How to Repent?
Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 3:23
Why did Jesus have to die? He died on the cross because of sinners like you and me. Now you may not like being called a sinner but that is what we are. You and I may use a lot of words that sort of say we are sinners like: we are not perfect; we need to be forgiven; but we don’t use the word SINNER very often. The scripture clearly states that we are sinners.
- 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV). Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. If Paul is the worst sinner what does that make of us?
- 1 John 1:8 (NIV) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…
- Romans 3:23 (NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
- Abigail Van Buren said “A Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”
Let me give you a couple definitions for sin and sinner – then do me favor look at yourself and ask “am I sinner?” Don’t look at me and say “yea he is a sinner!” Look at yourself
- Sin – missing the mark. Even though we want to do God’s will and even try to do it we fail.
- Transgression – is an act of rebellion or disloyalty. It is trespassing where there is a sign reading “No Trespassing.” It is a deliberate act of rebellion.
- Iniquity – is an intentional twisting of legal or moral principles. It is a crooked or perverse act.
There are times we confuse what an apology and what a confession is in the book The Art of the Public Grovel, Susan Wise Bauer offers a helpful distinction: "An apology is an expression of regret: I am sorry. A confession is an admission of fault: I am sorry because I did wrong. I sinned."
- Confession and repentance must come from the heart not because we were caught.
So would you consider yourself a sinner? I know I have been a sinner and forgiven, I know that I am a sinner and will struggle to not be a sinner all my life.
I. What does real repentance look like? As we looked at last Sunday the Bible gives us an example of sin and repentance in the life of King David.
A. Remember the story and its domino effect:
1. Failed to worship on a regular basis
2. Didn’t go off to war like other kings
3. Kept checking out Bathsheba on the deck taking a bath
4. Had an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba – she became pregnant
5. Eventually had her husband put on the front line so he would be killed
6. Nathan confronts him with a story of rich man who had many sheep and a poor man with one sheep that the rich man took for a meal. David knew the parable was about him.
B. It Takes An Instant To Decide To Repent. David confessed his sins immediately (the account of this is found in 2 Samuel 12). In 2 Samuel 12:13 we find David confessing - Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
1. It seems really quick and in a sense it was quick. That quick forgiveness is what grace is all about. We are forgiven, our slate is wiped clean when we confess our sins.
2. That is forgiveness but repentance is a step beyond.
C. The Greek word for repentance (mentanoia) simply refers to a person changing their mind. We may weigh a decision for days or longer but once we make a decision it happens in an instant.
D. The Hebrew word for repentance, shub (pronounced “shoov”) is more descriptive – meaning to turn around. A person heading in one direction decides to switch direction.
1. If repentance means turning away or switching direction then what occurs is a turning away from that particular sin.
2. Here is a simple example – you are in a habit of gossiping which is a sin (yes it is sin) we confess it and are forgiven. The next time someone has a bit of juicy “news” to pass on you have to choose whether you are going to participate in the “news” spreading. Fulfilling repentance is not to participate. 2 ways of not participating:
a. Not listening to the story at all – if you are not listening and the gossip quits people will quit telling you stories.
b. Or by not passing the story on
E. Repentance happens initially when we confess our sinful behavior and are forgiven. But repentance is lifelong process. It easy to go back to our original direction to sinfulness so we are constantly turning around and heading back to God.
II. The process of repentance requires an ever greater understanding of ourselves as sinners and of the cleansing we need.
A. Psalm 51 is a serious supplication of forgiveness, repentance and God’s mercy. We looked at this Psalm last week. It assists us in understanding the process of repentance:
1. Prayer for personal repentance – Psalm 51:1-2
2. Confession of the sin that inhibits God’s blessings – Psalm 51:3-6
3. Prayer for restoration – Psalm 51:7-12
4. Thanksgiving and pledge to share God’s blessing – Psalm 51:13-17
5. Prayer for national repentance – Psalm 51:18-19
B. Repentance begins with the appeal to God. Our repentance is only possible because of the mercy of God.
1. We need to come humbly before God beseeching / imploring God for His mercy.
C. Cleanse me with hyssop found in verse 4 speaks of David’s intent on being cleaned. We need to be cleansed completely.
1. Hyssop was a plant used much like a brush or a sponge, which was used to brush or sprinkle blood on the object being cleansed. (Lev. 14:6-7).
2. This is the foreshadowing of what Christ does for us on the cross.
a. Hebrews 10:22 (NIV) let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
b. 1 Peter 1:2 (NIV) who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
D. We will always struggle with sin. Sin is not confined to one part of us – sin infects our total being – body, mind, and spirit. Sin therefore affects all of creation.
E. Sin deserves death but Christ died for our sins.
III. One sinner’s repentance benefits many sinners. Repentance brings us back to God. Ongoing repentance keeps in a flexible state. It keeps us from hardening our hearts to God. And places us in ministry to others.
A. Our repentance has a purpose – we can’t be used by God if sin is in the way. Sin blocks our usefulness. Repentance frees us to be in ministry for the Lord.
Max Lucado Shows the Power of Honest Confession
Ever since my high school buddy and I drank ourselves sick with a case of quarts, I have liked beer …. Out of the keg, tap, bottle, or frosty mug—it doesn't matter to me. I like it.
[But I also know that] alcoholism haunts my family ancestry. I have early memories of following my father through the halls of a rehab center to see his sister. Similar scenes repeated themselves with other relatives for decades. Beer doesn't mix well with my family DNA. So at the age of twenty-one, I swore off it ….
Then a few years back something resurrected my cravings …. At some point I reached for a can of brew instead of a can of soda, and as quick as you can pop the top, I was a beer fan again. A once-in-a-while … then once-a-week … then once-a-day beer fan.
I kept my preference to myself. No beer at home, lest my daughters think less of me. No beer in public. Who knows who might see me? None at home, none in public leaves only one option: convenience-store parking lots. For about a week I was that guy in the car, drinking out of the brown paper bag.
No, I don't know what resurrected my cravings, but I remember what stunted them. En route to speak at a men's retreat, I stopped for my daily purchase. I walked out of the convenience store with a beer pressed against my side, scurried to my car for fear of being seen, opened the door, climbed in, and opened the can.
Then it dawned on me. I had become the very thing I hate: a hypocrite. A pretender. Two-faced. Acting one way. Living another. I had written sermons about people like me—Christians who care more about appearance than integrity. It wasn't the beer but the cover-up that nauseated me.
[So what] happened with my hypocrisy? First I threw the can of beer in the trash. Next I sat in the car for a long time, praying. Then I scheduled a visit with our church elders. I didn't embellish or downplay my actions; I just confessed them. And they, in turn, pronounced forgiveness over me.
Jim Potts, a dear, silver-haired saint, reached across the table and put his hand on my shoulder and said something like this: "What you did was wrong. But what you are doing tonight is right. God's love is great enough to cover your sin. Trust his grace."
After talking to the elders, I spoke to the church. At our midweek gathering I once again told the story. I apologized for my duplicity and requested the prayers of the congregation. What followed was a refreshing hour of confession in which other people did the same. The church was strengthened, not weakened, by our honesty.
Max Lucado, Grace (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 89-91
C S Lewis said perceptively: “A Christian isn’t one who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and begin over again after each stumble — because of the inner working of Christ.”
That Is Why Christ Had to Die
for slides to accompany the sermon.