Summary: Repentance is more than just a prayer -it's a process.
Repentance: Not Just a Prayer (Luke 5:27-33)
What does it mean to “repent”? Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary offered the following definitions: 1) to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life. 2a) to feel regret or contrition b) to change one’s mind. I prefer the simple definition of doing a complete 180 of your life or turning in a new direction. If you are heading towards Paducah in your car and repent, you turn around and head back to Mayfield. But spiritual repentance is tougher than just pulling over and turning around. There are also a lot of people that attempt to say a prayer of repentance, but it’s so much more than that. Repentance is not a prayer –it’s a process. And because it’s a process it takes time to heal from the effects of the sin in which you have repented. Today, we are going to look at a man who sought repentance when found by Jesus.
Read Luke 5:27-33
Hear the Voice of God (v. 27)
Notice that verse 27 starts with the words “after this.” If you may recall in Luke chapter 4, Jesus was surrounded by a great crowd of people when four guys brought in their paralyzed friend for Jesus to be healed. Since they couldn’t get through the crowd, they carried their friend through the roof and lowered him down before Jesus. Luke 5:20 says, “Seeing their faith He [Jesus] said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you’” (HCSB). Then the Pharisees and Scribes began to pitch a fit about Jesus forgiving sins and so forth. So, next Jesus shows them who is boss and tells the paralyzed man to take up his stretcher and go home. Now, we see Jesus depart from the sold-out venue and walking down the street. Luke 5:27 tells us that he “saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office” (HCSB). According to the other synoptic gospels, Levi is actually Matthew who wrote the good news of Jesus Christ to the Jewish audience. Now, a tax collector wasn’t a desirable character in Jesus’ time, much like an IRS agent today (just kidding) but on an entirely different level. Actually, tax collectors in biblical times were crooks. They were sent out to collect a tax for Rome, but overcharged people and kept the profits for themselves.
Notice also that Levi was sitting at the tax office. Isn’t it amazing how Jesus wasn’t afraid to share the good news in the workplace? He didn’t wait for Levi to be off the clock or come to synagogue on Saturday. No, he went to where Levi was immediately. I understand that some job places have policies for religious freedom, but they cannot stop you from living for Jesus and once someone inquires of your faith, you are free to discuss it with that person. Jesus realized the urgency of Levi’s unbelieving condition and that he needed to hear the gospel.
Jesus came into the tax office and said two simple words, “follow Me.” In verse 28, we see Levi get up and follow Him. He didn’t say, “Well, I will meet you after work” or “I’m off on Sunday, I’ll get my things in order and come and see you then.” He didn’t even say, “Let me close up shop and finish up these tax collections…” No, the Scripture says, “Leaving EVERYTHING behind, he got up and began to FOLLOW HIM” (HCSB).
Much like Levi, we need to hear and heed the voice of God. For those of you who are not Christians, perhaps God is or has been speaking to you, telling you that the life you are living is immoral. Perhaps you have been in church for years and heard preacher after preacher tell you that the lifestyle you are living is wrong, but it has never sunk in as deep as it has been lately. Maybe you have a hole in your life in which nothing seems to fit. You’ve tried money, power, prestige, drugs, alcohol, sex, and a variety of other worldly things. They don’t fit because it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. They don’t fit because that hole in your life is shaped like Jesus and meant to be filled with forgiveness, mercy, and loving-kindness that only a Savior can provide. For those of you that are “saved” (I use that term loosely, because it has been estimated that over half of church members are unsaved), maybe God is not happy with your current situation. Your church attendance has been lacking. Your prayer life has become non-existent. Your Bible-reading has been diminished to a verse the preacher posts on Facebook each day hoping that someone like you will be inspired and that your life will be changed as a result of reading it. You’ve heard the voice of God time and time again telling you to rid yourself of the “sin that so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). You’ve heard it but you’ve haven’t heeded it. Maybe, just maybe, if I keep ignoring that still, small voice gnawing at my soul, it will eventually go away. But the truth is…it never goes away. You, lost person, were created by God to be loved by God and to love Him in return. You, Christian, have been chosen by God to serve Him, worship Him, exalt Him, and glorify Him! NO, that voice won’t go away until you surrender your life to Him. Until you leave EVERYTHING behind, get up, and FOLLOW HIM. But…in order to be an effective follower of Jesus, you must do something else besides get up and go… you’ve got to get rid of that sin…. How do I do this?