Summary: “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him: but tax collectors and harlots believed him: and when you saw it, you did not after
Theme: True Repentance
Text: Ez. 18:1-4, 25-32; Phil. 2:1-13; Matt. 21:23-32
Many people today think that by saying they believe in Christ and go to Church makes them a Christian. But as the saying goes sleeping in a garage does not make you a car. To become a Christian you need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Repentance is the first step we take to receive the salvation that God offers to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. A true Christian is a person who repents and enters into a personal relationship with Christ. He accepts being a sinner and turns to God. He knows who he is and he knows who Christ is and what Christ has accomplished on his behalf. There are many so called Christians who believe there are many ways to God. They apply physical situations to spiritual ones and because the world says there are many roads to Rome, there must also be many ways to God. They would rather believe what the world teaches than what Christ teaches and Christ clearly declares in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In fact there are many religions in the world today that present many different pictures of God. They even go to the extent of changing the Word of God to suit their own purposes. Changing the message of God is to change the God of the message. But to make God what He is not is known as idolatry. Jesus Christ became a man to reveal to us exactly who God is. He came to reveal to us the character and nature of God and that true repentance leads to salvation.
The mere mention of true repentance implies that there is also false repentance. We can feel guilty about sin and yet not repent. It is true that no one can repent unless that person feels guilty about sin, but not all who feel guilty actually repent. Some people are very sorry because of the consequences of their sin or because they have been caught. They are not sorry because of what they had done but because of the penalty they would receive. They equate this sorrow with repentance but this is definitely not the case. We cannot change the meaning of repentance to conflict with what the Bible declares. Jesus Christ is the truth whether we believe it or not. Our assumptions do not change the truth however much we would want them to or however reliable they may appear to be. When we rely on our assumptions we simply end up believing a lie. We end up living a life that accepts as truth our assumptions about ourselves and our situations and our assumptions about other people and their situations. False repentance can be easily discerned when one relies on self to resolve the problem. Many people attempt to become better persons by changing their way of life on their own and in their own strength. Any reliance on self denies the need for repentance. The one thing we can always rely on is the Word of God. Jesus Christ is the truth, His word is truth. He is the only one who can correct our thinking on sin and about self reliance and lead us to the truth. False repentance is also often a result of deception, a deception caused by pride. A person can become extremely proud when given worldly authority. A person can become very religious and observe religious practices and believe that his behaviour and life are righteous because of his occupied place of authority. Pride hinders true repentance. When the chief priests and elders assumed they had more authority than Christ they could not repent. Christ‘s personality, character, and words are clearly declaring the truth but it is only received by those who are listening.
Not only did Jesus expose the assumptions of the Pharisees He showed them how wrong they were. They remained and listened to His teachings although they were very critical of their behaviour. Without even realising it they were submitting themselves to a greater authority, the authority of Christ. They had to listen to the truth of His words that portrayed them as hypocrites. You cannot be a Christian and not submit to the authority of Christ. Neither can you be a Christian with a wrong conception of who Christ is. The evidence of repentance is a recognition of the person of Christ and manifests itself in a changed conduct. Repentance, when true and genuine, leads to confession and restitution. The repentant thief will return the money he stole. The thief who keeps the money only has conviction but no repentance. If he had repentance, he would go and give back the money. A repentant cheat will restore what he unjustly acquired and take care of those injured by his action. True repentance is a permanent change of character and conduct when we see God as a God of love who offers us forgiveness. Without a right conception of who God is we can go to Church and yet be no better off than an unbeliever. God is Holy and as sinners we can only come before Him in repentance. We should stop making excuses for our behaviour, admit responsibility for our sin, and ask for God’s forgiveness.