Summary: Message addresses question of how to repent and how to nurture a repentant heart. Is there anything we can do to accommodate the Holy Spirit’s work of convicting us of sin and leading us into truth?
Is Repentance a Dirty Word? Part 3
(Nurturing a Repentant Heart)
Richard Tow 8/7/16
We have been talking about repentance. In our last two messages we saw the nature and importance of repentance. The question we want to address today is how to repent. How do we nurture a repentant heart? Is there anything we can do to accommodate the Holy Spirit’s work of convicting us of sin and leading us into truth? To answer that question from the Bible, turn with me to Isaiah 1:18-20. God is issuing an invitation to the people of Israel. He has already talked with them about the superficiality of their religion. In previous verses He has pointed out their unfaithfulness and the consequences of those choices. Now He comes to them in our text with a call to repentance. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword"; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”1
How to nurture repentance in the heart: the first thing God tells them to do is:
A. They must come to God with the need. You and I need soft, tender, repentant hearts. We cannot produce that on our own. We need God to work that in us by His Spirit.2 We must come to God for that. Paul says in Phil 2:13”for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” There are things we can do in response to God’s grace in our lives; but we must never forget our dependence on the Holy Spirit. He is the One who convicts the world of sin; He alone can lead us into truth.3 God invites us to come to Him because He wants to help us. He is not sitting in heaven with folded arms passing judgement on us. He is reaching out to us in love, inviting us to receive His help. The simple thing He tells us to do is “come” to Him with the need.
Jesus expressed the invitation this way in Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Where does a person find peace of mind? How does a person get rid of all the frustration and anxiety life seems to bring? By coming to God as the only one who can bring that peace. Jesus said, “…My peace I give to you; not as the world do I give it to you….” The world tries to find peace in external circumstance. The peace Jesus gives is something that springs up from within. It is something experienced when all is right with God, the heart is fully repentant, and the person is fully trusting the Lord with everything.
But notice in Matthew 11 there is something for us to do: “Come to Me” says Jesus. This invitation (one that He is issuing to us this morning) comes with a promise in James 4:8 “…Draw near to God and He will draw near to you….” Have you ever stopped to think how wonderful that promise is? A commitment from God Himself: if you will come; if you will draw near to Me, I will draw near to you. God said to Israel, Isa 45:19, “I have not spoken in secret, In a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, 'Seek Me in vain'….” When God tells people to seek Him, He has good things in mind for them if they will simply come to Him in that way. I like the Living Bible on this verse, “Isa 45:19 “I publicly proclaim bold promises; I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner so that no one can know what I mean. And I didn't tell Israel to ask me for what I didn't plan to give!....” So if we are to have a repentant heart, we must come to God for that—come to the One who is more than willing to give it.4
B. We must come “now.” Look at Isaiah 1:18 closely, “Come now, and let us reason together." Everything we get from God we receive in the now. Our good intentions for the future get us nothing. It is only in the now that we do business with God. Sometimes we want to ease our conscience a bit by saying “I will do that tomorrow. I will get that right later on. Someday I’m going to do that.” We don’t want to say “no” to God; yet, we are unwilling to say “yes.” So saying “someday” seems like a better alternative. But the “someday” has an eerie tendency to never come, especially when it comes to turning from sin to God. The sin takes more and more possession rather than less. It gets harder and harder to do, rather than easier. “Come now….”; not later. 2 Cor. 6:2 “…Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Is there something you keep putting off, hoping it will simply go away? Is there a relationship problem that needs to be addressed now?5 Is there a besetting sin that needs to be addressed today, not later? , “Come now, and let us reason together."