I have often heard it said that Jesus’ first sermon was ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ in fact I believe I have probably said that in the past as well, maybe even on this blog. If I did say that then I was wrong, as is everyone else who says that. If you read Matthew 4:17 above you will see that “Jesus began to preach...” and what was the first sermon about? “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
As we progress through the gospels you will find that the first thing Christ preached was repent, the first thing He had His disciples preach was repent, the first thing preached in the New Testament was John the Baptist Preaching ‘Repent’, moreover the conclusion of the 1st sermon after Pentecost was repent, even in revelation Jesus’ last words to the 7 churches, 5 of those churches heard the message to repent. You cannot underestimate the importance of preaching repentance. It was the first message of Christ to the world, and the last message of Christ to the churches. Even reading in reading Acts you will find when Paul is testifying to King Agrippa that Paul preached everywhere that men must repent. If message of Paul, John the Baptist, Peter, and Jesus Himself was repent... well you cannot simply avoid it.
Unfortunately there are a lot of people in the country who posture as if they are part of the church, however their lack of repentance is evidence that they are not a part of the bride of Christ at all. Again, notice in the verse above, Jesus began His preaching ministry by preaching what? Repentance! Why does Jesus command people to repent? Because “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Notice the positive declaration of Christ that the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand. It is an unconditional declaration, the Kingdom is here, today, from the incarnation of Christ on through all of eternity the Kingdom of Heaven will be at hand... therefore repent, turn away from sin and dwell today in the kingdom.
Too many genuine believers are missing the great blessing of kingdom life today because they have not sought hard after repentance, they have not sought the Lord to expose as many of their faults as they can bear having exposed. We have not sought repentance with our whole being, and we wonder why sometimes the kingdom seems so far away. Christ commands... Repent! The Kingdom is here!
Now I am not going to labor on here about how repentance is a gift of God, given to the believer and repentance though it is enacted through a man, is only produced by the action of God, but we should recall that repentance is not a ‘work’ in the sense that it is something we must muster up the strength to do in order to get saved. Repentance is a requirement for salvation, but anytime there is a requirement for salvation we must realize that Christ indeed fulfills that requirement. Nonetheless, Christ actually fulfills this in us and produces actual repentance, not just a spiritual transaction but one that evidences itself in practice. I did write an extensive 9 part series on repentance back in July of 2006 and still believe it is the best writing I have done to date, you can read it here http://www.sermonaudio.com/new_details3.asp?ID=7874 if you want.