Mike Gerhardt, 10-21-18, Repentance, Acts 2:38. Maybe you have seen it: the quivering curled lip, glassy tearing eyes, the bowing of the head, and broken words: I'm sorry. But watch out for the glance, the peering of one eye to see if they have done it right, then the pause, the listening for the words: Oh, I forgive you. Then comes the hug and the all-important question: So, can I have some ice cream now?
Like Pavlov's dog, have we trained our children to respond by just saying: I'm sorry when they really don't mean it? Do these words constitute repentance? Is this what we have learned to say to God our Father? There is a difference between feeling sorry and feeling saved.
Last week we said we must believe and be transformed. Transformation is what we need; not another religion nor more religion. We need is a dynamic communion with God our Father and creator, a new life in the love of Jesus, and a manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. Transformation begins with the fruit of a complete conversion. It is an identity with Christ in an intentional spiritual life of loving God and loving others. Transformation begins with a belief that changes us inside out, a behavior that influences those around us.
It is More than Remorse. To convert a Jew, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Muslim or Animist to Christ, belief changes everything: structures in thinking, assumptions, disciplines, and behaviors which are antithetical to following Jesus.
As we investigate beginning well and the elements of a good conversion, we will discover that God the Father desires his fallen humans to be transformed into the image of His Son Jesus. This takes belief, repentance, assurance, commitment, community, and the Spirit's filling.
Today we look at repentance. The verb repent means to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's sin or wrongdoing. It is not necessarily a spiritual exercise.
John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot spewed forth rude and obnoxious profanity. John tried to change the bird’s language by saying only polite words and playing music with uplifting lyrics. Nothing worked. John was fed up, and in desperation, put the bird in the freezer. The parrot screamed profanity, then suddenly was quiet. Fearing the parrot was dead, John opened the freezer. The parrot calmly said I believe I may have offended you with my rude language. I’m sincerely remorseful for my transgressions and I fully intend to correct my language. John was stunned. The bird continued, May I ask what the turkey in the freezer did?
To grieve over sin is one thing, but to repent before God is another. A.W. Tozer: A thousand years of remorse over a wrong act would not please God as much as a change of conduct and a reformed life. Even the ungodly feel sorry. Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Lypeo (loo-peh’-o) grieve, sorrow, sadness. Acts 24:24-25 Felix sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Enphobos fear within. John 19:8-16 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. Phobos fear, reverence. Mark 6:26-28 Herod the king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So, he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. Peri-lypos exceedingly sorry. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it... 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.
True repentance has a double aspect: an acknowledgment of sin and a confrontation with sin. It looks upon the past with a weeping eye and upon the future with a watchful eye.
Peter spoke clearly: Repent and be baptized. In Acts 3:19: Repent, then and turn to God. John the Baptizer's message in Matthew 3:2: Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Jesus had the same message Matthew 4:17: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
The Greek word metanoia appears over 50 times in the NT. Meta means change; noia means mind. This word is translated repent meaning to change your mind about sin.
We looked at John's gospel last week. John emphasized true belief and transformation. John, however, does not use the verb or noun metanoia. I used to make a big deal about this. John's Gospel taught us to believe. The other Gospels taught us to repent. Both are important to transformation.
In an old book called Love Story by Erich Segal, we were taught that love means never having to say you're sorry. Which is ridiculous. Repentance is different from just saying you’re sorry. Repentance is a rejection of sin. Saying you're sorry is a beginning but it is not true repentance before God. It is a turning away from sin, turning from the life of sin and turning radically toward Jesus as Lord of our life. Repentance is a repudiation of sin, that is to reject sin as having authority or binding force over us. We are indeed free in Jesus to do righteousness in His power. Conversion is as much a turning from sin as a turning to Jesus. We also must understand the power of God in us that will keep us from that sin for which we feel sorry and move us to be busy in loving God and loving others. We must repent of lust, pride, coveting, lying, apathy, laziness, overeating, arrogance, selfishness (did I miss anything) and be true to the great command (love God and love others) the great commission (take the gospel into all the world) and the golden rule (do to others and as you would have them do to you). William Secker, 17th century: Some have tears for their outward losses, but none for their inward lusts; they can mourn for the evil that sin brings, but not for the sin which brings the evil. Pharaoh more lamented the hard strokes which were upon him, that the hard heart that was within him. Esau mourned not because he sold the birthright, which was his sin, but because he lost the blessing, which was his punishment. This is like weeping with an onion, the eye sheds tears because it smarts.
Faith is a response to truth proclaimed and heard, an encounter that leads to spiritual transformation. The bottom line is understanding who Jesus is. But conversion isn't simply a matter of believing something to be true, a comparing of two sets of belief systems. Picking one because it best suits my needs. The heart of conversion is a personal encounter with Jesus, the crucified and risen one, who calls for our worship and submission. Repentance is the Penitential Component of conversion. If belief is intellectual, then repentance is penitential. Penitential means to express sorrow for wrongdoing and to intend to atone for one’s crimes and to amend one’s life. A prison that houses criminals is sometimes called Penitentiary, from the word penance. But this is not spiritual repentance. It is more than turning from sin, it is also turning from the enemy of our soul to the Redeemer of our soul, Jesus. It includes a regular confession to Jesus as a context for fellowship. 1 John1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
My grandmother went into the hospital the week of my high school graduation. Only my mother came to the ceremony, arriving late after the closing prayer as we walked off the field. Graduating at 16 in New Jersey, I still didn’t have my permit and didn’t get my license until I was 2 months into college. For this and many other things, I was angry with my parents and wasn’t speaking to them. I was working at Mc Donald’s to pay for school when my sister called to let me know that grandmom died late November 1970. My father wanted to pick me up after work, a ninety-minute drive one way, to take me to his mother’s funeral. When I saw him: we both said together I’m sorry I hurt you please forgive me. Then we hugged and talk during the drive home. And we never stopped talking until he went home to be with the Lord.
Sometimes when you say you’re sorry, you actually mean it and a relationship is repaired. That’s what God wants. Not, God, I’m sorry can I have some ice cream now. Not, God, I’m sorry but it wasn’t my fault. But God, I’m sorry for my sin. Help me to live for you. You must believe, and you must repent!