There is no such thing as a half-hearted or casual believer. What we are going to learn from Christ’s sermon (and really all His teachings) is that He expects his followers to be fully involved in the commitment to our belief. Belief produces behaviors that verify belief. That’s what a belief system or religion is--and we all have a religion.
A Fulfillment of Prophecy
Let’s start by looking at Jesus’ own call to obedience in behavior in Matthew 4:12-25. In verses 12-14, we learn that Jesus "withdrew into Galilee". Why did Jesus leave to go to Galilee? Was it because he was afraid of being arrested? No; Jesus wasn’t afraid of anything! There were times He avoided arrest and death because He understood the width and breadth of His life and timeline God had set for Him. Jesus did everything He did to fulfill the Old Testament Prophecies, and the Old Testament as a whole. He knew what the prophet Isaiah had said, and so He followed the road map. As Bible students today, we read the Prophets to understand Jesus, but Jesus read and memorized the Prophets as the guideline for His life plan! Verses 15-16 explain that Jesus was actually fulfilling Isaiah 9 in making this move to Galilee. Isaiah 9:6 says, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." This passage is often associated with the Christmas story, reminding us that Jesus came to bring light (or spiritual awakening) to both Jews and Gentiles! Remember, the nations of the world were promised to be reached through Him. The symbolism of light is why we as believers should celebrate the light of Jesus with lots of lights at Christmas time! Jesus knew that to bring light, He would have to preach a strong message in a dark time. He set the standard for what we are to preach in our ministry of the Gospel: repentance.
A Message Of Repentance
In verse 17, we read that, "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'.” There are two messages to consider in this small sentence:
So, what is true repentance? Repentance is a true and complete change of mind, to the point that you think differently and therefore act differently.
Repentance is a true and complete change of mind, to the point that you think differently and therefore act differently.
The Bible teaches us that,"out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). Biblically, the heart is the seat of what we believe and feel. We think with our minds, but we feel and believe from our gut. This means that true repentance runs deeper than even our mental belief to our very core, so that our whole life is affected. True repentance is a complete change of desire that leads to a new source of spiritual energy.
A Spiritual Kingdom
Now, if our entire heart desire is going to change, we have to see the entire world differently, and so Jesus doesn’t just speak of repentance. Jesus also speaks of a different view of the kingdom as a "Kingdom of Heaven". The concept of the Kingdom of Heaven was meant to draw our focus away from the physical and into the spiritual. John 18:36 says, "Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world'.” The kingdom of heaven is the church, and we are dwelling within it. The kingdom of heaven means that our primary focus is spiritual, and that focus determines how we approach the physical.
The beautiful thing about the Gospels is that we often find immediate examples of Jesus’ teachings in what happens with His followers in between sermons. Matthew 4:18-22 is a great example. In these verses, we get a glimpse of what true discipleship rooted in repentance looks like in Jesus’ disciples. Jesus found Simon (also called Peter) and Andrew casting their nets into the sea and invited them to follow Him. Now, where we read the word "follow", the disciples heard “change everything!” In following Jesus, the disciples had to leave behind their main system of support and identity: boats and nets. In essence, they left their businesses, and their ability to earn a living with their abilities. The Kingdom of Heaven would produce spiritual fish, rather than physical fish. For the disciples, following Jesus would require both a reset of the heart and mind!
If the Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual kingdom that determines how we approach the earthly kingdom, then the result will be physical evidence of a spiritual belief system. Jesus modeled this truth in verses 23-25. What we see in Jesus’ ministry is that the physical part of ministry was only ever about getting to the heart of people, because repentance begins in the heart. We never see physical without the spiritual, and we never see spiritual that doesn’t impact the physical. Balanced Gospel ministry is rooted in meeting spiritual needs, but good Gospel ministry will meet tangible needs when appropriate to the Gospel message.
Balanced Gospel ministry is rooted in meeting spiritual needs, but good Gospel ministry will meet tangible needs when appropriate to the Gospel message.
Nets and Boats
Our application question at the close of this passage is two-fold:
Does my life revolve around the spiritual more than the physical?
What are the nets and boats I need to give up to align my life with the Kingdom of Heaven?
Jesus isn’t asking you to do anything He wasn’t willing to do for you. He left everything He deserved for you to have the salvation you don’t deserve. Jesus invites you to repent, to turn from the physical things you have depended on, and be part of the Kingdom of Heaven, to participate in the spiritual work He is accomplishing on this earth. The question remains, will you leave your nets and boats behind to follow?