Let me ask you a question. How much do you hate your sin? The mark of your personal repentance is the way that you grieve over your sin. Repentance is a word we Christians should be very familiar with, as it was one of the first things we should have engaged in when we came to Christ. But as you'll be reminded today on the Truth Pulpit, repentance is really multifaceted. I'm Bill Wright with Pastor Don Green. Today we begin a series titled How to Recognize True Repentance. And Don, this series is very important, isn't it?
I believe it's absolutely critical, Bill. My friend, Jesus told his first disciples to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations. That's in Luke 24. Anyone who wants to go to heaven must come to grips with Jesus' call to repentance, because unrepentant people do not go to heaven. You know friend, I really want you to be in heaven with Christ. So I am praying that God would open your heart as you listen today. Thanks for joining us on the Truth Pulpit.
Well friend, have your Bible open and ready as Don teaches God's people God's Word in the Truth Pulpit. I'd invite you to turn to the Gospel of Matthew, and the question for this message that I hope to answer for you today and to consider in some measure of depth is how do we call sinners to respond to the gospel? What is the response that we are looking to provoke from them? What is it that we are praying that God would work out in their hearts as we proclaim the doctrines of grace to them, as we preach salvation to them? What is it that we as those who evangelize and those who preach, what is it that we say to them? How is it that they are to respond so that they would partake of the benefits of the work of Christ on the cross? Well as you're going to see as we go through Scriptures today, the answer to that question is this. We call them to repentance.
We call them to repentance. We call them to turn from sin in order to serve Christ in newness of life. That was the call of Jesus' preaching, as you're going to see. And when Jesus commissioned Paul to preach the gospel, that was the call in Paul's preaching as well.
I want to show both of those aspects to you, repentance according to Jesus and repentance according to Paul so that you would see the perfect harmony in their gospel, the perfect harmony of response so that you and I would be doubly committed to preach the gospel in clarity and to help sinners understand what is at stake when they hear the biblical gospel. And so Matthew chapter 5 is where I want to begin and I just want to read the first four verses, the Beatitudes, which actually begin in Matthew chapter 5 verse 3 to kind of set a context for us here. Jesus said, "'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle or the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.'"
That's the launch point of today's message. That passage is where I want to start. And what I want you to see as we kind of prepare to dive into that is that when you read the gospels, you find Jesus Christ preaching repentance. That is the way that Matthew summarized Jesus' preaching ministry in Matthew chapter 4 verse 17.
Look over there with me for just a moment. Matthew chapter 4 verse 17, after His baptism, after His temptations, Jesus embarked on His public ministry. And Matthew records a summary statement of what the content of His message was here in verse 17. He says, from that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" It's a summary overview of what Jesus is preaching, the intent and the call of Jesus' preaching was as He preached the gospel, He was calling His hearers to repentance.
That was the focal point of His ministry. Now as you go over to Matthew chapter 5, Matthew chapter 6, and Matthew chapter 7 in the Sermon on the Mount, what you see in the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' interpretation of what true repentance is. Look at the first verse with me again, verse 3. I want you to see the context and the point of contact between verse 3 and chapter 4 verse 17. Jesus had said in verse 17 of chapter 4, "'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" He wanted sinners to be aware of the impending arrival of the kingdom of heaven and He was actually the King. The kingdom was right there because the King was there. And then in verse 3 He says, "'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'"
Notice the connection. Kingdom of heaven in chapter 4 verse 17, the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit in verse 3. Jesus is starting to explain what He means by the call to repent. And what we're going to see as we look at the repentance according to Jesus, I want to show you four aspects of it. If you're taking notes, these would be four sub-points of repentance according to Jesus and to just see what Jesus taught about repentance before He called Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
What do we see Jesus teaching us? Well first of all, repentance according to Jesus means this first thing. Repentance includes the acknowledgment of your sin. Repentance includes the acknowledgment of your sin. We could say it this way, repentance includes an intellectual understanding, a mental comprehension that you are a sinner with personal guilt before God. You are personally guilty before God because of your personal violations of His Law.
That is where repentance starts. Look at chapter 5 verse 3 with me now as we're going to take these four Beatitudes one by one. Jesus said, "'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.'" When He says that the poor in spirit are blessed, He uses a word that means they are the privileged recipient of divine favor. God has peculiarly blessed those who recognize that they are poor in spirit. Those who manifest this poverty of spirit that He describes are the privileged recipients of divine favor. And Jesus says those who are like this, they are the ones to whom the Kingdom of heaven belongs. And as you read this in the original language, it is emphatic that He is saying that these people and these people alone are the ones who will enter the Kingdom of heaven.
It belongs to them and it belongs to no one else. If you're not poor in spirit, you will not go to heaven. That is the emphatic declaration that Jesus gives as He begins to interpret true repentance for us. Now when He says this term poor, I want you to understand that Jesus is talking about spiritual poverty here. He's not talking about material poverty.
There is no intrinsic virtue in material poverty. Jesus is talking about a spiritual dynamic which is in keeping with the summary theme of His preaching which is repent, which is a spiritual command. And what He is saying here is that when you evaluate yourself in the light of God's law, in the light of God's character, when you evaluate your life in light of the person of Jesus Christ Himself, you should understand, you should quickly acknowledge that you do not deserve to be in His presence on your own merits. There is nothing in you or in me that would commend ourselves to God. As just as being a creature, we're not worthy of the uncreated Creator. And being sinners, we're not worthy of the presence of a holy God. What He is expressing here is the idea of spiritual bankruptcy. The word poor is the same word that was used in a material sense to describe Lazarus when he was begging for crimes at the rich man's table.
He had no resources of his own. Here Jesus is saying spiritually, what you and I have to realize, what we have to embrace with our minds is that we have no spiritual offering to make to God that would commend us to Him. All of your efforts, all of your religion, all of your rituals do not fit you to be before a holy God.
You are spiritually bankrupt and there is nothing that you can do to improve your condition. That is what Jesus is saying here. And what He says is, there's two things here that's actually going on.
One is He's making a declaration of the reality of it. Whether you admit it or not, that's the reality of it, we're all spiritually bankrupt. We could pool our collective 2,000 spiritual resources here and we would have nothing to offer to God collectively, let alone individually.
That's the reality of it. But what He's driving at here is for you to embrace that, to acknowledge that from the bottom of your heart with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind, you acknowledge that I have nothing to offer myself to God. There is nothing about me to commend myself to God.
That's what He's saying. And so this idea of repentance completely excludes any personal pride or any personal self-reliance as we approach God. We have nothing to commend ourselves to Him. We are beggars at the table of mercy with no rights to demand, no claims to call in, no chips to cash in, if you want to put it in a rather crass way.
We have nothing. Repentance starts with knowing your own spiritual poverty. But as we go on and see what Jesus says, repentance is far more than that act of intellectual comprehension. There is more to it than just mentally agreeing with that factual statement.
It starts there, but it is so much more than that. And what we're about to unfold and about to unpack is something that I think really starts to expose the poverty of the American Christian scene, the poverty of contemporary evangelicalism because it's easy, in one sense, to get people to say, oh yeah, I'm a sinner. But the second aspect of true repentance is where you start to see that we fall short, where we don't really take this seriously. When I say we, I'm talking about the professing Christian church in general, as well as us individually, because secondly, repentance not only includes the acknowledgment of your sin, repentance, second subpoint here, repentance includes sorrow over your sin. It includes sorrow over your sin. And when I say sorrow, what I mean is that emotionally you grieve over your sin when you're truly repentant.
You grieve over it. Verse 4, where Jesus said, "'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.'" This word for mourning describes deep, inner agony...agony. Jesus is describing a spiritual mourning here, not an earthly mourning.
It's easy enough to see that. There are a lot of people that suffer earthly loss and mourn that that don't receive comfort from Christ. Those who are mourning their losses don't receive comfort from Christ. What Jesus is talking about here is spiritual mourning over sin.
He had just talked about poverty of spirit. It's in the context of repentance. In verse 6 He talks about hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The whole mourning that He's talking about is our lack of personal righteousness, our violations of His righteousness.
That's what we're mourning over. And when you understand this aspect of repentance, what you need to see is that truly repentant people are not flippant about their sin. Truly repentant people don't find entertainment and joy out of watching other people sin in movies and that kind of stuff. The hatred of sin, the sorrow over sin precludes that kind of interaction with it. And we don't joke about our sin if we're repentant because we're so grieved about it.
We take it seriously. It breaks our hearts. It pierces us to the core. When we're truly repentant, the tax collector in Luke 18, the tax collector standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven but was beating his breast saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner.
He was beating his breast. His agony, his mourning over sin was so great that he had to release it physically. This was no superficial response. This was no quick nod of the head to the question, do you think you're a sinner? And then move on to whatever the next topic of discussion was. No, the kind of mourning, the kind of sorrow that repentance expresses is a sorrow that stops you in your tracks, a sorrow that you can't get over.
Let me ask you a question. How much do you hate your sin? Repentance, and especially in our American culture, I don't know about the other 18 countries that are represented here, but in our American culture, this needs to be said. Repentance is not measured, the seriousness or the quality of your repentance is not measured by your opposition to the sins of society like abortion or homosexuality. That is not a mark of true repentance at all.
It's good to be opposed to those things. Those things are contrary to righteousness, but it has nothing to do with your personal repentance, your attitude towards that, because the mark of your personal repentance is the way that you grieve over your sin. That is the mark of repentance. And I fear that the strong opposition that you see in the Christian church sometimes to the opposition of society's sins comes at the expense of real personal concern about our own sins.
And that needs to be said. Jesus isn't calling you to mourn over someone else's sin, He's calling you to mourn over your sin. If you're repentant, your sorrow and your grief and your agony is over the fact that you yourself fall short of the glory of God. That's what repentance does. Now, thirdly, going through this rather quickly, I know, Jesus said that repentance includes an acknowledgment of your sin, that understanding of your sin moves your heart to grieve over your sad spiritual condition. It makes you broken over your prior rebellion to God.
But Jesus went even further than that. When you really study the doctrine of repentance, you understand how far down it drills deep into your soul. Jesus went beyond this intellectual and emotional reaction against sin and taught us that repentance goes to your very will. It goes to your very volition.
This is the third subpoint here. Repentance turns away from your sin. Repentance turns away from your sin. It's not enough to know that you're a sinner. It's not enough to grieve over your sin.
The point of repentance is that you would grieve over it to the point that you turn away from it, that you decisively consciously break from it and turn away from it and say, that is unacceptable in my life. So on a volitional level, you turn from sin in order to serve God. Look at verses 5 and 6 of Matthew chapter 5 here. Remember, Jesus is expanding on...He's expounding on what He meant when He said, "'Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
In verse 5 He says, "'Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.'" Verse 6, "'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.'" Repentance changes your entire orientation. Repentance changes a man from a proud, boastful, arrogant, self-willed man into a humble, meek man who is happy to defer to others. Spiritual mourning produces an unquenchable desire for holiness. Instead of pursuing desiring after sin, you see here that the whole will has been reoriented in repentance because Jesus pronounces blessing on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
They hunger and thirst for that which they don't have. And the words that He uses there of the simple physical bodily needs of hunger and thirst, He takes and apply...takes them from the physical realm and applies them to the spiritual realm to show us that the repentant person is someone who wants righteousness to mark his life. He realizes that he lacks it. He understands that he doesn't have it and so he looks outside himself for righteousness and he wants to manifest practical righteousness in his own life. Jesus called for that kind of change with the rich young ruler. In Luke chapter 18, Luke 18 verse 22, He said, one thing that you still lack, speaking to that person that was in front of him, He said, here's what you lack, sell all that you possess, distribute it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven and come follow Me. He was calling for a total reorientation of that man's life from the materialistic pursuit of his riches. Jesus says, you have to abandon that and come after Me.
Do you want righteousness that much? And what you should see from that example is that the call to repent comes from Christ as an imperative. It's a command that goes out to all men everywhere, repent. He called the rich young man to abandon his earthly priorities and follow Christ. Everything that he treasured, all that he loved, all of his priorities. Jesus says, you've got to cast all of that aside.
You've got to leave it behind and come follow Me. Stated differently, true repentance affects the whole inner man. We turn from sin decisively, consciously, totally, without qualification, without reservation, with no mental reservations about what we might hang on to, just that one particular sin, and I'll repent of the other 99 percent. No, no, repentance is a total turning of the inner man from sin to walk with God in the ways of His Word. And beloved, I have to tell you that a man or a woman who refuses their will to Christ is not repentant at all, no matter how sorrowful they may be about the consequences of their sin. Until there is a turning of your will, you are not repentant, which is another way of saying, until your will has been given to Christ, you are not a Christian.
It's that stark, it's that clear. Let me put it to you this way. True repentance, true repentance wants more than deliverance from hell. True repentance wants more than deliverance from eternal damnation. You don't have to be a Christian to not want to go to hell. There's nothing uniquely spiritual or uniquely biblical about that desire.
Who wants to go to hell, given the alternative, you know? No, true repentance, true repentance wants to be delivered from sin. True repentance wants to be delivered from the pollution and power of sin in addition to being delivered from the penalty of sin. True repentance hates sin and desires righteousness. There's a whole reorientation of the inner man in true repentance. True repentance wants to have Christ and His righteousness and is willing to forsake and abandon it all in order to gain Him. Someone may object at this point, how do I know that you're not preaching salvation by works when you say this? Well let me clarify that and just clarify the nature of repentance hopefully in the process.
When we talk about repentance, we are not talking about a pre-salvation effort to get your life in order. You can't do that. You can't fix it. It's broken.
Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall and you can't put it back together again. No, repentance is an internal response to the work of God. It earns no merit to our account. The whole premise of Jesus' teaching in the Beatitudes is that you're poor in spirit, that you're spiritually bankrupt. You acknowledge you have nothing to commend yourself to God. True repentance couldn't possibly be a matter of someone coming and saying, I bring my repentance to you, God, therefore you owe me salvation. That is appalling to the repentant mind. In fact, the Bible says that repentance is a gift from God. Acts chapter 11 verse 18, Acts 11 18, if you're jotting down the Scripture references, says that God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life. God gave them that.
He granted it to them. 2 Timothy 2 verse 25, Paul says that we are to with gentleness correct those who are in opposition if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. They need a work of God in their heart in order to repent.
God gets the glory that way. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, with part one of a message titled How to Recognize True Repentance here on the Truth Pulpit. It's easy to inveigh against the sins of others, but it's sobering and tough to confront your own sin, isn't it? Well, spend time in prayer and confession about it, and then come back for the continuation of this series on our next program.
Right now, though, Don's here again with a word of encouragement for you. My brother or sister in Christ, thank you so much for listening and supporting the Truth Pulpit. I just want to encourage you as we end the week to read and study the Bible for yourself. Scripture says that God blesses the man who delights in the law of the Lord. Don't you want that blessing?
I know I do. If you're looking for answers for your soul, look to the Bible. That is where God makes himself known. God bless you as you worship with his people this weekend. And friend, we hope you'll visit us at thetruthpulpit.com, where you can hear today's program again at your convenience. You'll also find Don's Facebook link. That's thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright, inviting you back next time as Don Green continues to teach God's people God's Word in the Truth Pulpit.
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