“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Jesus – Matthew 4:17)
Yesterday, we talked about the importance of repentance – and about how to properly understand what Jesus meant when He called people to “repent.”
We learned that repentance is NOT: 1) feeling sorry for your sins; 2) changing your behavior; or even 3) changing your life’s direction.
Jesus takes us right to the issue that matters most… repentance is changing your thinking. Quite specifically, it is changing HOW you think. This means that your decision processes are now based upon a different viewpoint, or mindset. We will always act in accord with HOW we think!
In the case of the Old Covenant people, their mindset was fixed upon a works-based righteousness. If you wanted God to like you, and bless you, you needed to excel at doing the Law. And if you failed in that (which you often did) you needed to be extra diligent about doing the proper sacrifice. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders (of God’s people) had turned this “works-righteousness” thing into something that was exceedingly difficult. It had become so performance-centered, that God was virtually an afterthought.
When Jesus came and proclaimed that the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) was near, He was calling people to change their mindset. It was a call to three essential, and specific, changes…
1) HOW we receive from God. The Kingdom of God is centered upon Who God is, and what He does. This changes how we receive from Him. In Old Testament days, you received from God based upon your efforts to please Him, from the heart. God responded to the faithful – and rewarded them in kind.
But in the New Testament, this approach was radically changed. God’s interaction with us is not based upon how well we do – it is a gift of His choosing. God’s blessings are not the equivalent of wages earned for our good behavior. They are simply, gifts from His loving Hand – regardless of our performance. “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (Eph. 2:8 NLT)
But salvation is not the only gift from God. Everything else we need is a gift from God’s gracious Hand. Gone are the days of “trying” to please God – and waiting for His reward. That approach ended when Jesus showed up – and opened the way into the fullness of God’s Kingdom.
Now, our minds must change from “what I need to do” – to: “what God has done for me.” We receive from God, now, simply because God desires to pour out His love upon us.
The difference is that a mind centered on a works-based, reward-earned, mentality will not allow our eyes to be lifted to God (our noses will always be pressed to the proverbial grindstone!). We will be so works-focused, that we will not look to Him for His abundant riches.
If there is one issue with which most Christians struggle the most, it is this performance-based mindset. We are always wondering IF we are doing enough – or enough of the right things, so we can be pleasing to God, and receive something good from Him, in return. We are always trying to prove our love, gain a better status, earn more of His favor – and beating ourselves to a pulp when we fail (which is way more often than we would like).
This mindset is directly connected to the old nature. The old you just can’t help it. The old you wants to have control of when, and how much, God blesses you. The old you wants to earn it!
The new you sees the vanity (and the fallacy) in this approach and adopts the mindset that realizes that God loves us so much, He just can’t help but extend His gracious Hand to us.
We will continue our discussion of the other changes to our mindset, tomorrow…
Prayer focus: God, help me to evaluate my mindset… to make certain that I am focused on Your love.