Let me confess something: I used to hate bringing the mail in from the mailbox. I would let it build up for days and pretend it wasn't there. I was upset if my wife or kids brought it in.
“No good thing can possibly come in the mail,” I instructed my family, and I really meant it.
Then one day I began to apply my imagination to the possibilities of receiving mail so good that it could change my life. Try to apply your imagination with me:
- The bank made a mistake years ago calculating your mortgage and now--suddenly--they tell you your house is paid off. In fact, they owe you a rebate as well.
- A total stranger has paid off your student loans.
- The doctors write to tell you the diagnosis was wrong and you don’t have cancer after all.
These examples represent the best kind of news. No more coupon-clipping; your future is no longer clouded by debt; your fears of endless treatment and medicines vanish in a moment. Who wouldn’t welcome such great news?
But now imagine that the day after you receive such wonderful mail, you wake up and find yourself worried about money or you wake up in a sweat thinking about hospitals and death. Old habits die hard, and habits of the mind may not die at all.
To receive good news, to really receive it—to take it in and discover new freedom—requires a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking has a Biblical name: repentance. I know. You thought repentance meant things like remorse, feeling guilty, determination and trying harder.
Someone has lied to you. At its very core the word “repent” means rethink your life. The trick is: you have to have a valid reason to rethink your life. A positive mental attitude is not enough; simply trying harder won’t change your world.
There must be some hard-core reality that changes the equation, something that wipes away the past, or presents a future that cannot be denied. Better yet, all three. Jesus presented just that hard-core reality when he said, “The Kingdom of God is breaking in. Right here, right now.” He wasn’t describing some new program or advocating a new philosophy. Jesus challenged people to recognize that the world would be forever different because God had come down and he would do whatever was necessary to set people free.
God could not be stopped, the old order of things was condemned and a new order was made real. He invited us to move to the side of victory with these words: “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.”
Good news requires that we rethink our way of life. Have you recalculated yours in the light of his Kingdom? May I suggest this mediation for the coming week? Instead of trying to imagine going to heaven after you die, try to imagine what it would be like if heaven began breaking into your world here and now, because that’s precisely what happened in Jesus Christ.