught a teenager what it says in the Bible about homosexuality. He is in jail for teaching what it says in God’s word. That is the direction it is heading here too.
Because Adam and Eve rejected God’s word, we lost the possibility of heaven, of happiness with God for all eternity and it was impossible for us to win it back. How could any human give anything to God, since everything we have comes from him in the first place? But God was not just going to let his creation go to ruin, so, God the Son took on human flesh and became Jesus: fully human and fully divine. His self-sacrifice is what re-opened the doors of heaven for us. But God totally respects our free will and does not force us to accept this. The Lord says, ‘This is what I have done for you. It is yours for the taking if you choose it,’ but we must choose it.
In St. Matthew’s Gospel alone, in over 60 places, Jesus says that there is a choice to make, for him or against him, blessing or curse, heaven or hell. Part of making that choice is to repent of sin and accept his teaching. Adam and Eve rejected it, we have the choice to accept or reject it as well. We tend to think of it as just being a case of believing in God and try to be good and that’s all that is required. But there is more to it than that. The call for repentance is a big part of it. That means we are called to reflect on how we live and if it is not in accordance with God’s teaching, then we need to change. Jesus says, ‘It is not those who say to me “Lord, Lord”, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven’ (Matt 10:7). Saying that I believe, or I love God, is not sufficient. We must do the will of the Father in heaven and part of his will is that we repent of sin.
That means that if we are living in a way that is contrary to God’s law, we must change and repent of the sin. If I am living with someone who is not my wife or husband, I need to rectify that. If you are civilly married, but not married in the Church, you need to rectify that too. It is a question of whether I take offending God seriously or not. Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘God doesn’t mind,’ because it says in the Scriptures that God most definitely does mind. If we want God’s blessing on our lives, we must make every effort to live as He asks.
Sin must be very serious if Jesus had to die on the cross to atone for it. God didn’t just say to Adam and Eve, “It’s ok, you are forgiven.” Their sin had to be atoned for and it was atoned for with blood, the blood of Jesus. Sin is the one thing that has the potential to cause us to lose eternal life with God. It is possible for us to lose it. Forgiveness is offered to us, but we must ask for that forgiveness and repent of sin.
Think of all the people Jesus encountered that are written about in the Gospels. Those who were living sinful lives, repented of their sin and changed. We have to do the same. Just because society accepts many things as being ok, doesn’t mean they are ok. Am I going to live on what society says is ok and acceptable, or by what the word of God says is ok and acceptable? When we die, we will not come before a group of people from our society for their approval, but before God for his judgement.
When the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, their fear was taken away and they began to preach everywhere. What did they preach? They preached what Jesus preached, that repentance for the forgiveness of sins was necessary to be acceptable to God. They showed people how Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed one of God, who had made the ultimate sacrifice and atonement for sins, which has now won for us eternal life, but that we must choose to accept that and live in accordance with his word. In St. Peter’s words: ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation’ (Acts 2:40). How true that is today. ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ Turn to what God is offering and don’t be seduced by the lies of the evil one, who says you can have all the pleasures you want and do whatever you want. That is a lie and deception. The more we turn away from the commandments of God, the more miserable and empty our lives will be. Only by obeying God’s word and submitting ourselves to his law, will we find peace and fulfillment. The world tells us that we should have ‘freedom,’ but it defines freedom as being able to do anything you want without accountability. That is what Satan told Adam and Eve: ‘God knows that on the day you eat of the [forbidden fruit], you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (Gen 3:5), but look at what happened when they gave in to the lie. They lost the happiness God had given them. They fell into darkness, pain, distress, mistrust. True freedom is only found in submitting ourselves to God. It seems like a contradiction, that submitting yourself to God’s laws will bring freedom, but it does because He is the One who has created us to be happy. God only wants our happiness.
This is the first and most basic teaching of Christianity and we need to take it seriously. We can only address the other issues once we have addressed this first. ‘Christ died for our sins that He might offer us to God. Only in him do we have eternal life.’
‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’