Summary: While the world has many ways it promotes and calls repentance, God alone has decided how He wants us to repent.
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
Last week we started off this series by talking about repentance, sin and the character of God. Repentance is the first word of the Gospel message and it has proven to be very difficult for humanity to understand and put into action. Sin is defined as any thought, word or deed that goes against the will of God as revealed by His Spirit and Word. When we sin, we become distant from God because He is pure light and there is no darkness in Him at all. Repentance is the mechanism that God has given us to be forgiven and have our relationship restored with Him. Since we are ambassadors and royal priests who have the gift of the Holy Spirit, then why are we not continually being forgiven and walking close with God every moment of every day?
PART 2: MYTHS, WHAT REPENTANCE IS NOT
The problem of course is not with God. To those who truly repent He always forgives and cleanses from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). For many repentance is not the rending of one’s heart and the returning to walk on the narrow path of righteousness but in nothing more than hollow platitudes, ways of saying “sorry” without having to give up practicing the sin! While God is willing to forgive as many times as one repents (Matthew 18:22), He certainly will not be fooled into washing as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) any sin that remains cherished and worn like a badge of honor. The reason why holiness and closeness to God remain beyond our reach is because we have believed and practiced many worldly myths concerning how to repent. This sermon will explore seven of these myths: sorrow, preservation, penance, reform, self-deception, selective and no consequence.
1. SORROW IS NOT ENOUGH
Christians often think that being sorry automatically means one is repentant and forgiven. In the world we live in a few tears often have the power to wash away our wrongdoings. Who has not watched a sibling shed a few tears to win mom or dad over to their side of the story, especially when they were guilty? Who has not heard of a pretty girl not getting a ticket for speeding just because she told a heart wrenching story with a few tears? Who has not seen a student hand in an assignment two weeks late tell a tearful story so that they might have their assignment accepted? When you watch events like these you almost want to scream out “don’t be fooled, he or she will repeat the bad behavior as soon as you are out of the room!”
The rich young man is one of the best examples in Scripture (Mark 10:17-27) of being sorry but not forgiven. One day a man ran up to Jesus, fell on his knees and asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life (17)?” Jesus told him to follow His commands. The man replied “all these I have kept since I was a boy” (20). Even though he followed God’s commands the man knew in his heart that there was something keeping him from entering the kingdom. Jesus told him to “go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” Jesus said this because He knew the man’s sin was his love of money. At the end of the story we are told the man left with great sorrow because he could not give up his money. From this story, we learn that while sorrow is a very important first step in repentance, it is not enough to be forgiven. Like the rich young man our repentance must go beyond being sorry for having sinned. We can tear up all we want but until we love God more than our sin, we will never ask nor have that sin forgiven.
2. SURVIVAL AND SELF-PRESERVATION
Fear and self-protection are not the right motivators to be forgiven. In the face of terminal illness or life threatening injuries people often try to bargain with God to be healed. They promise God “if You will heal me then I will repent and change my evil ways.” In other words, save me and I will be the model Christian I am supposed to be! When God spares the person’s life of course they change for a few weeks but soon forget the grace they have received and return to their life of sin as soon as their fears have passed. Fear of God can be a powerful motivator but does not always lead to true repentance. For example, when the demons saw Jesus they trembled in fear for they knew He could destroy them (James 2:19). I am not saying that those facing death cannot be forgiven or born again. The thief on the cross would testify otherwise (Luke 23:43)! What I am saying is that true repentance is not focused on receiving a reprieve from suffering and pain but instead on being forgiven for having offended the very character of God! If there is to be any self-focused goal for repentance it must be to draw nearer to God so that He might draw nearer to you (James 4:8).