A devotional by Jessica Brodie
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”—Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)
Have you ever had an epiphany that what you’d always believed wasn’t exactly true?
Perhaps it was mostly true, but there was some key element missing that left a huge dent in the wider and more important meaning?
I grew up going to church, and I attended church off and on for most of my life (with a sizable hole in my college years and early 20s). But I wasn’t a genuine “Jesus follower” until much later, even though I called myself a Christian and considered myself to be one. The younger me would have summarized my faith this way: “I believe in Jesus, so I’m a Christian.” But the way I lived my life didn’t really reflect that.
I focused on the most basic of messages: Jesus loves you.
Of course, this is true. But my focus was on inclusion, acceptance of me just as I was, on the inherent love God has for me, His child. I was loved and important to Him, and I had value. This was the basis of my faith, and I wanted everyone to feel that same love. Spreading the Gospel was just basically letting everyone know they, too, were welcome at the table. God loves them, too.
Then one day I shook myself and wondered: Was I missing the point? Was being a Christian really about loving Jesus (or the idea of Jesus) and feeling loved in return? Wasn’t there more that should be happening here within me and the way I lived my life that really made an actual difference?
It took reading the Bible and genuinely wondering what it actually meant to be counted as a Christian for me to understand the part I was missing:
It’s not just believe—it’s repent and believe.
It’s not just “Jesus loves me”—it’s how do I love Jesus?
I began reading the Bible and haven’t stopped since. Now I’m a daily Bible reader. And what I’ve gleaned is that being a follower of Christ isn’t just belonging to a club and it doesn’t have to do anything with my feelings or even what I believe.
It’s about how what I believe transforms me. It’s about change, sanctification, a path to holiness, putting my old ways aside to embrace the new.
Here’s the thing: Belief is only part of the picture. As it says in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (NIV).
After John the Baptist was imprisoned and Jesus began His earthly ministry in earnest, the Bible tells us He began proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
Repentance requires transformation. It means owning that our old way of living wasn’t in line with God’s way, and it’s accepting that we need to change our hearts and lives to be right with the Lord. It means trying to understand God and God’s nature, what is good in God’s eyes, and trying to live that way, not the old way (which was however I saw best).
Another key verse that always hits me is John 14:6, where Jesus definitely states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Note that Jesus doesn’t say “a” way or “the best” way but “the” way. He’s the way to God, the path to our salvation. He’s the only way. My attempts at compassion and kindness and inclusion might be nice, but there’s nothing I can do to achieve salvation. Being “nice” doesn’t earn me a room in God’s house. Repenting and believing, following Jesus in every sense of the word, is the only thing I can do.
Now, I look back at the old me and realize I just had “baby faith.” But I’m not a baby anymore, and as a Christian, God’s love and His hand on my life should be evident in me. I’m His representative, His “ambassador,” as Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20.
I don’t just believe—I repent and believe. What do you think? Has your faith deepened over the years? Does the new you look far different from the old you?
Let’s Pray: Lord, help me set aside my baby faith and have the courage to take bolder steps in You. Help me grow in maturity and love, leaving my old life behind and letting Your power transform me. Help me to repent and believe so I, too, can be part of Your kingdom. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Note from Alexis: Jessica’s devotional reminds me of the song “Lead Me Lord” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, featuring Elizabeth Goodine! Listen to it here.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.
She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.
Jessica has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.