Charles Stanley - A Call to Repentance
How many times have you been to the Lord confessing the same old thing over and over and over again? And how many times have you told Him each time how very sorry you were? And how many times, having told Him how very sorry you were, you told Him that you weren't going to do it again? And how many times have you told Him that you weren't going to do it again, that deep down inside, you had a sneaking suspicion, yes you would? Well, you say, "Well, you know, I've confessed and confessed and confessed and confessed, and somehow, I just don't seem to have any victory over this thing in my life. And does not the Bible say, 'If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'? Why don't I have victory over this particular area of my life"? Well, that's what I want to talk about in this message entitled "A Call to Repentance".
Now, if someone should ask you: What is repentance? How would you define that? Well, we'll see in just a moment. I want you to turn, if you will, to Luke chapter twenty-four. Last chapter of Luke, and in this twenty-fourth chapter, this last part of it, beginning in verse forty-four, Jesus is giving His disciples some departing words. And in the process of doing so, He tells them exactly what the message is to be as they are to go out and share what they've heard from Him, what they've seen, and to bear testimony.
So, here's what He says beginning in verse forty-four, "Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.'" He said the message you have is repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the Holy Spirit will be in you, with you, and upon you and enable you to do that and to do it well.
Now, what does the Bible mean when the Bible speaks of repentance? Well, there are two primary words in the New Testament for repentance, but in essence here's what it means. It means a recognition of my sin, which involves a godly sorrow for my sin and a commitment on my part to, listen, a commitment on my part for a change of direction. That is, there's more to repentance than feeling sorry about my sin. There's more to repentance than being grieved about my sin. There's more to repentance than just they having remorse over the fact that I have sinned against God about myself. There is certainly more to repentance than feelings that we have. For example, a person could feel very sorry for their sin because they've discovered what the consequences are. They could feel very remorseful about their sins because somebody else found out. They could be very grieved about their sins because of selfishness, how it's made them feel and how it's made them look.
So when somebody says that repentance is feeling sorry for your sin, no it's not. Repentance is grieving over sin, no it's not. Repentance is sorrowful for, because of your sin, no it's not. All those things are a part of repentance but that's not what repentance is. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for repentance is "turn". When a person repents of their sin, they have a change of mind. That change of mind is going to result in a change of direction, a change of conduct, a change of behavior in their life. Otherwise, what in the world could repentance possibly mean? It does not mean simply sorrow, remorse, regret over something that you and I have done.
Now, there are many facets of that, which we'll talk about in a few moments, but the very word means to turn. It's a change of mind. When a person really and truly has a genuine change of mind about Christ, about their sin, about their life, if they have a genuine change of mind, change of heart, recognizing that sin is against God, against themselves, something's going to happen in their life. So when He says that we're to preach repentance, that is, because God wants there to be a change in people's lives because living in sin, living in disobedience, living in rebellion, they're going to destroy themselves, and God knows what the consequences of sin are, all the consequences of sin. So repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart, that is gonna result in a change of conduct and a change of behavior. And one of the primary reasons that people do not get victory over sin, they keep going back to God over and over and over again with the same old sin for the simple reason their repentance is incomplete. It's not complete repentance.
Now, what I'd like for us to do is look at the place of repentance in the life of the person who is not a Christian. What place does repentance have in the life of a person who's not a Christian? And then what place does it have in the life of a believer? Well, we saw in the very beginning that when John was preaching, he was preaching, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Jesus came preaching the same thing. Paul said, "God has required that all men everywhere repent". Jesus said, "I've come to call the righteous," listen, "not the righteous, but sinners to repentance".
Now, why didn't He say salvation? Or why didn't He say faith? Because they used those terms interchangeably. That is, when Jesus said He came to call men, not the righteous to repentance, but sinners to repentance, He's calling them what? For a change in life, salvation for the forgiveness of their sins. And so, those terms are oftentimes used interchangeably to mean repent, that is to salvation, but not always that. So you read it in its context of what was he saying and what did he mean by that?
Now, when you think about that, somebody says, "Well now, I know that he used that for salvation, but now what about this whole issue of faith? Or what about all these verses of scripture in the Bible that says that you're saved by faith"? Repentance isn't even mentioned, like for example, John's Gospel. We said it's not, the word repentance isn't even found there. Well, why not? For the simple reason they understood that faith and repentance go hand-in-hand, you can't have, in other words, if you have genuine faith, you're going to have genuine repentance.
Now, watch this. For example, when the Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". That's what the Apostle Paul said, for example, the Philippian jailer when he said, "What must I do to be saved"? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved". He could have said, "Believe and repent". But in the mind of the Apostle Paul, those two things were absolutely, listen, so combined he couldn't even think about them being differently. And the issue here was to place his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I'm going to show you why in a moment. For example, John writes, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life".
Why didn't he say believe and repent? Because in his mind, in their whole concept, belief, that is, faith and repentance are just like salvation/repentance. There are two sides of the same coin. For example, let's say that I have a quarter here, and on one side we say it's heads. On the other side we say it's tails. Now, this coin, if I gave you this coin and I gave you the whole coin, you'd have heads and tails. You can't have a whole quarter without having heads and tails. If I gave you a sheet of paper and I had one thing on one side and one on the other, you take that sheet of paper, you've got all of it. You can't have a quarter without having heads and tails. You can't have salvation without faith and repentance. And so, faith and repentance go hand-in-hand. They didn't distinguish between the two because in their mind, in their thinking, the whole concept is you place your faith in Jesus Christ, something's going to happen in your lifestyle.
That's what baptism's all about. What's baptism all about? Baptism doesn't save a person, but baptism is a symbol of something, what? That you and I have died to our old way of life, have been buried in Christ Jesus. That is, we placed our life in Him, and now we rise to walk, the Bible says, in newness of life. There has been a change. And so therefore, that's why we immerse people because immersion is the best symbolism of baptism that symbolizes exactly what's happened: died to our old way of life, buried in Christ, risen to walk in newness of life. So when it comes to this issue of what about belief and why didn't He say belief and repent for the same... listen, watch this. If I really and truly have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, acknowledged that He is the Savior, acknowledge that He's the only one, that my sin is against Him, He's gonna be my judge one of these days, I'll give an account to Him. If I understand who He is, genuinely understand who He is and to regret my sin and realize that it's against him and against myself. If it is a genuine belief, there will be a genuine change.
Now, let's think about this whole idea of confession for a moment. What in the world does confession mean? Confession means I say the same thing about. So when I confess my sins to God, it means I am in agreement with Him about His viewpoint about my sin. It means that I'm saying the same thing about it that He says. Now, watch this. If genuine confession means that I'm saying the same thing about my sin that God says, I'm thinking the same thing about my sin that God thinks, I'm looking at it the same way God looks at it. If it's genuine confession, there must be an element of repentance in it. Because if I see it the way He sees it, this is the way He sees it. It's wrong, it's against God, it's against me, it has devastating consequences, or it has bad consequences. And therefore, the way God sees it is this. It's against God, against us. It doesn't fit in our life. Get rid of it! Deal with it, walk away from it, lay it aside.
If I just come to Him and say, "Lord, I just want to confess my sins to you and thank You very much. You said if I confess my sins, You're faithful and just to forgive me of my sins. And God I'm disappointed in myself that I would even do this. In Jesus's name amen". Is that sufficient? No, it's not. Because I can, listen, I can confess from the viewpoint of most people's idea about confession and not have a whole lot, listen, not have a whole lot of remorse about it, not have a whole lot of regret about it. And just say, "Lord, You said if we confess our sins, You're faithful and just to forgive us our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I'm confessing this. Lord, I just want to thank You that I'm forgiven in Jesus's name". It didn't even get heart level.
You see, there's more to confession than just telling God what you did. Remember, it means to agree with. To confess something means to agree with. So if I, listen to this, if I agree with God about my sin, I come to Him confessing. If I understand what confession means and I agree with Him about it, He hates it! He hates it because of its consequence. He wants it out of my life. He hates it! It doesn't fit who we are as believers. That sin was against Him and against ourselves. Now when I come to Him and I confess and I agree with Him, "God, this was against You, this was against me. This grieved your Holy Spirit. This doesn't fit me. You want this out of my life. Then I am going to make a genuine decision to turn away from that," because that is complete repentance.
Complete repentance is not feeling sorry about it, not because I got caught, not because I'm shamed, not because somebody else doesn't like it. Genuine repentance is a confession, which is an agreement with God about His attitude, His viewpoint. An agreement with Him that results in a decision whereby I turn my back on that, walk away from it, and listen, and assume the responsibility by the power of the Holy Spirit of getting that out of my life. That's what genuine confession's all about. And that's why the believer, when any sin crops up in our life, we need to repent of it. And so I think so many times we have used that word "confession" as a very smooth, silky kind of non-convicting kind of only about this deep. Well, you know, I got disappointed in myself. In other words, you see, we say, "Oh God, I know I disappointed you". Can't disappoint God. He knows past, present, and future. Have to have expectations to disappoint.
So He's not disappointed. Grieved? Yes. But the thing that I think grieves Him most is not that we come to Him and confess it as if it's something light-hearted. Sin is sin in God's eyes. You say, "Well, does God see all sin the same way"? No, He does not. There are some sins that are worse in God's eyes than others. But sin is sin. And how do you deal with sin? You deal with sin, it's not simply light-heartedly saying, "Well, Lord, I did it again and I'm sorry and I know you forgive me, in Jesus's name". No, I need to see it the way God... you see, if I'm going to agree with Him, I have to see it from His viewpoint. I'm going to feel something a lot worse in my heart if I get it from God's viewpoint.
Now, you say, "Are you repeating yourself"? Absolutely! Absolutely, because this is a key reason for so much defeat. And people say, "Well, you know what? I've tried for years and years and years to get this out. I've tried, I've confessed it and confessed it and confessed it". But have you repented of it? That is, have you said, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit... I make a turn. I choose to turn. I walk away from it". Does that mean Satan's gonna let you alone? No, it does not. Does it mean that you'll never fail again? No, it does not. But if you fail again, what do you do? You genuinely repent because it's against God, it's against You, God doesn't want it in your life, and you turn. And you know what? Sooner or later, and very soon more than likely, whatever Satan has harassed you with, whatever habit's there, listen, God's going to give you the victory.
And the victory really, listen, the victory is so available and can be so instantaneous, if we really and truly mean business with God. But here's the attitude a lot of people have. Well now, Lord, I know I'm weak. And God, I just want to thank You that You understand that I'm not perfect. Oh my goodness, has He heard that so many times? God, You know I'm not perfect. I'm just a sinner saved by grace. I know You understand, and I just want to thank You for forgiving me. Now, repentance in the life of the unbeliever is to get him saved. That is, faith and repentance is a salvation experience. In the life of the believer, listen, it's to keep our fellowship right with Him. Has nothing to do with salvation in the life of the believer.
And so, I think because we think in terms of repentance in the life of the unbeliever, we say, "Well, that's what unbelievers do". No! That's, listen, that's what unbelievers do in the salvation experience, that's what we do to keep our life clean and obedient before God. Repentance is godly sorrow. I'm seeing it from His viewpoint. I see that it's against Him. It's godly sorrow, listen, that makes me feel bad enough to change. You say, "Well, why don't you change"? Well, the reason people don't change, they don't feel bad enough. They're not under conviction about it. They explain it away. They reason it away. Genuine repentance will result in a genuine change of attitude, action, behavior. And as I said before, it will not be the same in everybody's life.
For example, God did not convict every single one of us or any of us of everything He was gonna convict us of at some point in our life the moment we were saved. What does He do? He takes us little by little and, listen, by the Holy Spirit, He shows that doesn't fit your life. Watch this, because sometimes we are not ready to hear. It's not that we don't want to hear, we're not ready to hear. And so God, in His grace and love and mercy and patience and long-suffering, He's the one who cleans up our life. What's the grace of God all about? The grace of God is His forgiveness for us who are believers when we have sinned against Him. And it's not necessarily a habit, for example, but something that happens in your life. Maybe it's a temptation or somebody just ticks you off and real bad and you just, I mean, everything in you, you just get angry and you know it's wrong but you're just angry anyway and you just got to say something back. Then what happens? Holy Spirit convicts you, you know it's not right.
If it's genuine repentance, you're going to say, "God, I'm sorry". Make restitution with the person. "That doesn't fit my life, I repent of that sin, God, I don't want that in my life any longer". Genuine, complete repentance is not only a change of attitude, but it is a change of conduct and a change of behavior. You and I have the right to expect godly people to live godly lives, but we're not fruit inspectors. Somebody's criticizing us, "Well, I'm just a fruit inspector for Jesus". I don't think there's any verse in the Bible that says that He has given any of us the spiritual gift of fruit inspection. He does say this. He makes a very strong statement in this seventh chapter of Matthew, listen to what he says. He says, concerning this whole idea, "Not," in verse twenty-one, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven".
What's the will of the Father? Trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Listen, involving repentance in their life, change. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'" So, when it comes to works, they were there. "Then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you;'" that is, as one of My children, "'depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" "Lord, Lord, haven't we done many wonderful things in Your name"? "I never knew you". It is the condition of the heart. If there's going to, listen, if there's going to be genuine salvation, it means, listen, a change of attitude. The instant change is from unbelief about who He is to belief in who He is and repentance is so vitally wrapped up in that you cannot separate the two. It is God who makes the changes. And the change instantly happened the moment you moved from unbelief to belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
That was the first thing that took place. And so, which do you put first, the change or the belief? You don't put either one of them first. You've got two sides of a coin, you've got belief and repentance for salvation. When it comes to the believer, you and I have the responsibility, we are, listen, we are accountable to God. We're responsible to God for the life that we live, and repentance must be a vital part of our life. Only thing we're doing, here's what happens. Confession without repentance equals what? More and more confession, and confession, confession, because there's not gonna be a change. It is the repentance that, listen, that puts the strength in that confession because the two are really vitally linked together. If it's a genuine confession, it is going to be involved with repentance. Change of mind, change of heart, change of conduct.
So, when a person says, "Well, you know, I've confessed and confessed and confessed and I don't know why I don't have any victory". Well, have you ever stopped to say, "God, this doesn't belong in my life. I repent of that sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I choose here and now to walk away from that in my life". He says, "Well, I don't know that I can walk away". You have the power of the Holy Spirit within you to enable you to walk away. Now, listen carefully, this is the deceitfulness of sin. This is the awful deceitfulness of sin, that Satan says, "One won't hurt you. Two won't hurt you. Three won't hurt you. Four won't hurt you. Oh, everybody makes a mistake". Until finally that chain has wrapped itself around you and you come to repent before Almighty God and you have a terrible struggle.
This is why when you deal with, listen, when sin crops up in our life, the time to deal with it is right then, before it gets a hold on your life, and you find yourself repenting of sin. And what happens? Doesn't last very long, because you've allowed Satan to get a big hold in your life. Can God break that? Yes, He can! Will He? Yes, He will! The struggle is not whether God can or not, the struggle is do I want Him to or not? You see, a person who is in some habit, the truth is they enjoy the habit so much. It's become such a part of their life, the truth is, on the one hand they say, "Well, God, I don't want this in my life". But deep down inside, they don't want to give it up. Don't want to give it up? That's not genuine repentance. There's got to be a decision made to deal with it and to walk away from it, which a person can.
So, I want to encourage you, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and you've been waiting to get your life cleaned up, forget it. That's not your job. God will clean up your life. You need to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins, recognizing that your sin is against God and against you, that He died through His Son, Jesus, at the cross, and that He paid your sin-debt in full. And at the moment you're willing to say to Him, "Yes, I do believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is". You've suddenly changed. Sudden change has taken place. I'm placing my life in His hands, I'm trusting Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. You have made a dramatic change in your life, and that change will show itself instantly and over the rest of your life.
If you are a believer, you've been bringing in the same old stuff back, over and over and over again. Getting down by the bed at night, or getting in the bed or whatever it might be. "Lord, here's what You said, First John one nine, I'm confessing it again. God, why don't I have victory"? Because more than likely you have not been willing to face up honestly with the nature of that sin, the consequences of that sin, and listen, feeling sorrowful enough about that sin that you choose to walk away. You choose to say no to it. You choose to forsake it. And my friend, you choose to forsake it and all the power of God is there to help you to do it.