REPENTANCE – the FIRST STEP in OBEYING GOD: In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.'" (Matt 3:1-3)
John the Baptist was six months older than his cousin Jesus Christ (see Luke 1:26, 36). He stepped onto the stage of history to serve as forerunner for the Savior of the world. His dwelling was in the wilderness of Judea, an arid area extending from Jerusalem to the Jordan. John’s message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” The King would soon appear, but He could not and would not reign over people who clung to their sins. They must change directions, must confess and forsake their sins. God was calling them from the kingdom of darkness to the ‘kingdom of heaven’. The phrase, ‘kingdom of heaven’ is peculiar to Matthew and signifies the Messianic earth rule of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.
Repentance was the first command of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (4:17). It involves the change of mind and heart in response to the grace of God whereby a person recognizes the futility of his or her human condition apart from God and therefore places faith and trust in God alone for salvation. Let us understand that repentance is not merely being sorrowful. It involves a complete change of attitude regarding God and sin and is often accompanied by a sense of sorrow and a corresponding change in conduct. Such repentance does not arise within man himself, but is the result of God’s mercy in leading man to it (Acts 5:31; Rom. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25). It involves the very process of conversion whereby we are born again. John’s message of repentance was necessary in order to prepare people for the kingdom of heaven which was at hand.
Thus John the Baptist was preparing hearts for the ultimate manifestation of God’s reign. In our own context, repentance means hating sin enough to turn away from it. Through repentance, we can change our attitude and mind about God that will in turn change our actions and decisions. We will escape spiritual death by trusting in Jesus, who alone can save us from our sins and eternal death. We confess through godly sorrow, forsake sin and live to honor God.
"He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." (Prov 28:13)