Doug Batchelor - Repentance
Today we're going to be talking about step number three in this 'Formula for Faith: Understanding the Science of Salvation'. And that third step is Repentance. And it is really one of the most important things that we could be talking about because, even among Christians a lot of churches have sort of neglected this very biblical and very important aspect of the steps of salvation. Repentance represents a sorrow for sin and a willingness to turn away from it. It's very important that if we have sinned, for one thing that we're aware, and the other is that if we are aware we regret.
When I was a young man - four years old - living with my grandmother, I stole. She was always afraid to take me to the store because she had to shake me down when we got to the car and find out what I’d come out with. Two things in particular I remember - and I don't even know why I did it. I think once I stole a little jar of Pond's facial creme. I was going to give it to my mother. I didn't need it, but I thought this would make a nice gift and that wasn't so hard to get out the door. But my grandmother never could figure out how I managed to sneak out of the store in front of her with a bow and arrow - a full bow and arrow kit - and I still don't know if she said 'How you hid that behind your back and down your pants, or whatever you did?'
And I walked out the store with the bow and arrow. And what really bothered her was when she told me 'This is wrong. You should stop stealing.' I was unrepentant. So she took me to the police station - this is true - and she told the policeman - I have a Jewish grandmother - she told the policeman 'Can you tell Dougie that he's going to go to jail if he doesn't stop stealing?' And he said, 'You know, if you don't stop stealing I’m going to put you in jail.' And I said, ‘I’m not afraid.' And then she said, 'Tell him what you feed them in jail.' He said, 'You'll have bread and water.' And I said, 'Will there be any peanut butter and jelly?' This is really - I still vividly remember this. And when I realized it was just bread and water without peanut butter and jelly on the bread, I thought I’d better mend my ways. But she was really worried because I felt no remorse.
Now if someone is guilty - if you sin - should they feel guilty? If you're a parent and you have a child and they're sinning, and they don't have any regret aren't you worried? So if we're doing something that's wrong is it important for us to feel regret or to feel guilty? You should not feel good about doing bad. And the reason that this is important and we're talking about it now is a lot of churches, I think, misunderstand the importance of repentance. In our culture today we hear a lot about, you know, 'God loves you. He doesn't want you to feel shame. He doesn't want you to feel guilt' and 'All guilt and all shame is from the devil.' Not true. One of the things the Holy Spirit does is He brings conviction for sin. There should be a sorrow for sin.
We talked in our last presentation about having that epiphany - that 'Aha!' moment where you realize, as David said, ‘I have sinned.' or like Peter, when you realize you denied Christ you go out and you weep bitterly. There should be a remorse. James talks about our humbling ourselves in the sight of God that He might lift us up. So before God can lift us up and make us feel good, we need to know why we have a reason to feel bad and that's called repentance. So let's look at some of the verses in the bible that talk about this.
Now, remember, we're using, as a springboard of our study, the conversion experience of Isaiah. Let's go there really quick again. In Isaiah chapter 6 it tells us in verse 1, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne," - and it describes him seeing God in His glory surrounded with these holy Seraphim - these angelic creatures that are then crying the holiness of God and the exalted nature of God. And they cry, 'Holy, holy, holy' - the Lord is so pure. And then, as exposed to the pureness of God, he, by contrast, sees his own defilement and after he sees the goodness of God he then sees himself in contrast and he says, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" He acknowledges and recognizes his sinfulness, "Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts." Remember, step one? When he saw God and His goodness, by contrast he saw then his unholiness and that led him to repentance.
And the second part of this repentance is confession and we'll get to that in just a moment. Now, what is the first thing that John the Baptist said as he was preparing to introduce Jesus to the world? He went to prepare the way for Christ. He was that voice crying in the wilderness. Matthew chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, it says, "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying," - first word - "'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'" If we want to be citizens in that kingdom, what's the first thing that needs to happen? Repent. John the Baptist, it says, he had a baptism of repentance. First words of Jesus, if John's not good enough for you, what were the first words of Jesus when He began to preach? It says, "From that time" - Matthew 4:17 - "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" First words out of His mouth.
Well, what brings us to repentance? 2 Corinthians 7, verse 10, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation." So what leads to salvation? A godly sorrow - there is a godly shame or a guilt or conviction for - that we've done something wrong and we should be sad about that. It produces repentance - the right kind of repentance - that leads to what we all want: salvation. Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and it's a repentance not to be regretted. 'The sorrow of the world or false guilt or shame produces death.' We'll talk more about that in a minute. And then we touched on this: Romans 2, verse 4 - I want to give you a lot of scripture today - "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"
Where in history, biblically, was the goodness of God best exemplified? At the cross. You see the love of God for man in His giving His son. You see the love of Jesus for man in laying down His life. You see the humility of Christ - that He's willing to take our place, His purity, His meekness - it's all seen there at the cross. Now, a definition for repentance is 'A remorse, regret, or contrition for past conduct or sin.' The second part is 'To feel such regret as to change one's mind regarding it as in repenting of one's intemperate behavior. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.' Repentance is not just a sorrow that you've done something wrong and you continue doing the same thing. Repentance represents a U-turn on the road of life and that means 'you turn'. So you're going this way and you're living for the devil and you're doing what's wrong and then you have this realization of 'Oh Lord, woe is me. I am undone.' ‘I am the man.' or like Peter, you realize that Christ is suffering for you and then you basically do an about face and you change directions - U-turn - and you start to go a different direction - you turn away from the things that hurt the Lord.
When you think of what have we done to God? What have our sins cost Jesus? And when we look at the cross and we see how He suffered for - everything you see Him going through on the cross is not just for the sins of the whole world, everything He went through on the cross was what He needed to do just for your sins. I think that sometimes is difficult for us to understand. You might be thinking, 'Well, He died for the sins of the whole world.' True, but everything He did He would have done just for your degree of sins. Your sins, no matter how small - you may have grown up in the church - it doesn't matter how small or insignificant you think your sins might be, your sins all by yourself are enough to have made Jesus experience everything He experienced on the cross. And when you realize that, you say 'Wow, He did all that for me. My sins were that painful to God?' And so when we see how much our sins hurt God, the goodness of God leads us to repentance.
Now, you can read, for instance, one of the first steps in repentance - how important is it? One of the first steps in repentance, in Acts chapter 2, after Peter helped the crowd at Pentecost see the Lord - the first step is see the Lord. They then saw themselves and said, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' They said, 'Woe is me. We've crucified our Savior. The Messiah came and we've crucified Him.' And they had this terrible sense of their shame and they said, 'What do we do?' And what was Peter's answer? Acts 2:38, "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" So we all understand how important it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
What is a prerequisite for being filled with the Holy Spirit? Repent. Repentance. You see, before we can be filled we must be empty. And repentance is really kind of turning your heart upside down. You're emptying yourself of yourself and saying, 'Lord, woe is me. You fill me with Your spirit.' And when you humble yourself, then God can lift you up. I’ll read that verse to you again in James 4, verse 7, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." This sounds kind of heavy but it's in the Bible. "Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom." Some people stop right there and I don't want to stay in a church where they stop right there, but that is part of the gospel is that we need to have that sense of mourning and sorrow for our sin. It says, 'Let your joy be turned to gloom. Humble yourself in the sight of God' and then the good part is he says, 'He will lift you up.'
He doesn't leave you in that state of shame and mourning and sorrow. For instance, in Ephesians 4:28 it says, "Let him who stole steal no longer." I mean, can you say 'Well, I just don't steal nearly as much'? Would that be acceptable? If you're, you know, you're working for an employer in a factory and you tell your employer, 'You know, I used to steal a lot from you but I’ve become a Christian and I want you to know I’ve cut down'? How long will you have your job? He wants to - first of all, you might lose your job anyway. He wants you to say, ‘I don't steal anymore.' And how many times, when Jesus forgave somebody, like the woman in the temple - it might have been Mary Magdalene that was caught in adultery - Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you.' And we love to preach on the wonderful grace of the Lord that says, ‘I do not condemn you.' And not always do we then go on to say what Jesus said, 'Go, you're free, and sin no more.' He doesn't save us to sin, He saves us from our sin. Mary Magdalene may have fallen back. The Bible says He cast seven devils out of her. That means you might slip and ‘If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father.' We shouldn't get discouraged. You get back up. You keep going.
Again, John chapter 5, verse 14, similar story. The man who was healed by the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus finds him later in the temple and He says, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." Now why does Jesus want us to turn from sin? Because it's just against His rules? Or what does sin do to us? This man had been healed from a miserable paralyzing sickness. Jesus does not want you to be sick. He's a loving parent. God will withhold no good thing from His children - that's a scripture - Psalms. 'God will withhold no good thing from us' - so the only things He wants us to turn from are the things that hurt us. Jesus said, 'Sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you. He wants to save us from our sins because He wants to save us from what hurts us. So the Lord wants us to turn from it.
What's the best time to turn from your sin? Early. Soon. As soon as you become aware there's a problem. How important is repentance? Words of Jesus: Luke 13, if you read verses 1 through 5 - I’ll read the last part here. He says, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.' What is part of believing in Jesus? If you say you believe that there is a tsunami coming and you stay on the beach, you don't really believe. If you say you believe in Jesus' teaching and Jesus says you must repent or perish, then part of believing in Jesus is repentance. Does that make sense? People sometimes think that believe means - 'Oh yeah, I believe that Jesus died on the cross so that means I’m saved.'
The Bible says that devils believe and tremble. That's the kind of faith a devil can have. The devil believes that Jesus died on the cross, isn't that right? Is that going to save him? So it's a broader, more comprehensive kind of belief. It's a belief in believing the teachings of Jesus - believing in what Christ said we should do. And one of the things Jesus said is, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent or you will likewise perish." So repentance is part of the teaching of Christ. 2 Peter 3:9 - this is a good one - 2 Peter 3:9, God is "Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." So part of believing in Jesus is repentance and we've got to know what that means. By the way, the Hebrew word for 'repent' is 'nahum' and it means 'to sigh or to breathe strongly; to be sorry; to repent; wanting to change.' And in Greek it's 'metanoia' and it means 'to be regretful; to think differently; turning from sin to God.' So even in the very words it represents not just saying 'Yeah I’m sorry I did that to you Lord' but continuing.
Now, there's the right kind of repentance and there can also be the wrong kind of repentance. For instance, some examples of the wrong kind of repentance you can find in Hebrews chapter 12, verse 16, "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." He was only sorry for what he had lost. He wasn't sorry that he had despised the birthright. Does the Bible say that Judas repented? It does. Matthew 27, verse 3, "Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood...and went and hanged himself."
So there are several other cases in the Bible of this counterfeit repentance. Pharaoh was always sorry in the intensity of a plague and as soon as the plague was removed he went right back to doing the same thing. He wasn't really sorry that he had defied God. He kept them as slaves. The Bible talks about Balaam and when the angel was in his path with a sword drawn, he was sorry at that point, but he wasn't really remorseful for his greed.
Then you've got Achan. You know, when Achan was finally identified by God in casting lots and the Holy Spirit said, 'You're the one who stole and many have died because of your sin.' He said, 'Uh, yes, I’ve sinned.' Well, the spotlight, you know, the video was playing at that point. And from time to time you'll hear someone make a confession but it's because they deny it, they deny it, they deny it and they say, 'Here's the video - here's the audio of you saying this or doing this and they go, 'Oh yeah, I guess I did do it and I’m sorry.' Well, are they sorry? No, that's not real repentance. Repentance is a sorrow in heart and a willingness to turn away and to change.
You know, a number of years ago there was a man who was guilty of robbing a bank and he went several years - I think ten years went by - he was 19 years old when he robbed the bank. His name was Al Johnson and he became a Christian and he realized, 'You know, I was a bank robber and I need to go confess.' And so he went to the bank and he told them ‘I’ve robbed your bank.' And they said, 'You know, the statute of limitations for your crime has actually expired. We can't prosecute.' He said, 'Well, even if you can't prosecute, I’m a Christian now, I think I should pay back my portion of what was robbed.' And he did. Because real repentance is not only going to be a sorrow for sin and a turning away.
An example would be if you borrowed your neighbor's lawnmower and you never turned it back - never returned it to them. And then somewhere along the way you visit church and you find the Lord and you repent and come to Christ and you kneel and you say, 'Lord, please forgive me for stealing my neighbor's lawnmower.' If you keep it in your garage, are you forgiven? Or do you need to take it back to your neighbor? If you're really sorry, then you ought to, as far as possible, restore what was taken. There's a number of verses in the Bible - for instance, Ezekiel 33:15, "If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die." That's pretty clear. Things need to be restored. There needs to be a transformation.
People sometimes do what they want to do and some folks say, 'Well, you know, I don't think I can stop. I don't think I can change.' Really? You know, when we say we don't think we can stop or we don't think we can change - first of all, you can't do anything without Jesus. The question is 'Do you believe you can do all things through Christ?' Can you not only be sorrow - sorry for your sins, but can you turn from your sins with God's help? You can. And the other thing is it's very important for us to realize that repentance is a life and death issue. We've got a snake that's crawled in the hole. If we don't turn from our sins then sin will ultimately destroy us.
The most dangerous mistake that people make when it comes to the truth regarding repentance - you know what it is? Procrastination. We say, 'You know, repentance is important. One of these days...one of these days. You know, there's that thief on the cross and maybe just before I die I’ll repent.' And it is true, there is one example in the Bible of someone who has a deathbed conversion in the eleventh hour of his life - that thief on the cross was saved just like he was. He didn't have to wrestle with or give up any of his sins because we are justified by faith. But then part of sanctification is going to be repentance. That thief did repent of his sins. He didn't have a chance to really demonstrate anything because he died shortly after.
But Matthew Henry said something interesting. He said, 'There's only one example in the Bible of a deathbed conversion and the reason there's only one example is so that no one will lose hope, but the other reason is nobody will dare presume.' There's only one example. Yes, there is one example so we don't lose hope, but there is only one example so no one will dare presume. Every day that goes by where we procrastinate repenting of our sins is one less day to repent in and it is one more day to repent of.
It's like this man who was struggling with surrender to Christ, had a dream one night and an angel appeared and the angel said, 'Follow me' and he followed him off into the woods and there in the woods he saw this old hermit and he was gathering sticks into a big pile. And he laid them in a bundle and he tied them off. And he tried to pick up the bundle of sticks but it was too heavy. So the old hermit untied the bundle and he added a few more sticks and then he tied it off and he tried to pick it up and it was too heavy and he went through this exercise several times, every time the bundle of sticks was getting bigger and bigger. And the man turned to the angel and said, 'What does this mean?' he said, 'This is what a lot of people do with repentance. He said, 'They figure it's too heavy and so they put it off and they continue to add to the burden every day.' Someone asked a rabbi 'When's the best time to repent?' And the rabbi said, 'The last day of your life.' And he said, 'What if you don't know what the last day of your life is?' Rabbi said, 'Exactly.'
So the best time to repent of our sins is when we are aware of our sins. When the Holy Spirit comes to us and God gives us that grace and the Bible tells us that it's the Lord that gives us this repentance. When we look at Jesus and we see the goodness of God, when we see the love of God, when we see the sacrifice and the suffering of Jesus, the goodness of God leads us to repentance. You might be thinking as you're listening, 'Pastor Doug, boy I have things in my life that need changing.' Well, I’ve got things in my life too. Praise the Lord I’m not what I used to be. I may not be what I need to be, but praise God I’m not what I used to be. And so you ought to be drawing closer to God and being a Christian is an ongoing walk of the Lord revealing things that need changing. But if you pray and you say all the time, ‘I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus', as you look at God and as you see God, you'll then see yourself and then that'll bring that prayer from your heart, 'Woe is me, I’m undone.' And we need a heart transformation. God says He'll change our hearts and all things will be made new. Do you want that experience?