What party did you go to last week?
Any of you go to any of the parties? This was a party in town last week. There was the big party, the extravaganza over at the Capitol Center where Barbara Streisand was there, Michael Jackson, Little Richard. There was a very emotional reunion for Fleetwood Mac. And not only was the concert sold out, but the rehearsal was sold out the night before. And then there were 12 inaugural balls, official ones, I think there were more. And Mr. Clinton made his way around to all of them, although it took him until after 2 a.m. to get there. He played saxophone with Benny King and jammed with the likes of Kenny Loggins at the Arkansas ball.
Then he went over to the D.C. Armory where he played with the greatest sax player I think maybe of all time, Clarence Clemons. And it was on television, I don't know if you watched any of it. But I was laying there in bed with Brenda and we were watching this. And I said as I watched him up there on stage, I said to her, I said, will you take this in, now take this in. This is the President of the United States playing on the saxophone your mama don't dance and your daddy don't rock and roll. This is the President of the United States. Now somehow I just can't imagine President Reagan playing your mama don't dance and your daddy don't rock and roll. Can you?
On anything, harmonica, fiddle, anything. Life has really changed. Hasn't it around here? Well, you know, I can't really say I fault the new administration for all the partying.
I guess when you're happy about something as they are and you want to celebrate, then the normal thing to do, whether it's a birthday or an anniversary or a new home or a new child or getting engaged, the human thing to do is we throw a party and we invite people in and we celebrate. And I understand that. Did you know the Bible says that that same thing happens in heaven? I said, no, really? That party's in heaven? Yes. They do.
Not exactly the same as on earth, but very similar in many respects. The Bible says that they do. And the one that I want to concentrate on is one that happens a lot. There are some parties like the marriage feast of the lamb that the Bible says only happens once.
But there's a particular type of partying that happens a lot. Here it comes. It's in Luke 15. Listen, it says in the same way, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God. One sinner repents.
Hear what the Bible says? The Bible says that every time a person here on earth repents, the angels in heaven get together and are excited and rejoice and have a party. The Bible never says the angels in heaven throw a party when you get a big raise or when we receive a promotion or when we win a ball game or when we secure a big contract. But when we repent, the Bible says the angels have a party. And it seems to me if repentance makes God this happy, then it must be pretty important. And if it's this important to God, then we ought to make sure we understand what repentance is so we can do it.
And that's what I want to talk to you about this morning. Let's look here in Luke chapter three. It says here in the 50th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and then he lists out many of the other officials. Verse two, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert.
Now, this is the man we commonly call John the right. And if you want to get a timeframe for when this happened, look down at verse 23. Now, Jesus, when he came to be baptized by John, was about 30 years old when he began his public ministry. So what we have done in this chapter is we have jumped 18 years or thereabouts from chapter two when Jesus was 12 to chapter three when he's now 30 years old and about to enter his official public ministry. And when this is happening, suddenly John the Baptist comes out of the Judean desert as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and he comes with a very clear and distinct message that he's carrying.
Look at verse three. And he went into all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance. That's his message, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And Matthew's gospel said many people were coming to him, confessing their sins and being baptized by him. And this is as it was written in the Old Testament by the prophet Isaiah, the voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
John has a very distinct and clear message. His message was the message of repentance. The word that is translated repentance in English is the Greek word metanoia.
Oh, it literally means to change your mind, to have a change of perspective or change of outlook. And this is not some surfacing thing the Bible is talking about, but rather it's a change of heart that is so deep and so profound that it alters your perspective and your attitude and your outward actions forever. If you or I have repented over some issue in life, we will never think about that issue the same. We will never evaluate that issue the same. We will never react to that issue the same and we will never respond in light of that issue the same ever. If we repent in terms of our whole life in its direction, then our whole life will never go in the same direction again.
Repentance really means a profound change of heart and mind towards some issue or your whole life. I saw a bumper sticker not too long ago. It said this, going the wrong way, God permits U-turns.
Don't you like that? That's a great bumper sticker. That's one of the few I think I would actually put on my car if I knew where to get one. And I'll probably get hundreds in the mail now and I promise I'll put yours on my car, okay? But I don't know where to get that, but it's a great bumper sticker and basically repentance is a U-turn in all or part of your life.
It's an about face. Several years ago I was having a physical for a life insurance policy and so the lady came over my house and she brought all her little equipment and she came in my living room and she said, now just lay down on the couch. Don't worry about all the children running around and yelling and screaming and throwing things at each other and getting in the things in the kitchen and the noise you hear with the dishes clinkling around. Don't worry about all of that. Just lay down and relax and I'll take your blood pressure. So she did. Guess what? It was high. Well, I didn't think anything of it. I said, well, it's because of all the noise and the confusion and the stress and so I wrote it off. But a few months later I went to see my family doctor on another issue and I said, look, while I'm in here and paying you anyway, how about putting that old jobby around my arm and seeing what my blood pressure is? And he said, okay, and he pumped that little thing up and guess what? It was high.
And there were no children there. And I was relaxed. So, you know, my dad died of heart attacks and he had high blood pressure for the most part of his life and so I thought, uh-oh, uh-oh, I don't want that to happen. So I looked the doctor in the face after he told me and I said, well, doc, what medicine do I need to go on? I mean, maybe I need to go on some medicine to reduce my blood pressure and whatever and you just need to tell me and what do I, how to, and he put his arm right on my shoulder, looked me right in the eyeballs.
I'll never forget it. And he said to me, son, I hate it when they call me son. He said, son, you don't need any medicine. He said, what you need, son, is to lose 30 pounds. And he did not smile when he said it.
And I didn't smile either. And so I came home and I said to Brenda, Brenda, I'm going to lose 30 pounds. And she said, right. I said, no, no, no, I mean it. I'm going to change the way I eat. I'm going to change my habits. I'm not going to eat Oreos at 11 o'clock at night. I'm not going to eat all kinds of sweets in between meals. I'm not going to eat one meal at six and another meal at 830 in the evening. I'm going to change the way I eat. I'm going to cut down my fat intake. And except for a couple of little donuts in the morning, I'm going to completely change my diet. And you know what?
I did. And I lost 30 pounds and I've kept it off. And that is a great example of a dietary repentance. That is a U-turn in your diet. But John the Baptist was not calling on people to do dietary repentance unless you really need it. He was really calling on people to do spiritual repentance, meaning that we look to any place in our life where we are out of step with God and in that area we make a U-turn. When an alcoholic decides to quit drinking and join AA, that is an act of spiritual repentance that is a U-turn, a spiritual U-turn in their life. When a workaholic father decides to put his family first, that is a piece of spiritual repentance and a U-turn in his life. When a dating couple decides to stop having sex until after they're married and they really do it, that is spiritual repentance. When a manipulator decides that they're not going to be a person who manipulates anymore but they're going to become a person of full disclosure and everything, that is spiritual repentance. When a person involved in an affair decides to call it off and confess what they've done and restore their marriage, that is spiritual repentance. When a guy decides to stop undressing women with his eyes and with his mind everywhere he goes, that is spiritual repentance. When a person decides to stop reading and watching pornography, that is spiritual repentance. Those are examples of spiritual U-turns when we sense that we're out of step with God in some area of our life and we decide to turn. Now why did God send John preaching repentance?
What was his purpose? Look, verse 4. It says, the voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord. Now this is the essential point I want you to grasp this morning.
If you miss this, you miss it all. The ministry of John the Baptist got people ready, do you see that? For the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Do you see that? That's why he came. The ministry of John the Baptist was to get people ready for the ministry of Jesus Christ. Now we know what the ministry of John the Baptist was.
It was calling people to spiritual repentance. What was the ministry of Jesus Christ that he was getting people ready for? Jesus Christ was a ministry of grace, that is God giving us things we don't deserve. For example, like reconciliation with God and forgiveness of our sin before God and a new beginning with God and adoption by God and eternal life with God and peace with God. These are the things that Jesus Christ came to minister to us and God is thrilled to offer those things to us. And more from his loving hand.
He wants us to have all of those things. But remember, the ministry of John the Baptist is what prepares us for the ministry of Jesus. Or in other words, repentance always precedes grace. The order never reverses. You never get grace before repentance. It never happens that way.
It cannot happen that way. The exciting thing is grace always follows repentance. You repent, you will get grace from God. But if you want grace from God, you will never get it. I will never get it unless John the Baptist ministry comes first in our life.
And the Bible presents this as God's unchanging formula. Listen, Luke 24. After Jesus was raised from the dead, he said, Now you all go out and here's what you're to preach.
You're to preach. And I quote that repentance. And then listen to the order. And then forgiveness of sin is offered to all nations beginning in Jerusalem.
Did you catch the order, though? Not forgiveness of sins and then repentance, but repentance and then forgiveness of sin. And in Acts Chapter three, when Peter was preaching, he said, Repent. And then as a result, your sins may be wiped out. Folks, if you want to do business with God, if I want to do business with God, God does business with people on one basis only on the basis of repentance.
He does not do business with people on the basis of position. Would you notice it says farther down in verse seven, John said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him. And we know from Matthew's gospel that among these crowds in great number were the religious leaders of Israel, the Sadducees, the Pharisees. Look what John said to these religious leaders who had the highest positions in the nation.
He said, You brood of vipers, you bunch of snakes who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Produce fruit in your life that's in keeping with repentance. See, God's not interested in people's position.
He doesn't do business with people on the basis of position. God's not interested in people's race or their creed or who their mother was or what nation they were born or what heritage they had. Look at verse eight. It says, And do not say to yourself, We have Abraham as our father. We don't need to repent. We're Abraham's descendants. No, no, that won't work.
That dog won't hunt. We have Abraham as our father. You think so? I tell you that out of these own stones, God can raise up the children for Abraham. That doesn't make a difference to God.
I've met people who said to me, I'm Catholic, I'm Methodist, I'm Jewish, I'm Muslim, I'm Mormon, I'm this, I'm that, I'm the other. I don't have to worry about personal repentance because I'm this, that or the other. Whoa, hold on. I said that dog won't hunt. That's not going to work. God doesn't do business with people on the basis of your religion, your creed, your heritage. No, God doesn't do business with people based upon their religious performance, even their Christian religious performance. I sing in the choir. So what? God's not going to do business with you because you sing in the choir.
Oh, I'm an usher. That's great. But that's not why God's going to do business with you. Oh, I got Sunday school pins all the way down my chest and onto the floor.
I haven't missed a Sunday in 22 years. Great. That's good. But God's not going to do business with you on that basis.
No. God does business with people on one basis only. Repent. Repent.
That's what Peter said. So that your sins may be wiped away. Repentance and forgiveness of sin is to be preached to every nation. That's what John the Baptist came preaching, and that's what you and I have got to come to grips with. And it leads me to ask the most important question of the morning, and that is, so what?
Yeah. You know, friends, in terms of answering that question, I don't believe there's a one of us here this morning, whether you're a Christian or you're not, that doesn't need to understand and practice repentance. If you're here and you're not a Christian and you've never given your life to Jesus Christ, then could I say to you that God says in the Bible in the past, Acts 17, God overlooked your ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. And if you want to know the things that Jesus Christ is offering to people, forgiveness of sin, promise of heaven, his personal presence in our life, that only comes when we're willing to repent, not just on one issue or another issue, but over the whole direction of our life and say, man, my whole life is going in the wrong direction.
I need to make a U-turn. And even for those of us who have done that, who are Christians, repentance is not the kind of thing you do one time when you become a Christian. That's the last time you ever do it.
No, no. Jesus said, Revelation Chapter three, talking to Christians, not to unsaved people. Those whom I love, I rebuke and I discipline, therefore be earnest and repent. He's talking to us, people like you and me who know Christ.
If you're here and you know the Lord, once we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God sets out to conform us to the image of Christ. And there are a lot of impurities in our lives that stand in the way of his doing that. As God rebukes those impurities, he expects us to repent of them, to make a U-turn in that area and say, God, you are right.
I am wrong. This is costing me the blessing of God. This is something that offends you. This is something you want dealt with. I'm making a U-turn. I maintain repentance ought to be a regular part of every Christian life every day. So I don't care whether you're Christian or you're not. You need to know how to repent.
I need to know how to repent. Let me give you four handles on this to make it practical. Four steps or practical handles to make it work.
Copy these down. They all start with C. And you know, I mentioned earlier Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I don't know how many of you are familiar with it or have ever been involved in AA, but the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is really just a very fine way of putting handles on the issue of repentance.
That's all it is. And I maintain that all of us may not be candidates for AA, but we are all candidates for SA, Sinners Anonymous, because I maintain that there's not a one of us here who doesn't need recovery from the effects of sin in our life. So if you need recovery, whether it's from alcohol or something else, the 12 steps of AA are marvelous.
Marvelous plan as to how to deal with those areas. And I'm going to use some of those steps to talk about the four principles that I'm going to give you. Step number one. We need, here comes the first C, to change our mind. We need to admit that we are going in the wrong direction. Now, for many of us, this is the biggest and the hardest step of all. Step number one in AA is, I admit that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable.
I am out of control and self-destructing and there's not a thing I can do to stop it myself. That is a hard thing for people to admit. Nobody likes to admit they're wrong. Nobody likes to admit that their behavior in general or in some specific area of life is causing them to self-destruct.
And you know what the issue is? The issue is pride. That's all just straightforward pride. And if you find yourself on the inside listening to me this morning and going, and fighting it with everything you're worth, I can tell you what the problem is. The problem is pride. Your pride.
And people will cling to their pride right down to the last gasp. Now, if you've ever driven with a male who loses his way, you have seen this in spades. Women will easily stop and admit that they don't know where they're going or they've lost their way and ask for directions. With men, we will not do it. It is an ego thing with us. You say, Lon, that is too general and it is sexist.
I admit it is general and I admit it is sexist, but I bet it's probably right. A few years ago, someone gave us a timeshare down in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We'd never been there. And they said, you've got it for a week.
Take the family and get away. We said, that's a great idea. So we headed down driving into Tennessee and as we were kind of getting there, it was getting real late. So I looked on the map and I saw a shortcut to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And I said, I'm going to get off and I'm going to take this shortcut. And Brenda said, are you really sure you are?
No, no, no. Under control, dear. Under control. So we got off and we got on this little road. And as we traveled, the road got a little bit littler and a little bit littler and a little bit littler and a little bit littler.
And looked more and more remote. And Brenda would say things like, do you think maybe we ought to stop at this little service station here and ask if we're, you know, going to right. No, no, no. Right here on the map. I got it. Look right here. I mean, it's pretty.
I mean, yeah, I think I got it. And it's OK. We'll lose time. We'll get there too late.
The kids are already hungry. No, no, no. And I just kept on going. Finally got dark. And there weren't very many places to stop and ask your way on anymore. And then there were no places to stop and ask your way on anymore. And I kept saying, no, I'm sure this is the right road.
I'm positive we're doing this right. And then we came around this curve and there was one of these signs in the road that you could see kind of illuminated in the headlights. And I thought, that's it.
That's the sign I've been looking for. And I pointed up ahead and I said, there it is. And we rode up to the sign and guess what the sign said? It said, Welcome to North Carolina. That's really what it said.
Welcome to North Carolina. Now, we haven't forgotten that around my house. But you see, my point is this. You've got to admit you're lost before you're willing to stop and ask for help. That's the biggest problem in people repenting before God. The problem is admitting that we are in trouble. And this is where repentance has to start with a humble recognition on our part that we are out of step with God in all our part of our lives and that it is costing us the blessing of God.
You say, Lon, how do you discover that? Well, if you pick up the Bible and you read it, God will tell you all about it. And for some of us, that's enough. God produces conviction in our life. And we say, God, you're right, I need to make a U-turn. Some of us, that's not good enough. For some of us, we have to start actually experiencing some of the negative consequences of being out of step with God.
And all of a sudden, when they start coming, we go, Whoa, where did this come from? And we say, golly, I better get back in step with God. For some of us, that's not enough. Some of us insist on riding our pride until it takes us to rock bottom, till we crash and burn.
And you know what? For some of us, that's still not enough. There are some of us who will never admit we're wrong.
We are hell-bent on doing it our way. And we will give you a steady stream of excuses and justifications and rationalizations why it's not our fault, why we're not to blame. And I hope you're not a person like that.
I hope you got better sense than that. But just in case you don't, may I say to you, for those kind of people, God has nothing more to offer them. Until they become humble enough to admit is their problem and they need to repent. Step number one, we've got to be willing to change our mind and admit we're going in the wrong direction. Step number two, we've got to come clean, come clean about our sin.
We have to come clean about our sin. Listen to these steps from AA. Step four, I'm prepared to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. Step eight, I will make a list of all persons I have harmed and I am willing to go make amends to them. Step nine, I will make amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step ten, I will continue to take personal inventory of my life and whenever I am wrong, I will promptly admit it. This is the language of someone who is serious about coming clean with sin. And you know AA recommends that we do this moral inventory in writing? You say, in writing?
Yes. Because it's so easy to get on your knees and go, oh God, yeah, I know, I kind of blew it. Yeah, forgive me for my sin today. And it's all fuzzy, but when you've got to write it down, you've got to be specific and you've got to be concrete. You can't write fuzz down. That's why they suggest you write it down what the problem is. But we've got to come clean about sin.
You can't start going up till you've gone all the way to the bottom and cleaned it out. You know, my daughter's health has not been good, as many of you know, for these last months. She has epilepsy and as a result of that, it seemed to me that God was trying to do some work in my own life. And so I got on my knees a few months ago and I said, now, God, I need to do this.
I need to take a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. And so we need to do that together, God. God said, OK, you got pencil and paper? I said, well, not really.
He said, go get some pencil and paper. So I did. And we started. And I have a list that I made at that time. Would you like to hear some of the things on the list? Sure you would. I know you would.
Sure you would. I'll tell you some. Here are some of the things that I wrote down. Prayerlessness. Arrogance and self-sufficiency.
Trivializing the work of the ministry by doing it on autopilot sometimes, making it mechanical. Pride and exaltation of self. Taking things that don't belong to me and needing to give them back. Now, the Bible calls that stealing, but I like the way I said it a lot better than stealing, don't you?
No, actually, I wrote stealing down, but I like it the other way better. Mental adultery. Coldness in my heart towards God at times. Neglect of attention to family devotions. Finding my joy in things, material things, instead of finding it in God. I wrote one up the side.
Treating people as tools to get what I want instead of valuing them as people. And that's not the whole list. That's all that I think I'm going to read to you.
But that's not the whole list. You say, wow, what a rotten guy you are. Well, you're right.
You know what? That's why I'm glad I have a Savior. Because I'm a rotten guy. I hate to tell you this, but so are you. And if you don't realize it, it's because you haven't sat down with God with a pencil and a piece of paper and made a list like this. Once you do, you'll agree with me that you're a pretty rotten guy, too.
And thank God for a Savior. Huh? You say, well, Lon, how did you feel after you made a list like that? Weren't you depressed?
No. Actually, I felt pretty good. You say, you mean after writing these things down, you felt good?
Yeah. You know why? Because it's only after writing these things down I could go on to step three and get the solution. You understand what I'm saying to you?
You don't do this step. There's no place else to go. And some of us, when we sit down and make a list like that, may have to file amended 1040s. Some of us, after we sit down and make a list like this, may have to return stolen property. Some of us may have to confess wrongdoing to others and seek their forgiveness. Some of us may have to change the way we look at members of the opposite sex because we're consumed with mental adultery. Some of us who are guilty of actual adultery may have to confess it and forsake it.
Some of us who travel on business may have to learn to tell the people down in the lobby to turn off the pornography in the room before we ever walk up there. Some of us who have broken relationships with people may have to humble ourselves and go seek those people out and ask for their forgiveness. Repentance is a bloody process.
There's no other way to say it. And if you want to spare yourself and you want to pamper yourself, you are not a candidate for repentance. People who repent don't care about the cost to themselves.
What they care about is being right with God and right with people and healthy, and it doesn't matter the price they have to pay. You've got to come clean with sin. Step three, once you've done that, then you can do step three. Step three, you can confess sin to God and claim His forgiveness.
Once you've gotten to the bottom, then there's a way to go up. You can confess it to God. Step five of AA says, I admit to God, myself, and other people the exact nature of my wrongs. Confession of sin is an essential principle of living the Christian life. Proverbs 28, 13 says that he who covers his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes it will find mercy. And the Bible says in the New Testament that when we confess our sin, you know it, 1 John 1, 9, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Remember what I said earlier, that repentance comes before the grace of God, but the grace of God always follows repentance. And God always forgives a repentant heart. God always cleanses a repentant heart. God always accepts a repentant heart. God always gives peace to a repentant heart because that's the way God is. Repentance is not depressing because it always results in the grace of God being given to the repentant heart. So confess it to God and get his forgiveness. And if necessary, confess it to other people.
The only reason you won't is pride. Fourth step and finally, not only do we need a change of mind, we need to admit we're going the wrong way, not only do we need to come clean with sin and then confess it to God and get his cleansing, but finally, we need to count on God's strength to live different in the future. You see, if you didn't do any better through the first couple of steps in your own strength, what makes you think after you've confessed it to God, you can do any better in your own strength after that?
You're not. What God wants you to do is what he wants every alcoholic to do, and that is to realize that an alcoholic is helpless. An alcoholic will tell you that he knows better than anybody else that only a power greater than him can restore him to sanity and save him.
That's the whole essence of Alcoholics Anonymous, that an alcoholic can't do it for himself or he wouldn't be an alcoholic in the first place. And we who are Christians ought to understand that as well. Alcoholics Anonymous step two, I have come to believe there is a greater power than I am who can restore me to sanity. Step three, I've made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. Step 11, I will seek to improve my contact with God, asking him for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out. And for those of us as Christians, John says the very same thing. Jesus rather said it in John 15. He said, For without me, you can do nothing.
Nothing. Jesus said, You want to overcome that area of your life? You want to have a transformation of your life in that area? Great. You're not going to do it on your own. But with my power, you count on me.
Trust me, we can do it. And by the way, it's done one day at a time. Alcoholics live one day at a time. Alcoholics don't decide that they're never going to have a drink again in their whole life.
No, they say, God, give me the strength not to drink. What? Today. What about tomorrow? Well, when tomorrow becomes today, then I'll worry about it. But in the meantime, give me power not to drink. What?
Today. And see, we need to be the same way. We don't stand up and say, Oh, God, give me the grace never to look at another woman the rest of my life. God, give me the grace never to lie or manipulate or gossip the rest of my life.
No, no, no, no, no. God, give me the grace today not to lie. Give me the grace not to look at a woman wrong today. Give me the grace not to commit adultery today. Give me the grace not to manipulate today. Give me the grace not to cheat people at work today. Give me the grace not to neglect my family today. Give me the grace not to lose my temper today. And we'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
Let's just take it one day at a time. And the beauty of all of this is that God promises he will give you the strength. He will give you forgiveness. He will give you the strength to do what you need to do if you've repented over it. The Bible says God resists the proud, but he gives help to the humble.
The Bible says that a broken and a contrite, a repentant heart, God will not despise. One of the greatest examples of this anywhere that I know of is the story in the Bible of the prodigal son. Many of you know the story. You remember it? The boy goes off and lives any way he wants to live and does what he wants to do and follows his own way and then ends up in the pig pen fighting for food with the pigs. And while he's in the pig pen, he has a change of mind. That's where it all starts.
Remember we said that? Change of mind. He looks around in the pig pen and he said, What am I doing in the pig pen fighting with these pigs for food? My father's servants have everything they need. I'm going to get up and go back and see my father. Then he got to the bottom of his sin. He didn't say I'm going to go back to his father and say, you know, Father, the market took a downturn and that's why I'm broken.
I don't have anything. No, he said, I'm going to go back and say to my father, Father, I have sinned before you and before heaven. I'm not even worthy to be called your child anymore. Just let me live like one of the slaves in the barn that get into the bottom of sin. I think so. Did he confess his sin and ask for cleansing?
You bet he did. What does the Bible say? That when he came over the hill heading towards his dad in rags and stinky and smelly and muddy, his dad ran to meet him and hugged him in his arms and kissed him and and wept over him and called everybody out of the house and said, hey, come on out here. We're going to have a what?
A party. Why? Because the son of mine was dead and now he's alive again. And you know, in the parable who the son is?
Well, it's you and me. And you know who the father is? Well, of course, it's God. And the point of the parable is every time you and I come over the hill with the attitude of the prodigal son, we will find the reception of God to be exactly the same as the reception of that father. Arms wide open, weeping and ready to throw a party that we're back. That's the message of God in that story. And that's what I've been trying to say to you all morning. There's a little poem I'd like to close with.
It's very short. It's by Helen Gilbert. It's called A Bird with a Broken Wing.
Would you listen? Like a bird that trails a broken wing, I have come home to thee, home from a flight in freedom that was never meant for me. And I, who have known far spaces in the fierce heat of the sun, ask only the shelter of thy wings. Now that the day is done, like a bird that trails a broken wing, I have come home at last. Oh, hold me to thy heart once more, and heal me from my past.
What a great poem. And that's what repentance is all about. Some of us here are broken wings this morning. Maybe your whole life is a broken wing.
Or maybe you're a Christian who's, like the poem said, has been in a flight in freedom that was never meant for you. And you've got a wing that's all broke up. God's invitation this morning is he'll forgive. He'll cleanse. He'll heal.
He'll restore. That's the ministry of Jesus. But you have to let the ministry of John go through your life first. Repentance. And if you're prepared to repent, God's prepared to do all the things that he does.
Balls in your court. You've got to turn the steering wheel and make the U-turn in your heart, in your attitude. May God help you do that.
Let's pray. I got a letter this week that I'd like to read a couple of sentences from. This young man wrote me and he said, I am writing because I am a proud coward. On Sunday after delivering your message entitled God's time versus our time, you asked us to raise our hand if we had been touched. I had been touched by God during your message.
I realized I'd been attempting to rush marriage and law school. However, because I was with friends, I was too proud and too cowardly to raise my hand. Brother, I'm writing you to ask you to forgive me. I think there's a little bit of a proud coward in every one of us, don't you?
But the people that God honors are the people who forced themselves through that and care more what God thinks than what the person sitting next to them thinks. If you're here this morning and God has spoken to you and there's some area of your life or maybe the whole direction of your life that you'd like to repent of, you'd like to say, God, I'm willing to deal with this and I'm willing to call it what it is and I'm willing to make a U-turn with your help. I want to confess it to you and I want you to cleanse me.
Forgive me. I want a new beginning with you. If that's you this morning, then I'm going to ask you to stand right where you are so we can pray together. If you'd like to repent on something, would you stand now? Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for these folks who are standing.
It takes a lot of courage with friends or a husband or a wife sitting next to you, with a parent or a child in the auditorium to stand up like this. But the exciting thing, Lord, is that by doing this, these folks have just crossed the most difficult barrier to getting right with you. And I pray that you would reassure each of them right now in their heart, whatever it is that they feel the need to repent about, only you know and they. I pray you would assure them that you've forgiven them, that you love them, that you're willing to give them the strength they need one day at a time as they trust you.
Lord Jesus, may this not be depressing for them, but exciting. May they sense your peace, your presence in their hearts. And if they need to leave this auditorium and go do something to make restitution to somebody, give them the courage to do that. And thank you for what this means for our church, because the church that you bless is a church that knows how to repent and stay clean and right before you. Thank you that they're an important part of that, Lord. Thank you for speaking to our hearts this morning. We love you. Thank you that we can always come home and we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-18 12:52:25 / 2023-01-18 13:08:49 / 16