Mark 1:14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
11 people dead. Families torn apart. A city gripped in fear.
That’s what happened on January 7 in Paris at the French satirical newspaper, “Charlie Hebdo.”
I listened to the news. I felt sad for the families who lost their loved ones. I was angry that evil was once again getting its way.
But to be honest, I paid little attention to the story. I didn’t know anybody in the attacks. I’ve never been to Paris. The story didn’t really impact my day-to-day life in any way. Even if I became emotionally invested in the events, there was little I could do beyond posting a “Je suis Charlie” image on social media. I had other things that occupied my time – ministry to do, basketball games to watch, food to eat.
I don’t know if you felt the same way about attacks. But I do think that many of us feel the same about sharing our faith with others.
We know people around the world and in our own neighborhoods are dying daily without knowing Jesus as their Savior. Families are being torn apart by adultery, drugs, and abuse. Many live in fear – fear of where the next meal is coming from; fear of the violence in their neighborhood; fear that they are failing their families.
We are saddened by the lost. We are angry that the devil has such a strong grip on so many.
But to be honest, we often pay little attention to their stories. We know Jesus. We are saved. We are busy people. We are so pre-occupied with our lives that we often don’t take the time to think about the spiritual plight of others. Possibly we think that there is little else we can do for them except put a few extra dollars in the offering plate for world missionaries or share a few Bible devotions on social media.
That’s called apathy.
Apathy literally means “without passion.” It is a state of indifference, being void of emotion or motivation. We might simply classify it as “not caring.”
A number of years ago, Sports Illustrated had a brief article in their “They Said It!” section about Frank Layden, the former coach of the Utah Jazz in the seventies. Coach Layden had problems with a player on his team, so he summoned the talented but troubled man to his office. Looking the player in the eye, the coach asked, “My son, I can’t understand it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?” The player replied, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”
The people of Jesus’ day had become apathetic in many spiritual matters. It had been five centuries since one of God’s prophets spoke in Israel. The people had grown lazy and indifferent about their faith.
So God sent one last prophet, John the Baptist. John tried to awaken the people from their spiritual slumber. From the wilderness he cried out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). “Prepare the way for the Lord” (Matthew 3:3).
After John was put in prison for speaking out about King Herod’s sins, the Messiah proclaimed the same message as John had: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
We marvel at Jesus’ short, but succinct sermon. First, we have to marvel at the man. If God wanted to keep His promises made throughout the Old Testament, then who better than the Promised One. If God wanted to extend His Kingdom, then who better to lead the way than the King of kings? When people heard John preach, they heard a preacher that had the same hang-ups as they did. But when they heard the voice of Jesus, they heard the voice of the Son of God.
We marvel at the moment. John had been put in prison. He had preached his last sermon. The world was quiet. No more promises were being made. No more prophecies were being preached. All was quiet. “The time has come!”
Most of all, we marvel at the message. God had a simple, two-word way of curtailing the apathy among His people: “Repent and believe.”
Repent means to have a change of mind. The Holy Spirit creates faith and then creates a spiritual turning around. They will continue to struggle against sin, but they no longer see sin as “OK.” They now realize they have a need for Christ. The Spirit leads people to care. They now care that they are lost and condemned creatures without Jesus.
Along with the call to repent is the call to “believe the good news.” The good news of salvation is embodied within Jesus Christ. Believe that Jesus Christ is your perfect substitute. Believe that He has turned you from the hell that you deserve to the heaven that you have been given. Believe that He paid the penalty for your sins and grants you the power of His Holy Spirit to resist committing those sins again.
“Repent” and “believe” naturally go together, don’t they? You aren’t going to repent unless you recognize that Jesus is your righteous Judge. You aren’t going to believe unless you recognize that Jesus is your gracious Savior. Repentance without believing is just remorse. And believing without repentance trivializes the Good News into “Jesus loves me, this I know … and this is all I want to know.” There’s a good reason why Jesus’ message was to repent and believe. You can’t have one without the other.
By the grace of God, we have heard the Good News about Jesus. We know that now is the time. We repent and we believe.
But what about others around us? Have they heard the Good News about Jesus? How much time do they have left before they die or the Lord returns? Do they know about repentance and believing?
If they don’t know, it is most likely because we have not told them. And we have not told them because of our apathy.
Spiritual apathy infects all of us. Many of us have been Christians for so long that we forget what it was like to not be Christian. We take our faith and our salvation for granted.
I know lots of people who say, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus as my Savior, but that’s it. I’m not all that interested in living my faith or telling others about my faith.” That, my friends, is apathy. That’s not caring. When we know the love of Jesus, but don’t share the love of Jesus with others, that’s because we really don’t care about them. If we did care, then we would tell them. We would want them to be saved. We would want them to spend eternity with us in heaven. But if we aren’t telling them, then we must be indifferent about where they are going to spend eternity.
One of the great marvels about Jesus is His complete and utter dedication to our salvation. There was no apathy in Him. Ever. Worship? He was always in the synagogue. Prayer? The Son of God humbled Himself constantly to speak to His Father in prayer. Word? He knew the Word well enough to become a rabbi to His people. Relationships? He called His denier to feed His sheep and His doubter to believe. The Lost? He came specifically for the lost sheep in Israel.
But as we contemplate our need to repent of our apathy, we turn to Jesus not as an example to emulate. Rather, we believe in Him as our Savior to forgive. Forgive me, Jesus, for my apathy!
Jesus certainly was never apathetic toward lost sinners. The four men Jesus called along the Sea of Galilee – they were sinners. Jesus seeks out the sick, the poor, the handicapped. He draws near the sinner. He touches the imperfect. He embraces the little ones. He raises the dead and brings liberty to those captive to Adam’s curse.
Jesus loves the little children, the forgetful old ladies, the grumpy old men, the stubborn teenagers, the rowdy ADD 8-year-old. He loves the invalid on his mat, the blind man with his cane, the deaf woman with her hearing aid. He loves those on their deathbed and especially those being formed in the womb.
He loves with His arms open wide and His hands pierced through. He loves with bloodied brow and riven side. He loves into death. Why? Because He loves His creation and refuses to lose anyone to hell. Jesus is love personified. Love sacrifices for His beloved. Love is crucified for the unloving. Love is dead and buried. But love is raised on the third day. Love triumphs over sin, conquers death and destroys the evil of the devil.
In the midst of our apathy, we find passion in Jesus Passion. Because He has caught us in the net of His Good News through His message of repentance and faith, now He sends us out to cast the net of His Gospel upon others. He calls us to become fishers of men. He calls us to love others as He loves them. Because we love them, we need to share the message of God’s love with them.
I’m not expecting you to knock on doors. … Ah, yes, I am. Knock on your teenager’s door and wake him up for church. I’m not expecting you to go out of your comfort zone. … Yeah, I guess I’m expecting that, too. Set aside time to put your children on your lap and read Bible stories to them and have family devotions around the dinner table with them. I’m not expecting you to do something you are afraid of doing. … Actually, you bet I am! You need to confront your sister who is living with her boyfriend; you need to speak with your college student who hasn’t received Holy Communion since school started; you need to keep telling your child to bring your grandchild to the font to be baptized.
Before you can ever share your faith with the guy down the street, you need to first be sharing your faith with those in your own home. When children see you in God’s Word, they will want to be in God’s Word. When they hear you praying in Jesus’ name, they will be praying in Jesus’ name. When they see that your faith is important enough to be sharing with them, they won’t be apathetic in sharing their faith with you and others.
Every time you are preaching the message of John and Jesus to them: “Repent and believe.”
I guarantee that people won’t like it when you confront them with their sin. They will see you as mean and pushy and judgmental. However, you are being loving. You don’t want them to continue in their sin. You don’t want them to remain lost and without faith. You don’t want them to be claimed by the devil and spend eternity apart from God’s glorious heaven.
You love them. That’s why you knock on their bedroom door and make the phone call and lead them to repentance. Jesus’ love for the lost has caused you to love the lost. They are not going to find their way on their own. We – you and I – are God’s fishermen. We cast out the net of repentance and faith. Start fishing within your own family. Then cast a wider net. We take God’s call to discipleship seriously. Jesus is overcoming our apathy with His love. Amen.