Summary: What does it look like for someone who truly repents versus someone who is religious and self-righteous? Let's take a look

Grace Community Church

Winchester, VA

Pastor Bradford Reaves

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I want you to think back to the time of your salvation when you truly repented for your sins before God. Some of you know the moment and for some of you, I shared that moment with you. I remember of all the years I attended church services when the Hoy Spirit brought to my attention the depth of my sins and the condition of my unrepentant heart. I went to the altar of that church and pleaded with God for his forgiveness and asked God to save me. I’ve gone back to His throne of forgiveness many times.

In the Western Church, there is an epidemic of cheap grace and superficial repentance. Today’s Gospel has been stripped away from repentance, lawfulness, God’s wrath, and accountability. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer pens these famous words about cheap grace:

"CHEAP GRACE is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. “All for sin could not atone.” The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (p. 43-44)."

If what I say to you has any meaning, any conviction, any stirring of your heart, then I believe that God is working in your heart to prepare the way for Christ to live more fully in you. There are many in the church today, even those in leadership, who are living a life of Christian morals but without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They once were told to “accept Jesus” but their hearts and minds were never transformed. There are people who come to church every week, but their lives produce no fruit.

The kind of people I am talking about is the people Jesus identified in Matthew 7:23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

These are the kind of people, John the Baptist came to preach. We started off last week examining the condition of the world John entered into when he started his preaching ministry in 26 AD. Essentially it was a politically corrupt and religiously liberal day. Dark and hopeless; much like today. John’s job makes straight the path for the Lord. Level the mountain, fill in the valleys, smooth out the rough roads. (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Now, what was the prophet Isaiah talking about, make straight the paths? The paths of what? Cultural, social, political, religious paths? No. In the ancient world, it was customary for kings to receive a royal welcome. So “when an emperor or some other eminent personage was about to visit a city, the citizens could be required to prepare a well-constructed approach-road along which he could advance with due pomp and dignity on his way into the city.” To make sure that people were ready to receive him, the king would send a messenger on ahead to herald the news of his coming. (Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, 117–118). What John was doing was preparing the path of people’s hearts with a message of repentance. So what does that mean? We touched on it a little last week, but this week, we’re going to see it more clearly in John’s message. We’re going to pick it up in verse 7:


7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:7–14 ESV

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