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Sermon 2019-10-13 Geoff Follas

 

GENUINE REPENTANCE

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we read about some of the problems in the church that had to be addressed.

People were arguing and fighting and creating divisions in the church, one guy was sleeping with his step mother, others were suing fellow believers in the secular courts, some were even getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper, and others were acting proud and arrogant with their spiritual gifts.

All this stuff had the potential to ruin the church and to bring dishonour to the name of the Lord and Paul as a responsible leader had to confront those involved.

In 1 Corinthians 3 he had to do some pretty straight talking to those who were causing divisions in the church and told they were behaving like immature, childish, worldly unbelievers.

In 1 Corinthians 5 he told the church people to remove the unrepentant adulterous man from the church.

In 1 Corinthians 6 he told the believers that they should settle their petty squabbles in the church and not parade them in public.

In 1 Corinthians 8 he told them to use their freedom considerately so as not to injure their weaker brothers and sisters in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 11 he pulled them up for abusing the Lord’s Supper and told them to be respectful towards each other and the Lord.

In chapter 12 he told them not to be proud about their spiritual gifts but to exercise them in love and humility.

This is probably the hardest task a church leader has to do. Confront sin in the church and call those responsible to repentance.

When I first started out in ministry I avoided doing this because I didn’t want to upset people and I hated conflict so I ignored some of the problems in the church and hoped they would go away, but I came to realize that as a leader who is accountable first and foremost to God, this was part of my responsibility, no matter how difficult it may be.

Paul reminded Timothy of this responsibility in 2 Timothy 4:1-2 “I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word; be prepared whether the time is favourable or not; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction.”

So why do we need to lovingly confront fellow believers when we see them going astray or behaving in ways that offend God and bring dishonour to the name of Jesus?

Not because we think we are better than them, not because we want to throw our weight around, not because we are critical, judgmental busy bodies, no, no no.

But like any good parent because we want God’s very best for them. We want them to change their wrong attitudes and behaviour and come back into the blessing of God’s will.

In short, we are calling them to acknowledge their wrongdoing and repent.

Five Points –

  • The Definition of Repentance.
  • The Motivation for Repentance.
  • The Source of Repentance.
  • The Evidence of Repentance.
  • The Results of Repentance.

 

THE DEFINITION OF REPENTANCE.

The Greek word for repentance is metanoia which is made up of two words meta = change, noia = mind, thinking, attitudes.

In the Christian context, repentance means that we need to have a complete turnaround in our thinking and attitudes towards God, others and sin. Before we became Christians the direction of our lives was away from God when we repent we change our minds and head towards God.

Real repentance for a Christian involves huge changes in our thinking and attitudes. From unbelief to belief in Christ, from a self-centred lifestyle to a Christ-centred lifestyle, from enjoying and indulging in sin to hating and renouncing it.

We used to sing a chorus years ago and words went like this:

Things are different now something happened to me

When I gave my heart to Jesus,

Things are different now I was changed it must be

When I gave my heart to Him,

Things I loved before have passed away

Things I love far more have come to stay

Things are different now something happened that day

When I gave my heart to Him.

 

David Watson told about John, a prisoner he used to visit in one of Britain’s top security prisons. John had a reputation for being one of the worst prisoners, consumed with hatred for the police in particular and for society in general. Something wonderful happened to John and he wrote this letter to David Watson.  “This is my 5th time in prison and I am serving eight years for fraud. I was dirty outside my body as I never used to wash. I was dirty inside my heart, lust, hatred, greed, revenge, anger and malice. Then I cried out to Jesus for help and He reached out to me. With his help I have given up pornography, I stopped using filthy language and greatest of all I now love the people I used to hate. I feel like a completely different person, like being born again and this is the great work Jesus has done in my life.

Repentance is not something we do once, it is ongoing, a life-long process of changing our thinking as God makes us aware of attitudes and behaviour that we need to address.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 12:2 “Be continually transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

During WW2 Basilea Schlink’s hometown of Darmstadt in Germany was completely destroyed by the Allied bombing raids. Basilea with a group of women believed God wanted them to build a Christian community among the ruins that would bring hope and healing to the devastated people of Darmstadt. The whole community was built on prayer and faith. They prayed and trusted God to supply all their needs and He miraculously did so. People would turn up with food and building materials just when they were needed. God even showed them where there was underground spring for their water supply when the city authorities said there was nothing there. The interesting thing is that whenever they struck a difficulty like machinery breaking down – they would stop their work and ask God to show them what the problem was. In nearly every case it involved some unconfessed sin among the women. Some resentment, some unresolved hurt or deception untruth and this would come out during their times of prayer. As they confessed and repented of these things the problems would be resolved. They discovered that ongoing repentance was a very important part of the Christian life.

 

THE MOTIVATION FOR REPENTANCE

What motivates people to repent, to turn their back on things that are wrong or harmful?

 

  • Fear of the consequences

Billy Graham says that the reason he repented and turned to Christ was because he was afraid of going to hell.

My dad who drank to excess and was regularly drunk told me that he gave up drinking because his doctor told him if he kept drinking at the current rate he would be dead within 5 years.   

One of the problems with this motivation is that many people turn their back on certain behaviour because they fear the consequences but in their heart, they still desire these things. They haven’t really let go in there. And I have seen people who have gone back to their old ways because they never really repented from their heart.

I want to point out 2 commendable motivations for repentance from the Bible: The kindness of God and Godly sorrow.

 

  • The kindness of God – Romans 2:4

One of the most powerful examples of kindness leading to repentance is found in the story “Les Miserable” where a released convict Jean Valjean is given food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne, while there he steals the Bishop’s silver, but he is later arrested and brought before the Bishop who tells the police that he gave Jean Valjean the silver and even gives him his silver candlesticks as well. The Bishop said to Jean Valjean. “The reason I have done this is to inspire you to turn your back on crime and become an honest man.” Jean Valjean is so powerfully moved by the Bishop’s kindness that he does exactly that.  

Romans 2:4 God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

We who deserve nothing but death and judgement because of our rebellion and indifference towards God have been shown love, kindness and forgiveness through Jesus death on the cross.

God has done that in the hope that we will turn away from everything that is wrong and offensive in our lives and follow Jesus.

The other commendable motivation for repentance is found in the scripture we read this morning.

 

  • Godly sorrow – 2 Corinthians 7:10

When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church he had to do some tough talking because of the things that were wrong in their lives and relationships and he pointed out how their behaviour had caused him and the Lord so much pain and sadness.

When they realised their behaviour had wounded and grieved those who loved them so much they were overcome with sorrow and that sorrow motivated them to repent.

I have often said that the greatest motivation to change is when we see how our behaviour is affecting those who love us and we love.

Whenever Lois has pointed out something that I have done or said that has really hurt her, I have just stopped doing it, because the last thing I want to do is hurt my wife.

When Peter saw how his denial affected Jesus, he went out of the courtyard and wept bitterly. He repented.

Godly sorrow is when we see how our attitudes and behaviour are grieving the Lord and injuring those we love. It is a powerful and wholesome motive. We hate what we are doing and hate the effect it is having on those we love.

Paul also talks here about worldy sorrow, but I don’t have time to go into that except to say that worldly sorrow generally comes from being found out, being exposed, being faced with the consequences – that does not lead to true repentance.

 

THE SOURCE OF REPENTANCE

I love this concept. Everything God commands us to do, He also enables us to do.

Under the Old Testament law, the Jews were expected to keep all God’s commandments and rules, but the law never raised a finger to help them. The kept failing because of their human weakness.

In Galatians, Paul says that God gave them the law to show them how weak they were and how they constantly fell short of its demands. In other words, God’s moral law shows us where we have failed to meet its demands and that we need mercy and forgiveness. Under the new covenant, God still commands us but He gives us the motivation and the power to carry out those commands.

Grace – God doing for us, in us and through what we cannot do by ourselves. And when God commands us to repent He works in us giving us the desire and the ability to do so.

Five times in the New Testament we read that God gave people the opportunity and ability to repent. Acts 11:18

“When the Jewish believers heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

 

THE EVIDENCE OF REPENTANCE

When John the Baptist was preaching at the Jordan River he urged the people to repent of their sins and be baptised. When the religious leaders came to be baptised he told them to “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

True repentance will always be seen in a real change in our attitudes and behaviour.

It reminds me of the guy who became a Christian and his work mates gave him a hard time because of his decision. One workmate said, “You don’t believe all that stuff about miracles like Jesus turning water into wine.” The new believer answered, “I don’t know about Jesus turning water into wine, but in our home, He has turned beer into furniture.”

Tony Evans, a black Pastor in Fort Worth Texas told of how he came to Christ. His dad’s behaviour was so bad that his mother couldn’t take any more and they were heading for divorce. But then one night something changed. A friend shared the gospel with Tony’s dad and he became a Christian. The first thing the family noticed was his total change in attitude and behaviour. From being selfish, cruel and bad tempered he became caring, loving and considerate. Tony wrote, “My father developed the habit of getting up at midnight, praying that God would bring his family to Christ. One night my mother came downstairs to the living room where my father was praying. She began crying even before she reached the living room. When my father asked what was wrong, with anguished tears and a desperate heart she said the unforgettable: ‘The worse I am to you, the better you are to me, so whatever you have must be real. How can I have it too?’ That night my father led my mother to Christ and soon after all 4 of us children. came to Christ. They saw the fruit of repentance. The fact is that if there is no evidence of repentance there hasn’t been any.

 

THE RESULTS OF REPENTANCE

God’s forgiveness – Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

Joy – After Basilea Schlink had gone through the experience of building the community of faith in Darmstadt she wrote a book entitled “Repentance the joy-filled Life”.

To repent can be a humbling and hurtful experience because you have to admit you are wrong and that will hurt your pride. So many people avoid that experience and they try to justify themselves, blame others, blame circumstances so they can keep their pride in tact.

Your pride is God’s enemy and your enemy. It fights for survival every time it is threatened, but it will rob you of the joy and freedom that comes with honesty, transparency and forgiveness.

The devil tells us that if we admit we are wrong and repent we will feel shamed and condemned. The opposite is true.

When the Holy Spirit or even a fellow Christian has pointed out something in my life that is not right, it has been a painful experience. To be confronted with the truth about yourself. But when I have acknowledged it, confessed it and repented of it I have felt so released. I have discovered there is no condemnation. My pride has received a mighty blow and I have come away filled with joy and thanksgiving. It’s wonderful.

Repentance will set you free to enter heaven but first, it will hurt like hell.

Psalm 32 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!”

Closing song: “Create in me a clean heart”