I had bought some lumber and was heading to my vehicle when I noticed a pickup with a curious bumper sticker: “Repent and believe the gospel.” Someone driving around with that in public? Is that legal?
I couldn’t wait to talk to the owner. Should I expect someone in a long gown with a flowing beard, carrying a sign reading, “The end is near”?
Actually he looked pretty ordinary with his ball cap, blue jeans, and work shirt.
“That’s quite the Bible verse on your truck!” I said. “So when did you repent and believe the gospel?”
The dear fellow cleared his throat, looked me up and down, and replied, “I grew up in the church, sir.”
That’s a good answer. But probably to a different question. So I tried again. “But your sticker says — in fact, Jesus said — ‘Repent and believe the gospel.’ I’m curious when you did that.”
Again the slow scan. “Look,” he said, “my father’s a minister, and I hope to be one soon myself.”
I like to think I’m a half-decent communicator, but I certainly struck out that day!
Did he — do you — think “the gospel” that Jesus was talking about goes like this? Show up at church. Drop a few bucks in the plate. Be a good neighbor. And for goodness’ sake, don’t be a hypocrite! But if this is so, why did Jesus die?
Perhaps the dear man was assuming Jesus’ command was only for down-and-outers, not up-and-outers like himself.
One day Jesus told a great story about two men who came to the temple to pray. At least one did. He was a tax collector, considered a turncoat, who didn’t dare even look up, but said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” His request actually means, “God, be to me, the sinner, as You are at the Mercy Seat.” The Mercy Seat was the place where the blood of the sacrifice was placed on Israel’s Day of Atonement. He knew he needed God to provide salvation for him. Of course, Jesus would be that sacrifice.
The other man didn’t come to speak with God at all. Jesus said he “prayed thus with himself”! It was full of the perpendicular pronoun: “I thank You that I am not like other men… I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” I…I…I…
Jesus’ conclusion? One man honestly talked to God about his need and asked for salvation; the other talked about himself and asked for nothing. Not surprisingly, they both got what they asked for.
What about this word “repent”? It means “to change your mind.” Why would Jesus tell us to do that? You don’t suppose we have some stinkin’ thinkin’! Indeed we do.
Anyone can look good in the dark, but the light of God’s Word shows us our true condition. “The thought of foolishness is sin.” (Prov 24:9) “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (Jas 4:17) “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28). And there are many more where these came from. We definitely need a Savior.
Come to think of it, we need to “repent and believe the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)
Jabe Nicholson of Starkville is an author and publisher. He loves engaging with people on life’s key issues. Reach him at [email protected] or visit www.uplook.tv.