God’s Work, Our Response

I know firsthand the excitement of having good news.

When my two girls were born, I called and texted everyone I could think of to tell them our great news. I’m “that guy”—I was telling people in the checkout line at the grocery store, the woman at the gas station, and the customer service representative for my cable service. The good news of their birth caused people to respond in love and graciousness.

Notice the order: good news caused the gracious response. People’s thoughtfulness didn’t cause my girls to be born. The telling of the good news of their arrival triggered people’s responses.


Mark 1:14–20 follows the same logic: good news elicits good responses. Jesus comes into Galilee proclaiming the good news and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15).

The passage contains two statements and two responses. Both statements concentrate on God’s initiative. It is what God has done that calls for the two responses. “The time has come” and “the kingdom of God is near” lead to “repent” and “believe.” Let’s look at Jesus’ message briefly:

The phrase “the time is fulfilled” implies God’s sovereign control over history and time.

Jesus says that the beginning of his ministry is the fulfillment of God’s history.

When he says, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus claims not only that his ministry is of immense importance, but that in him and his ministry the kingdom of God, which is God’s rule and reign over creation, has begun.

By using these two phrases, Jesus is claiming that he is the fulfillment and culmination of what God was doing in the Old Testament. Jesus is saying that God’s time has struck—the time to which the Old Testament pointed has arrived in him. Jesus claims that in him, God’s critical moment has come because God begins to act in a decisive way—fulfilling his promise of ultimate redemption. Because of this, we are called to have a change of heart (repentance) and to believe in this good news.


“Repent”—it means to “have a change of heart,” to “turn around,” or “change your mind.” Most scholars think “change of heart” is the best phrase to use that describes the breadth and depth of God’s work in our lives. God’s work goes all the way down to our core and extends to every dimension of our lives.

“Believe”—the good news was that the kingdom of God—God’s rule in the hearts and minds of people—has come. All we do is believe it: trust that God is sovereign to save and restore as far as the curse of sin and destruction is found. Belief simply means “to put one’s trust in God.” That means putting our trust in the One God sent: Jesus.

The whole point is that we do not initiate—we respond to God’s initiative in Jesus. God initiates, and we respond. Romans 2:4 says it best:

God’s kindness and patience lead to repentance.


When Jesus started in Galilee (Mark 1:14), his ministry wasn’t beginning in a gentle, quiet place. Galilee was surrounded by Gentiles—always the first target for any invaders from the north. Galilee appropriately symbolizes God’s people in bondage. Jesus’s ministry began at a place full of conflict and threat. It was a place of religious diversity and business.

This is a place of trouble, conflict, threat, confusion, business, and bondage—and that is where Jesus intentionally goes.

The whole point of God’s initiative is illustrated in Mark 1:16–20when Jesus begins gathering his disciples. It’s very important that Jesus was seeking his own disciples, because the custom was for disciples to seek out their own teachers. But of course it makes sense that the one who came to seek and save the lost would begin by seeking out his disciples himself.

You might be hoping for him to arrive, you might be distracted doing something else, you might even be going the other way, but he’s pursuing us to give us his good news.

God initiates, and we respond. He gives us the good news of the gospel, and we respond in repentance and faith.