Summary: This sermon attempts to clarify the issue of repentance and explain the change that takes place in the identity of believers who truly are transformed.
This past Tuesday evening I got a call from the healthcare center that my brother had a 103 degree temperature and was tachycardic; his heart rate was over 160. On Wednesday evening the lung doctor said he had pneumonia and said no antibiotic could rid him of that infection and he did not recommend placing Gary on the ventilator.
Well, I went early Thursday morning and told Gary that he was critically ill and would not live long. I said right now in your mind and in your heart you can will to repent of how you have lived your life and you can change your mind about not believing in God and tell Him you want to believe in Him and receive His eternal life right now. I am going to pray for you and then you can tell God what you want in your mind and heart and will.
I don’t know what mind Gary has right now nor what he actually did Thursday morning. However, I do know that as of yesterday Gary was more alert and the Doctor said his infection was clearing up much to his surprise. So what is the gospel message? What is “True Repentance?”
Many people think the gospel message or being a Christian is merely a matter of living a good life. That attitude says, “to become a Christian you just make a commitment to change your life and try to live like Jesus.” But that isn’t good news. That’s impossible. It’s impossible to live like Jesus. If you could change your life, why would you need Jesus? No, the gospel doesn’t require you to change your life. The good news is that Jesus makes you into something brand new. This transformation takes place through what the Bible calls repentance.
Now, most of us think repentance is a word that deals primarily with our behavior. We often use it in relationship to our sins (plural) and frequently hear the phrase, “repent of all your sins,” in sermons and evangelistic appeals. We use it in the sense, “I used to smoke, but now I don’t.” But that could be or could not be because you could start smoking again. However, repentance is a very severe, stern and harsh word. That is, repentance in the Scripture is like your breakfast of bacon and eggs. The chicken made a contribution to your breakfast while the pig made a total life commitment to your breakfast. You get what I mean? So repentance is talking about bacon, not eggs. Again, most people think repentance is a word that deals with our behavior. However, true repentance goes much deeper than behavior. The Greek word is metanoia and it means to change one’s mind. Biblically, it means to change one’s belief system. You see, we’re born into this world as unbelievers. And through repentance you go from being an unbeliever to being a believer. That’s a transformation which requires the power of God. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
So when you change your mind and heart and will it’s like this ugly, hairy worm crawling around on the ground called a caterpillar. Now you can give it flying lessons. You can send it to Worm University and get it educated. You can send it to P.U. and get it smelling good, but what you’ll have is a good smelling, educated worm. And you can send it to Church and he’ll be a religious, churchy worm, but he’s still a worm. So, God comes to that worm and says, “Are you satisfied with who you are and your lifestyle?” And the worm says, “No, I’m really not.” Well God says, “Through a process of metamorphosis I can change you into a beautiful butterfly. Right now the girls don’t like you, they say Uck! when they see you. Afterwards, they’ll look at you and say, ‘you’re the most beautiful thing alive!’ You’ll be able to fly instead of crawl. So if you want to get across the room you can get there in a second! Otherwise, you’re going to have to crawl for the rest of your life. But I want to tell you something. You’re never going to be a worm again if you decide to let Me make you into a butterfly. It’s a total change! It’s not a change of behavior, it’s a total change of identity. You’ll never be called a Worm again, you’ll be called a Butterfly!” So the caterpillar says, “I want to become a butterfly.” And God weaves a cocoon around it and one day, what was a ugly, hairy worm is transformed into a beautiful butterfly and that’s new birth! It’s a change of identity.