John the Baptist was sent to pave the way for the Messiah.  His mission was to prepare the Jews for the Kingdom of God to be walking among them, and for the new covenant that was coming with Him.

What kind of pressure would that be?  Of course he was guided by God.  But how intimidating would it be to prepare that sermon?  I, for one, think he made the right call by keeping it simple.

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  (Matthew 3:1-2 NLT)

Repent of your sins!  Wow…really?  That was the first thing he felt lead to say?  It wasn’t a message about giving ten percent.  It wasn’t a message about judging one another.  He didn't even talk about heaven or hell.  John's first message was about turning away from sin.

You see, repentance is much more than confession.  Many people believe that repenting of your sins means to confess them to God and ask for forgiveness.  But it is so much more.  If you repent of something, that means that you turn away from it completely. 

If your life is moving in one direction, and you repent, then you turn around and walk the other way.  It is a complete 180 degree turn.  If you struggle with gossip, you do everything in your power to avoid talking about people or even listening to it.  If you repent of your sexual sin, you avoid any situation that could even be viewed as compromising.  If you have a tendency to act bitterly and say hateful things to people, your change your focus and settle for nothing but love.

When you give your life to God, if you truly make Him Lord of your life, then you have no choice but to change many things about yourself.  You must repent and run away from the sinful life that you used to lead.  Repentance is so vital to spiritual growth, in fact, that it was John the Baptist’s primary message.

Of course, Jesus Christ started His ministry about the time that John was imprisoned for his message.  And since Jesus was kind of the main event that John the Baptist had been opening for, He decided to deliver the real message of the Messiah:

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.(Matthew 4:17 NLT)

Well…who would have thought that?  First John, then his cousin Jesus.  Repentance is the first message that Christ chose to deliver.  Perhaps that’s where we should start as well.

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