You just received a letter from Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II is coming to America and she wants to visit you. After you pick your jaw up from the floor, you continue reading. The Queen will be arriving soon but, for reasons of security, she cannot give you an exact date or time that she will visit you. What do you do next? After reading the letter again to be sure you read it correctly, you look around your house. It seems reasonably clean and orderly but, hey, the Queen of England is coming to visit. So you get out the mop and broom and begin to give your house a thorough cleaning.
Over 2,000 years ago, John the Baptist traveled the Judean wilderness with a message for all within earshot, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” (Matthew 3:2). John was letting the people know that Jesus, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, was about to arrive. But John did not know the day or the time at which Jesus would arrive, and so he wanted those to whom he preached to be ready, to get their houses in order. But John was not talking about their physical houses, the places in which they ate and slept. John was talking about their hearts and their lives. They needed to repent of their sins and turn their hearts to God. They needed to do a thorough spiritual cleaning.
The word repent means “to change one’s mind and act on that change.” It doesn’t mean just being sorry for what you’ve done. It doesn’t mean just expressing regret or remorse over your sins. Those things are good and necessary, but what is truly needed is a changed mind and a changed life. And that change needs to be evident. In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” In other words, we can’t just look all neat and clean on the outside, we need to be clean on the inside, as well. And the evidence of that is in how we live our lives. We are called to be holy, to live in accordance with the Spirit and not in accordance with the flesh.
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.'” Peter is addressing those of us who have already received the gift of salvation, those of us who have already accepted Jesus as Savior and have given our hearts to Him, those who have already repented and turned our hearts to God. When we entered that life-changing relationship with Jesus, we did our spiritual spring cleaning. Before we knew Jesus, we did not know any better. But now that we know Him, we must keep our house clean. We must be ready to do our spiritual house cleaning because we must be holy for Jesus is holy.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.