Summary: The eighth in a sixteen-part series on the Nazarene Articles of Faith, this sermon looks at the conversion of Saul/Paul as an example of true repentance.
Article of Faith #8 - Repentance
Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
It’s an ongoing battle at the Twitchell household. We have a great number of beautiful songbirds that come to our birdfeeders in the front yard: goldfinches, house finches, red-winged blackbirds, orioles, and cardinals are accompanied by chickadees, mourning doves, blue jays. We tolerate the cowbirds, crows, and grackles, but we draw the line when it comes to squirrels and chipmunks.
We have one chipmunk that lives under the front steps. Since he lives under the steps, his entire life (during the summer) consists of running out to the birdfeeder, filling his cheeks with birdseed, and running back under the steps to deposit his collection into his winter stash. He’ll make trip after trip after trip, stuffing his cheeks with birdseed and spitting it out under the steps. I’m pretty sure that his entire life (during the winter) consists simply of sleeping and going to his pantry for food.
It was kind of cute last year, but this year he’s brought his friends over too, and we’ve counted at least four different chipmunks living off of the generosity of the Twitchell household. While the chipmunks are cute, the squirrels are simply a nuisance. They are simply pigs! One squirrel hangs upside down for 10-minutes at a time eating black sunflower seed from the feeder. We have a suet cage which hangs on the tree with suet cakes in it. Well, I should say that we used to have a suet cage hanging on the tree. That was until the squirrels figured out how to break the chain on the cage and carry it away so they could devour its contents in peace. We looked for the suet cage, but couldn’t find it and bought another one. Wouldn’t you know that they broke that one as well? This time we found it, hosed it off, and hung it up again (not wanting to spend any more money on another suet cage. They broke it a third time and ran off with it. We looked for it, couldn’t find it, and decided that was the end of feeding suet to the birds. Well, wouldn’t you know, that this week when I went out to mow the lawn, the suet cage was back lying under the tree again. I have images in my mind of those pesky squirrels cleaning out the suet and then deciding to bring the cage back to us in hopes that we would refill the cage and hang it back on the tree. Forget it! No more suet until winter comes and the squirrels go away!
We’ve tried everything to deal with the squirrel problem. We’ve tried that “Squirrel Away” powder that is made of some sort of pepper irritant. It doesn’t seem to work. Melody got so fed up with them a couple of weeks ago that I went to the toy store and bought her a super soaker water gun. And so now when we see a squirrel or chipmunk, we go to the closet, grab the Liquidator 200 and begin firing at the squirrels. Boy can they run! It’s to the point where they’ll run away just because the door opens.
But, as often as we squirt streams of water at the greedy little rodents, they come right back. You see, they were scared, perhaps even sorry they got caught, but there was no repentance, for their behavior did not change. Try as we might, I doubt we will ever encourage these squirrels and chipmunks to change their erring ways.
Those of you who have been parents of teenagers fully understand the difference between “being sorry they were caught” and being “repentant.” A teenager might stay out past curfew, get caught, and be “sorry.” But, the following weekend, they do the same thing—their behavior has not changed—they have not repented.
Four Greek words are used in the New Testament which are translated in English as repent or repentance: metanoeo, metamelomai, metanoia, ametameletos. The most common of those are metanoeo and metanoia, both of which mean a change of mind, or to think differently. Repentance is not merely “feeling sorry,” but is a change in the very way we think about sin. Some have said that it is a “one-eighty,” or an “about face” in our attitudes and behaviors. Instead of being drawn to sin, repentance causes us to be repulsed by sin. This change in our thoughts and attitudes works itself out in a change of behavior. The squirrel no longer comes to the feeder, and the teenager no longer stays out past curfew.
Paul illustrates this difference between “being sorry” and repentance in Second Corinthians 7, verse 8-11:
8Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it--I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while-- 9yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.