“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32)
A man discussing an argument he had with his wife says “Oh, how I hate it, every time we have an argument, she gets historical.” The friend replied, “You mean hysterical.” “No,” he insisted. “I mean historical. Every time we argue she drags up everything from the past and holds it against me!”
We’ve been discussing the importance of forgiveness all month long; Jesus commands us to forgive others so that we might be forgiven. Jesus says the standard of measure for our discipleship is how we love one another; one cannot love one whom one cannot forgive. Because the Apostle Paul is right, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God!” Lord, have mercy!
Many reconciliations have broken down because both parties have come prepared to forgive and unprepared to be forgiven. What is the missing ingredient? Repentance. The wife forgave him, but she did not reconcile with him. Without repentance, there can be no reconciliation; without forgiveness repentance is futile, for the pathway to forgiveness is repentance and repentance precludes reconciliation. Thus, repentance plus forgiveness equals reconciliation. And both parties must see their need for repentance in a dispute if forgiveness and reconciliation are to occur.
Repentance was the first message of Jesus the Christ, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and Philip, the Evangelist. It was and it is the first message, because without repentance, you cannot be reconciled with God or your neighbor.
Even today repentance remains crucial to forgiveness and reconciliation. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7: 21-23: “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name? Then I will declare to them, I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.”
Listen carefully, undergoing infant baptism and joining a church does not independent of repentance, reconcile you to God nor guarantee you admission into the kingdom of God. Nor does being a good moral person make one right with God; Jesus said, “Marvel not that I say unto you” while talking with Nicodemus, a good righteous person, “you must be born again.” Nicodemus was a good moral person but he was estranged from a relationship with God because of unrepentance.
I apologized; I said I was sorry? Why is that not sufficient? So just what is repentance Pastor? Let us explore this term repentance together.
Repentance has been defined in many ways over the course of the Christian faith. According to Wayne Grudem (1994) Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. Repentance is something that occurs in the heart and involves the whole person in a decision to turn from sin.
According to Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (1960), repentance from the Greek word “Metanoia” can be said to denote that inward change of mind, affections, convictions and commitment, rooted in the fear of God and sorrow for offenses committed against him, which, when accompanied by faith in Jesus Christ, results in an outward turning from sin to God and his service in all of life.”
For example: Several years ago the Peanuts comic strip had Lucy and Charlie Brown practicing football. Lucy would hold the ball for Charlie’s placekicking and then Charlie would kick the ball. But every time Lucy had ever held the ball for Charlie, he would approach the ball and kick with all his might. At the precise moment of the point of no return, Lucy would pick up the ball and Charlie would kick and his momentum unchecked by the ball, which was not there to kick, would cause him to fall flat on his back.
This comic strip episode opened with Lucy holding the ball, but Charlie Brown would not kick the ball. Lucy begged him to kick the ball. But Charlie Brown said, “Every time I try to kick the ball you remove it and I fall on my back.” They went back and forth for the longest time and finally Lucy broke down in tears and admitted, “Charlie Brown I have been so terrible to you over the years, picking up the football like I have. I have played so many cruel tricks on you, but I’ve seen the error of my ways! I’ve seen the hurt look in your eyes when I’ve deceived you. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Won’t you give a poor penitent girl another chance?”
Charlie Brown was moved by her display of grief and responded to her, “Of course, I’ll give you another chance.” He stepped back as she held the ball, and he ran. At the last moment, Lucy picked up the ball and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back. Lucy’s last words were, “Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!”
Repentance then, is a turning away from one state of mind toward another more appropriate state of mind and acting in line with that new thought. Repentance involves the total person: body, soul, and spirit. Hence, repentance involves three aspects of our being: intellectual, emotional, and volitional.
Jesus illustrates this pattern in Matthew 21:28-32. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”
I believe the first son experienced these three stages of repentance which led to his salvation. First, Repentance is intellectual. It changes the way a person thinks about God and neighbor. This young man acknowledged, who it was that asked him to go to work. He understood that his father had the right to ask him to go to work, and finally he believed it was his duty to do what his father required of him. My brothers and my sisters, when you hear the word of God, and the word of God challenges you to be about your heavenly father’s business; you may initially rebel, and leave God’s Work undone. Yet even though you are not obeying God’s Word, you can still agree that God has the right to ask of you to do his will. This is called intellectual agreement, but this alone will not cause repentance.
Intellectual repentance occurs when one has a change in consciousness. In other words, when you hear the word of God, the Holy Spirit awakens your spiritual consciousness. When your spiritual consciousness is awakened you begin to discern between good and evil. You start to see yourself for who you really are, a sinner in need of salvation. Doing wrong is no longer done without a fight. Galatians 5:17 instructs us “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from dong what you want.” Therefore, guilt is produced with the aim of convincing one that repentance is in order and necessary to reconcile one’s thinking with that of God or another person.
Second, repentance is emotional. It is preceded by godly sorrow — it moves an individual to grieve, to weep with bitter tears. Second Corinthians 7: 9 to 11, reads “Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter.”
This young man, after his father left him, after he began to intellectually meditate on what his father had asked of him; after he had concluded that his father had every right to ask him to work in the vineyard; he got up and went about his father’s business. This is a sure sign that this son grieved in his heart that he had not done what his father asked him to do. We see the fruit of his intellectual and emotional repentance by the fact that he went and did what his father asked him to do.
Third, repentance is volitional — it is an act, a decision, of the will. In other words, you have to agree to do the will of God, not because you are embarrassed; not because you got exposed; not because you’re afraid; but because you desire to please God. This young man changed his mind. This young man grieved in his heart that he had sinned against his father. This young man was moved deeply and without any motivation other than to make things right with his father, he got up and did what he was asked to do; and this totally changed his life. It led to his salvation.
Move 4 (Celebration)
This is repentance that leads to reconciliation. When a person is persuaded that they have wronged someone and it effects them emotionally to the point of grieving about it, then they make a conscious decision to not only ask forgiveness but to determine never to commit that egregious act again, that is the kind of repentance that leads to reconciliation.
Beloved, God has opened the door through Jesus Christ for you to repent: to change the way you think about God and God’s care for you. God reconciled the entire world unto himself through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son. You only have to repent and have faith in what God did through Jesus to be reconciled with God.
Yet some people are like the little boy who got his hand stuck in a vase. His parents applied soapy water and cooking oil hoping he would slide his hand through, but to no avail. They tried everything they knew to set the boy’s hands free of the vase. Suddenly, they decided to break that valuable vase because they loved their son just that much.
It was at this point, when they had decided to demonstrate their love by destroying the vase, that the boy asked, “Would it help if I let go of the penny I’m holding?” What are you holding on too that prevents you from reconciling with God today. What offense, what bitterness, what resentment precludes you from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Let it go today and return to God.
Now is the time to repent not simply in your mind; but with your emotions, and with your will. Present your entire being to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transform you. He will abolish your sins. Acts 3:19 records, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” He will refresh you. He will renew you. And 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares If any man one be in Christ; He is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Hallelujah
Will you come and receive forgiveness and reconciliation? Jesus is calling you to act today in concert with the Word of God. Come now!