Summary: This message contrasts Jesus’ call to repentance with the world’s call to ’find some good in your heart.’
- Concerning how we should look into our heart, there is a huge difference between the messages we receive from our society and from Jesus.
- Today’s consistent message on looking into your heart is “Have self-esteem.” (That is, find the good in your heart; emphasize the reasons to like yourself.)
- Jesus’ consistent message on looking into your heart, however, is “Repent.”
- Jesus’ reference to repentance was not fleeting. His first message in both the gospels of Matthew and Mark is “Repent” (Matthew 4:17 & Mark 1:15). His last message in the gospel of Luke is “Repent” (Luke 24:47). One of the most consistent messages throughout His ministry (see, for instance, Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32).
- This talk of repentance seems mean and hard-hearted at first, especially in light of the seemingly sweet message to “have good self-esteem.” But if you’ll stick with me for a few moments this morning, I think you’ll find that Jesus’ message is far more merciful and inviting than it may first appear.
- Before we get into a detailed comparison of the two paths, let’s define what we’re talking about so we’re all on the same page.
a. Repentance is “sorrow for one’s sins with a resolution to turn from it.” It is not merely being
sad about the consequences of your sin or being sorry you got caught in your sin. It is the recognition that you were wrong and the turning from it. This sense of sorrow is necessary lest we end up with “cheap grace,” where we claim God’s mercy without ever admitting we’ve done anything wrong.
b. Self-esteem is the choice to look into your heart and emphasize the positive. Find those good things within you and dwell on those. Don’t be depressed about who you are; simply find the person worth loving inside you.
With those definitions in mind, let’s consider these two responses to looking into your heart:
Response #1: “I’ve got good self-esteem.”
If you say that, what exactly does that mean?
1. You’re saying Jesus was an idiot.
- If you’ve got good self-esteem and feel good about yourself, then what was Jesus doing up there on the cross? If you can be good without divine assistance, if you can get into heaven and have a good relationship with God via your own goodness, then Jesus was a complete fool. Jesus believed that His death was necessary to open the door for you to have a relationship with God. Jesus believed that your sin was so great that only His death on the cross could atone for it. Jesus believed He was making the ultimate loving sacrifice by dying on the cross to pay the price for our sins. If you can claim “I’ve got good self-esteem and so I’m alright before God,” then you are simultaneously saying, “Jesus was a complete idiot to die on the cross - my sins aren’t that
bad - I feel pretty good about myself.”
- When people are asked for their favorite saying from the Bible, one of the more frequent answers is “God helps those who help themselves.” That saying, of course, is not in the Bible. Actually, had those people read the Bible, they would have discovered that the Bible as a whole teaches exactly the opposite. The Bible gives us the message: “God helps those who can’t help themselves.” God stands ready to assist all those who will admit they’ve fallen short and cannot earn their way into heaven. It’s the difference between those who rely on self-help and those who rely on the cross.
2. Jesus says, “You’re clueless.”
- Jesus said that “those who are well have no need of a physician; I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).
- Is that us? We want to pretend we’re alright and saying “I’ve got great self-esteem” pushes us in that direction. But at the end of the day, as hard as we might try to emphasize the better things in our hearts, how many of us can honestly say that we’re not sinners? How many of us would be willing to claim that we’ve done nothing serious wrong? How many of us would willingly open up the doors of our heart to inspection?
- It’s not how horrific or how frequent our sins have been that keep us from Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. The grace of Christ can cover any debt. The thing that keep us from experiencing forgiveness is our refusal to admit that we have anything to forgiven of. And those in that situation are clueless to their true needs.
3. Jesus warns, “You’re in worse shape than Sodom.”