Tonight, I'd like to talk about a trip that, prayerfully, we are all on right now. That trip is to repentance, and I've entitled my message tonight, "A Road map to Repentance." Why did I choose to speak on this particular subject? Well, most importantly, according to Matthew 4:17, it was the first thing that Christ preached. And, we find in Rev. 2:5 and 2:16, it's one of the last things He preached in His letters to the seven churches. That tells me that it is a pretty important topic.
There is a passage in 1 John that I'd like to begin with tonight. I have to admit, I struggled with this passage for quite a while. It's found in 1 Jn 5:3-4. "This is love for God; to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world." The New Living Translation states it this way: "Loving God means keeping His commandments, and really, that isn't difficult.: I don't know about you, but I don't always find it "not difficult" or "not burdensome" to always obey God's commands.
Early in my Christian walk, I became really good at confessing. And, it seemed the more I confessed, the more I found myself NEEDING to confess. And often times, for the same repeated sin. I've discovered that my problem was that I was really good at confessing, but I was really lousy at repenting. Do you want to know why? I really didn't understand what repentance was all about. I tended to confuse repentance with remorse. I was using the wrong definition for what I was wanting to do. As we look at the meaning of repentance, it means to change any or all of the elements composing one's life: attitudes, thoughts and behaviours concerning demands of God for right living. I'd be really sorry about what I'd just done, but I didn't know how to change.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the importance of understanding the difference. In 7:9-10, he says, "yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended...Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." What Paul is saying is that if all we are is sorry for our sin, it's going to lead to spiritual death. That sorrow must lead to repentance. And tonight, I want to share three essentials to mark your way on the road to repentance.
First, we need to be RENEWED. This is a critical step, but sadly, too few Christians focus on what that means, and why it is so important. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come." What does that passage mean? When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, your "old" self dies. He's dead! He has no more power in your life. I heard it described like this one time. How many of you have ever gone to a funeral? The casket is usually up front...and sometimes it is opened for a final viewing. Let me ask you a question. What would happen if you went up to the casket and said, "come out John, let's go play a round of golf." Would the dead man get up? Why not? Because he is dead!! He has NO power! When you are renewed by the power of Jesus Christ in your life, your sin is the same as the man in the casket. It has NO power! It is dead! You are a new creation! But, too often we resurrect the sin in our life. We try to bring it back to life, or, we act like it is still strong and powerful. You need to remember that you have been renewed...you are a new creation...a new creation in the image of Jesus Christ.
The second point on our road map is that we need to know how to RUN. And not only how to run, but also when to run. We live in a world that is filled with traps that Satan has set for us. Traps that include drugs and alcohol, old friends, greed, lust, people who irritate us. No matter where we go in this world, we can find temptation to sin. And if we are not careful, those temptations will overpower us. Sadly, I know from personal experience all too well. But Paul gives us one of the most encouraging verses in Scripture related to sin and temptation in 1 Cor 10:13. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
There are some critical points to this passage I want to explore. First, you are not alone! Other people deal with the same temptations that you do. But the enemy wants you to think otherwise. He wants you to believe that you alone have those kinds of thoughts and desires. "You can't tell anyone. Do you know what people would think of you if they knew? You have to keep this a secret. You can handle it all on your own...you have to." I want to tell you something...those are all lies directly from the pit of Hell! Remember why the enemy is here...he's here to kill, steal and destroy, and he doesn't care what he has to do to accomplish that.
The second point is that the temptation will NEVER be so great that you can't bear it. It may feel like it is too big, or it has too much power. But remember, it may have been too big for the "old" you, but he is dead. You are a new creation. And second, you don't have to bear it by yourself...you have help. That help is Jesus Christ. Psalm 68:19 tells us that the Lord DAILY bears our burdens for us.
And the third point is that God will show you how to RUN. He will give us a way out if we only ask Him. He won't leave us in our temptations any longer than we want to stay there. Some of you may recall a time when you were strongly tempted to do something wrong, and said a silent breath prayer. And what happens...miraculously, the phone rings. Or, someone unexpectedly shows up. Or, the words to a new Christian song pops into your head, and the temptation is gone. A coincidence? Never! A miracle from God? Without a doubt!
After we have recognized that we are renewed in Christ and we have learned how to run, the third essential point on our road map is to REPLACE. We all carry about a lot of garbage in our minds and in our hearts. This stuff haunts us, and continually words to drag us back into our old way of life. So, what do we do? We follow Paul's advise in his letter to the Philippians. Phil 4:8 says, "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praise worthy--think about such things." This is one of the ways that we turn from the life we lived to the life God desires for us to live.
I encourage you to do this exercise sometime. On a small card, write each of the key words from Phil 4:8..."true", "noble", "pure", etc. And beside each of the words, write an example of what that word means to you. What would you be doing if you were "doing" each of the words listed? Those words become a picture of whatever repentance looks like. A picture of what your life will look like when you consistently walk the path of repentance.
I've described three key components of changing your life tonight...to turn from a constant battle with temptation to a walk of repentance. I've given you the three "R's"...RENEW, RUN and REPLACE. They should be easy to memorize. But, I want to leave you with one final "R" word tonight. That word is REMEMBER. What is that I want you to remember? Remember the guilt and misery that you felt every time you sinned. Remember the pain and sadness and suffering you caused to those you love and who loved you because of the sin in your life and the consequence for that sin. Remember the pain and agony that Jesus Christ bore for your sins when He hung on the cross of Calvary! Remember that Christ dwells in you, and He is sinless...draw on His power to walk in obedience to Him. Remember that you are a renewed creation, a child of the Creator of the universe. Remember that you can't get to the destination...repentance...if you try to do it on your own...follow the road map...it's all right here in the Word of God!
Message delivered at TCI on February 8, 2007