daily biblical sermons

Repent and believe in the gospel and you will be saved
Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2024
Genesis 9:8-15, Psalm 24 (25), 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:12-15


Biblical citations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“The Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.



“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:12-15).



We now begin the beautiful season of Lent. You may be surprised that I call Lent beautiful, for it is a time of prayer and fasting in the desert for Jesus and for Christians as well. Nonetheless I call it beautiful because it focuses on the main doctrines of our faith, namely the cross of Christ and his saving death, baptism of the new converts whereby we receive a new nature and are born again in God with his Spirit dwelling in us, illuminating us from within and rejoicing our heart.



The first Sunday of Lent begins with Jesus in the desert tempted by Satan for forty days. Wild beasts were with him, for so remote was this region, but they did not harm him, and angels ministered to him.



For us, therefore, this is also a time to be more serious about our new way of life in Christ. During Lent we focus on being more separated from the world and from worldliness and worldly entertainments. We seek to live a more sober life, focused on the Lord – a life of prayer and greater devotion.



In all this I still say that this is a beautiful season, because a life of prayer and devotion is a life of profound joy, greater than the joy that any worldly pleasures can give us. It is the joy of Christ in our hearts with the Holy Spirit rejoicing us with his presence and grace.



If we start to deviate from the correct path and make a mistake in our way of living and doing things, God will discipline us and deprive us for a brief time – a day or so – of the joy of the Holy Spirit so that we know that we are on a mistaken path and can correct ourselves. Such discipline causes us great sorrow and pain in our heart and spirit. And we beg God to restore the joy and light of Christ in our hearts.



But then when the day dawns and God shines a new light into our heart, far greater than we had before, we rejoice and are glad. He fills us with glory that comes from the Holy Spirit. He fills our hearts with joy.



Then we realize that when we walk the Lord’s path and follow him exactly, we will have great joy in our heart but if we follow a worldly path, a mistaken path, we will have great sadness and sorrow, and God’s joy will abandon us.



So during Lent let us carefully correct our path according to God’s guidance. We want his will to be done, as we pray in the Lord’s prayer. Only then will we experience the joy of the Holy Spirit within us – that is, when we fully obey the Lord.



Sometimes we do not know exactly what the Lord wants us to do and we may take the wrong path, thinking that it is the correct path, and then God withdraws his joy from us and so we realize that we were mistaken, and we correct our course; and in due time – in a day or so – God will shine on us anew with his light in our soul and spirit, and we will rejoice.



When Jesus finished his forty days in the desert, he came out and began to preach in Galilee the gospel of God, the good news of salvation, which God brings to our hearts. This salvation begins now and is a foretaste of the full joy of the Holy Spirit in the life to come. We already experience it shining in our hearts when we do his will, when we correct our path, and when we follow him exactly.



So Jesus preaches, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). We now live in that fulfillment of the time. It is the fullness of time that we are now living in, the time of salvation.



Let us live in the kingdom of God as it exists now, as it has been erected by Jesus in this world. Jesus’ kingdom is not a kingdom such as the Jews were expecting, like other kingdoms with a military leader and pomp and circumstance. It is rather a kingdom of peace within our hearts, and at the end of the world it will be established in its full glory on this earth.



We live in the kingdom now if we repent of our sins and believe in the good news. This good news – this gospel – is that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, has come to bring us salvation, rejoicing our hearts with God’s peace and love. The good news is that there is salvation through the death of Christ, for Christ died on the cross for our sins that we might be reconciled to God.



Our sins are the one thing that block us from experiencing this great joy in God, and so God has sent us a Savior to reconcile us with himself by forgiving our sins. But God forgives us justly with the full penalty paid for our sins. That penalty was paid by Christ himself in his flesh on the cross for the entire world and is effective for all who put their faith in him and accept him as their Savior.



So let us be obedient to the Lord by accepting his gospel in faith, and God will reckon to us his own righteousness, because of the death of his Son on the cross. He will deliver us from the guilt of sin that causes such pain and darkness in our spirit.



The guilt of unrepented sins causes God to withdraw his light, joy, and peace from us to show us that we have sinned so that we will change and fully repent and set our sins aside.



Then when we have changed our ways, within a day or so, God will restore his peace to us, and in the morning, we will be filled with his light and joy, greater than before. We will be at peace with God and we will have joy in the Holy Spirit.



The only way to get this salvation is to put our faith in Christ and repent of our sins – that is, stop sinning, reform our lives, correct our errors, and obediently follow God’s moral law. Justification then comes by faith, which means that God will immediately consider us ungodly sinners righteous – will declare us righteous – and will give us his own righteousness so that we shine with the righteousness of God himself.




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