2 CORINTHIANS 7:10-11
The handwriting was shaky. The stationery was lined loose-leaf paper. The ink was black and the tone was desperate. The note was dated Feb. 6, 1974 & was addressed to the U.S. government.
“I am sending $10 for blankets I stole while in WW 2. My mind could not rest. Sorry I’m late.” It was signed, “an ex-GI.” Then there was this postscript, “I want to be ready to meet God.”
This recruit was not alone in his guilt. His letter is one of literally tons of letters that have been sent to the U.S. government since it began collecting and storing the letters in 1811. Millions of dollars have been deposited in what is called the Conscience Fund.
In some instances, the amounts are small, but the remorse is big. One Colorado woman sent in two 8-cent stamps to make up for having used one stamp twice, which for some reason had not been canceled. A former IRS employee mailed in one dollar for four ballpoint pens she had never returned to the office.
A Salem, Ohio man submitted one dollar with the following note, “When I was a boy, I put a few pennies on the railroad track & the train flattened them. I also used a dime or a quarter in a silver-coating experiment in high school. I understand there is a law against defacing our money. I have not seen it but I desire to be a law-abiding citizen.”
Here’s my favorite one. Some guy sent in a check to U.S. Treasury to cover his tax on income he had failed to report. The note read- “I am sending you this check for tax that I owe. I’ve not been able to sleep knowing that I owed this money. So here it is. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.”
All those stories illustrate that if you are truly sorry about what you’ve done, you’ll do something about it.
Today’s message is “Genuine Repentance”. Repentance is not a popular theme, even in many churches today. But when repentance is talked about, it is usually diluted to just being sorry about what one has done.
But repentance is more than being remorseful for what we have done. Let’s read what Paul wrote about the connection between being sorry and repentance.
2 CORINTHIANS 7:10-11
Paul tells us that being sorry is not the same as repenting. He states that godly sorrow leads us to repent. If we are sincerely sorry we will repent.
So, let’s look at the subject of repentance today. It is an important subject. It was the message that Jesus proclaimed as he started his ministry:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 4:17
Since repentance is more than feeling remorseful, what is genuine repentance?
We are going to look at 4 words that are associated with repentance. The first word is…..
A lady was walking past a pet store when a parrot said to her, “Hey, lady! You’re really ugly!” This made the lady angry but she continued on her way.
On the way home, she passed the pet store again, and the parrot once more said, “Hey, lady! You’re really ugly!” This time she was so mad that she went into the store and told the owner what the parrot had said. The pet store owner apologized profusely and promised he would make sure the parrot didn’t say it again.
The next day the lady deliberately passed by the pet store to test the parrot. “Hey, lady!” the bird said. “Yes, she replied.” The parrot said- “You know.”
We have a hard time facing the truth about ourselves. In the spiritual realm, we don’t want to admit to ourselves or any one else that we’ve done something wrong. It’s probably one of the first lies any of us ever told. You did something wrong as a child. Mom or Dad wanted to know who did this? Our reply was, “I dunno. Or not me.”
We grow up and become adults who may not always be honest about the wrong we’ve done in our lives. We deny doing wrong. We offer up excuses to justify sinful behavior. We rationalize our actions. We’ll do everything except to admit, “I was wrong”.
Now when we won’t admit that we’ve been wrong, then we are wrong. John wrote:
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” – 1 John 1:8 & 10
The road to repentance begins with the first step of conviction. To own our sin. King David confessed:
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” – Psalm 51:3
On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter told the people that their sins had crucified Jesus, the Bible says that they were CUT TO THE HEART. They were convicted about their sin. They asked Peter, what should we do? Peter told them to repent and be baptized.
Conviction is where we feel guilt over the sin that is in our lives. We become convicted, either by our conscience or by the Word of God, that we have done wrong.
The first step towards repentance is to have a repentant sprit that says, “I’m guilty. I am a sinner. We agree with the Scripture that says there is none righteous, no not one and that includes me. On my very best day, I am simply a sinner saved by grace.
Here’s the 2nd word when it comes to repentance:
A repentant spirit is a remorseful spirit. We’re sorry for what we have done. But some people aren’t remorseful. They are resentful. They are angry that they got caught and they get mad at the person who confronts them or caught them in the act.
Paul wrote about 2 types of sorrow in our Scripture. One is worldly sorrow. That is the type of sorrow that leads a person to be resentful when they get caught. They are sorry that they got caught.
This is a selfish type of sorrow. They are only upset about all the trouble their sin has brought into their lives. They are only concerned about how their being caught has impacted them. They aren’t sorry that their actions have hurt others. They have no remorse that their sin is an offense to God.
On the other hand, if we are truly repentant, we will be filled with godly sorrow. We will be humble and contrite. We won’t just be sorry for our sin. We’ll be broken-hearted over our sin.
Now, why should we be broken-hearted over our sin? Is sin really that a big of a dead? Sin is a big deal! Our sin is what nailed Jesus to the cross. Dr. Jack Cottrell says that sin is a wound in the heart of God.
Therefore we ought to be as broken-hearted as Peter who went out and wept bitterly after he had denied Jesus. Now when we get to the point of being broken-hearted over our sin, we’re closer to God. Here’s the promise:
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
Bob Russell wrote-“God loves the broken heart, the bent knee and the tearful eye. We need to be crushed because of our sin.” That ought to be our response when we sin. And when we do, God will comfort us and forgive us. David wrote:
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17
Do you want to atone for your sin? It begins with a humble, contrite spirit that is broken-hearted over your sin. But repentance is more than shedding a few tears as we will see in a moment. But, first, let’s look at the 3rd word associated with repentance:
John the Baptist’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. In other words, people who were coming to John were demonstrating their repentance by being baptized. One thing that they did as they were receiving that baptism of repentance was to confess their sins. The Scripture says- “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”
Confessing one’s sins is a characteristic of a repentant spirit. Instead of denying our sin, we admit it.
Confession means that we agree with God that what we have done is wrong. So many people in our culture today no longer accept what the Bible says. They no longer acknowledge that certain behavior is a sin. But a person with a repentant heart accepts what God has to say about their sin. David confessed to God, “I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
We’ve all heard the adage, “Confession is good for the soul.” And it is. First of all, listen to what David wrote when he kept quiet about his sin:
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” -Psalm 32:3-4
David was miserable because he had not confessed his sin. He was miserable. Unconfessed sin is a heavy burden that weighs down a person’s soul. Now, let’s hear the blessing that comes from confessing one’s sin. David went on to write:
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” – Psalm 32:5
Confession brings about forgiveness. The burden of guilt is removed. John wrote about this in the NT:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
This verse is the Etch-A-Sketch verse of the Bible. Remember the Etch-A Sketch? You could sketch out your name, a house or a picture of something. And when you messed up, as I often did, you could simply turn it over and shake it. And you got a clean slate.
That’s what confessing one’s sins does. It brings about cleansing from our sins. It gives us a clean slate.
But did you notice that little word at the beginning of that verse? It’s the little word IF. That little word IF may just be the biggest word in the Bible. IF we confess our sins. Some won’t. some don’t. They don’t have a repentant spirit and thus they don’t receive forgiveness.
One more thing on confession and then we’ll move on to our 4th word. If we’re truly broken-hearted over our sin, we can’t have a half-hearted confession. Here’s what I mean.
Few, if any of us here, would say, “I’m not a sinner. I’ve never sinned.” But when it comes down to confessing specific sins, how many of us try to excuse ourselves, explain away our actions, justify ourselves or blame our circumstances or blame someone else? It’s not much of a confession when we say, “I know what I did was wrong, but it wasn’t really my fault.”
Confession must come with no qualifiers. There should be no-“Well, I know what I did was wrong, but you don’t know what I’ve been going through….you don’t know the stress I’ve been under.”
Genuine repentance knows no such half-hearted confessions. A person with a truly repentant heart takes full responsibility for their sin. I did wrong. Period. No explanation. No excuses. We agree with God that our behavior is wrong and we own it.
Now we come to the 4th and final word. It is the most crucial word where repentance is concerned:
Conviction, contrition and confession put us on the doorstep of repentance. But repentance isn’t complete until we change.
The word repent means to change. Repentance is a change of the mind that leads to a change in our lives. Repentance affects both our belief system and our behavior.
Repentance involves having a different perspective on sin than we used to. Whereas before we might not have seen our sin as God sees it, now we do. We come to the realization that our sinful behavior violates God’s holy laws.
This then leads to a change in our behavior for the better. We turn from our sin and live life God’s way. Repentance brings about a spiritual 180 turn in our lives.
God requires this. When the people were coming to John the Baptist to be baptized, some religious leaders also came. John knew that they were unrepentant. He told them to produced fruit in keeping with repentance. In other words, there needed to be a change in their hearts and their lives.
As we read at the beginning of my message, repentance was Jesus’ message as he ushered in the kingdom of God.
Dr. John MacArthur wrote-“Repentance was and has always continued to be the first demand of the gospel, the first requirement of salvation and the first element of the saving work of the Spirit in the soul.”
So, initially, we repent when we turn away from a life without Jesus and come to him for salvation. And, once we become a Christian, we need to repent every time we sin.
And that means we change. Bob Russell wrote-“When we repent, we change. We change our minds, we change our value system, we change our attitudes, we change the direction of our lives. It takes more than admission of guilt, it takes more than tears. It takes genuine repentance, a change of mind and direction.
Whether we realize it or not, we sing about repentance when we sing the hymn-Since Jesus came into my heart. It starts out: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, Since Jesus came into my heart.” And then the 2ndstanza starts out- “I have ceased from my wandering and going astray, Since Jesus came into my heart.”
So, let me ask you what changes have taken place in your life now that you are a Christian? What changes still need to take place?
Now, when we think of life changes, when it comes to repentance, we think about repenting from wrong behavior. That is true. But is there another side to the coin of repentance? I think there is.
While there are some things we stop doing when we repent, there are also some things we need to start doing. The Bible identifies 2 types of sin. First, there are sins of commission. The sins we commit. The wrongful things we do.
But there are also sins of omission. The things we should be doing for the Lord that we aren’t doing. James wrote about this:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” – James 4:17
Not doing something good for God is just as much of a sin as doing something that is wrong. So, we need to repent of our sins of omission.
Students from Strayer University took to the streets of NYC to conduct an experiment. They set up a chalkboard on a sidewalk, provided people with pieces of chalk and asked them to write their biggest regret on the chalkboard. The chalkboard was soon filled to overflowing with written regrets.
On the board were things like…never speaking up….not being a good husband…should have spent more time with family….not saying “I love you”….never applying to med school….not making the most of every day….not being a better friend.
As the board filled up with so many different stories, the students noticed that almost all of the regrets had one thing in common. Nearly all of them involved the word NOT. The regrets centered around the things that people had NOT done.
Are there some things you regret NOT doing for God? Things you should have done…things you should be doing that you aren’t doing? We can repent & start doing those things….today.
We repent for the very first time when we turn from our sin and receive Jesus as our Savior. This will bring us salvation. We have no regrets when we come to Jesus. Only rejoicing.
If you need to repent by turning your life over to Jesus, we invite you to come down to the altar as we sing our invitation song. You can confess your faith and be baptized.
If you want to place your membership & join our church family, come as well….as we stand and sing.