“Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’.” Matthew 4:17
Have you ever made a piece of toast, slathered it with butter and strawberry jam, and just as you’re about to take the first delicious bite, you drop it on the floor? I’m embarrassed to say this has happened to me more than once, and the toast inevitably lands facedown! Who wants upside-down toast for breakfast?
It may be a silly illustration, but it makes me think that we are like upside-down toast. We are fallen creatures, born with the DNA of hell. Our first instincts in most situations are usually wrong. Our responses are almost always self-serving. And it’s not until God picks us up that we can begin to realize His lofty purposes and plans to turn our upside-down life right-side up.
In Matthew 4:1-21, we learn about the early days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His first sermon was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). For hundreds of years, God’s people had been “living in darkness . . . [in] the shadow of death” (Matthew 4:16). Jesus came to rescue them and us from our fallen, messed-up existence. What was the first step to recovery? You guessed it—repentance.
Repentance is not a “how to turn your life right-side up” method of self-improvement. When Jesus pleaded repentance, He wasn’t offering a good idea or a cool suggestion. It’s important to keep in mind that the Greek word for “preach” in this text means “to herald,” or to proclaim with authority. In the days before e-mail and Instant Messenger, a “herald” would travel from village to village to proclaim the king’s edicts. The herald did not form discussion groups to poll the opinion of the people. Rather, he authoritatively proclaimed the message of the king.
None could be more authoritative than Jesus Himself. When the King of kings traveled through the villages preaching, His message came with the highest authority, and as such we would do well to take it seriously—to repent of our fallen ways and to yield our upside-down instincts to the right-side-up ways of His kingdom.
Repentance is never an enjoyable experience, but vulnerability is the key to victory. When we allow the Savior to pick us up and reveal the mess we’ve made of ourselves, it’s only then that we can begin to live a useful, productive life that brings pleasure to our heavenly Father.
You may be like upside-down toast, but the good news is in Jesus Christ you don’t have to stay that way!
- At what point in your life did you finally and fully realize that you were upside-down? What circumstances were you going through at the time?
- Have you repented and surrendered to God and allowed Him to pick you up? If so, when did this take place?
- Do you feel as if you’re upside-down again? Remember, after God picks you up, you will always belong to Him and His kingdom. But practically speaking, your sinful nature will cause you to fall again and again, requiring a continual heart of repentance. According to the principles outlined in 1 John 1:9, you can begin by confessing your sins. Then receive God’s forgiveness and invite Him to “purify [you] from all unrighteousness.”