The Lord's Day Evening
January 17, 2010
The Reverend Mr. William F. Joseph III
Turn with me to Mark's gospel to the first chapter of Mark to verse 14 and verse 15. Let's pray before we read God's Word.
Father in heaven, we now have opened Your Word and we're about to read it, and then we're going to think about it. Father, we would come and confess our total, complete, and absolute need of your Spirit's guidance, direction, and instruction. We would ask that You would help us to know the things that you call us to do and to please You. Father, we need Your help in every way. We are those who cried out to You to save us and tonight, as we look at what it means to live in Your kingdom, we pray that You would bless us. These things we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear the Word of God:
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ He said, ‘the kingdom of God is near; repent and believe the good news.’”
Repent and believe the good news. Is it really good news to you? What is this good news that we believe? What is the good news that we hear about and how can you tell that we are a people who really have repented and believe this good news? Last time that I had the opportunity to open God's Word with you, we looked at the noise that a Christian makes where he calls out to God and asks God to save him. Tonight we're going to look at how a Christian lives every single day — the realities of what it means to be one who lives in God's kingdom and how you can know whether or not you live in God's kingdom.
You notice that there are two things here — repent and believe this good news. Two things that, when we look at them, are two sides of a coin so to speak. You can't have one without the other. You can't have one without the other occurring. You may think that you have that one at times and the other doesn't occur, but it really does. You may think that you only did this second one and didn't do the first one, but it always works that those two will go hand in hand. Believing and trusting. Believing and repenting. Those two things.
I'd like for you to think of them as breathing, breathing. Do you realize how many times you breathe in a given day? I look around the room and I'm sure there are some who haven't gotten to this point yet, but there are some of you who are already past the point, but the average human being in their lifetime will breathe in and out four hundred million times. I want to find the guy that counted. Four hundred million times your body does something — you can do it without thinking about it, you can do it in rhythm to music, you can try to not do it, and yet you’re forced to do it sooner or later - to inhale the oxygen or to exhale the carbon dioxide. If you don't do those two things, you don't live. Now you may measure living the way an Alabama fan would measure living, or you may measure living the way a person who's been to a big party would measure living. Whatever way you measure living, breathing is the essential part of it. Even if you measure eating as fun, breathing is still an essential part. So we're going to look at this repentance and faith as exhaling and inhaling, exhaling and inhaling.
Let's look at repentance first. Now I'm going to let you help me. Turn to page eight hundred and seventy five of your hymn book. There, in the Shorter Catechism, we have a wonderful definition of what repentance is. There you find these words: “What is repentance unto life? Repentance unto life” — oh excuse me, question eighty-seven for those of you who are counting on your fingers still and trying to figure out where it is; page eight hundred seventy five, question number eighty-seven — “What is repentance unto life? Repentance unto life is a saving grace” — now that means it only occurs in believers. It's the grace of God working in someone's life where they cannot do it themselves — “a saving grace whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”
Now, let me show you the two sides so you’ll get them. You see that repentance is that attitude towards sin, that, as it says here, that “apprehension of the mercy of God,” the need that my sin has created a problem between me and God and I need God and that my sin is in the way. But then it also points that not only do I turn away from sin but I turn from it unto God. And what's that called? That's called faith. That's called trust. That's called believing. So even in the definition of one side of our two sided coin, or one side of our breathing, it's going to incorporate still. So you have to see as we struggle with what repentance is that it's first and foremost a view of sin. And when you think of your sin, the easiest thing in here is to ask anybody in here, “Have you sinned?” Everybody in here would say, “Yes, I've sinned. Yes, I've done wrong.” I see some of you laughing because you’re probably like me. I sinned driving up here tonight.
We were in the S-curve over by Riverside. Y’all know the S-curve there off of Lakeland onto Riverside? And I was driving along and there was that big old puddle that's right there in the part of the curve and there were two gentlemen walking right by that puddle at just the right time. Here I was, driving to church to preach, and I had to confess to my wife how good that situation looked. I didn't know them from Adam's housecat, but boy, it was just one of those perfect timing situations, but I didn't. But I wanted to. Sin is right there at our elbow, Paul says in Romans. It's right there, it's always there, it's always ready to jump in. And we are prone to it so easily that it doesn't take Satan or our husband or our wife or anybody else to make us sin. We simply choose it. We are sinners. And our sin is not just sin against each other. It is sin against our God and you and I cannot get away from it. And here Jesus is proclaiming the kingdom of God and that it's near and the first thing that He commands people to do it to repent, to breathe out the bad. But it's more than just breathing out the bad, it is that acknowledgment that that bad is against God. As I drove around that S-curve, I wasn't just in Marian's presence - she probably would have killed me if I would have done it — but I was in the presence of God. Sin is not something that God isn't concerned about. He hates it. He cannot stand it. The only way that He can deal with your sin and with my sin was for His Son to die in our place, taking the punishment on Himself. And so that says that repentance is something that is very, very important to God, that when we come to Him in faith and trust that there has to be, there must be, a turning away from sin. There must be a right understanding that my thoughts, my words, and my deeds that are contrary to His good pleasure should be destroyed, that I should be put to death, that I should have nothing in and of myself. I should have no blessings whatsoever. And so repentance should drive me to the fact that I am a sinner, but also it will drive me to God.
I found an interesting statement by John Cahoon about repentance, but it's really about false repentance. Listen to it. He said, “Though Cain's terror” — you know who Cain is — “Pharaoh's fair promises, Ahab's humiliation, Herod's reverencing of the prophets, Judas’ confession, the stony ground hearer's joy, the tongues of men and of angels, the gifts of miracles and of prophecy, and the knowledge of all mysteries, if all of these things were concentrated into one man they would not prove him to be truly repentant.” You see, when a person is repentant, it's a change of heart not just a change of action. It's a desire that has come upon him. Not a performance, not a duty, but a change of heart, a change of “want to,” a change of desire.
Go with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 7, verses 9 through 11. Here, Paul has written 1 Corinthians to the church telling them about this young man that they needed to disciple and now that they've disciplined, he comes back and he talks about a godly grief. Listen to what he says in verses 9 through verse 11. He says, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief so that you suffered no loss through us, for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Okay, real quick — stop for a moment. Think of Peter, sorry for his sin of denying Jesus, but Jesus came to him and he turned and trusted in Jesus. Think of Judas, sorry for his sin. Jesus didn't come to him, he didn't trust in Jesus, and he committed suicide and died — picture of those two types of grief.
Verse 11 says, “For see what earnestness this godly fear has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment. At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” Now let's look at those things that are listed in verse 11 because in them we're going to see things that help us understand a false repentance. The first one, you see it there — “For see what eagerness this godly grief has produced.” It's a careful vigilance that is produced in us. We want to know what God's Word says. We study God's Word so that we know what pleases Him and we are careful and we are earnest and diligent. And that earnestness and that diligence isn't just temporary, but it keeps on. Look at the next one — “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but eagerness to clear yourselves.” Now wait a minute, wait a minute. Now I know that some of you when you've sinned if you’re like me, you can come up with every excuse in the book, right? When you know that you have done what God calls you not to do, it is amazing what kind of excuses we can come up with. We can blame other people — Adam and Eve. We can shift the blame so quickly. We can find any excuse to clear ourselves. That's not what this is talking about. This is talking about the kind of clearing that really is clear, where Jesus has cleared us, where He has taken our sin, where He has taken our penalty, and we acknowledge that apart from Him we are nothing. We’re still sinners. But because of Him, we are the righteousness of God. Whoa, now that's clear isn't it? In other words, there will be a dwelling on what Christ has given you, not just what Christ has taken away. He's taken away your sin and punishment, but He's given you His righteousness.
Now what's the next thing? “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation.” Well now that's interesting — a holy indignation, a hatred of sin, an attitude towards sin that sin isn't something to be toyed with, to be played with. If you come up to my office you will see lots of toys. I got a new toy this week and I just now got it set up in my office so if you — see if you can find it when you come to my office — but I like toys. I like things that when somebody comes to visit me and they bring their kid, their kid isn't going to be too disappointed. Maybe I'm weird, I don't know. Those toys are there for the child to play with, to touch, to be involved with. But if the child begins to play with my space heater, we've got a problem. There has to be somewhere where you know the difference. “Don't touch the space heater. Don't get near. It's not a toy. It's not to be messed with.” Sin is not light material in God's accounting. It's deadly serious. Your death and the death of His Son are caused because of sin. His death for you is because you and I deserve death because of our sin. Sin is not to be trifled with and so it does require a holy indignation. We are to hate sin. We are to despise it.
And what does that do? Not only an indignation but look at the next one — “a fear” a reverent fear. Now this is where it gets so interesting. This is a fear based on knowing who God is, not a fear of trembling because God is the great keeper of every record and therefore I'd better repent and do what He tells me to do. It is more of the repentance of “Wait, He is my Father. He has bought me. This is what pleases Him. This is what I long to do. This is what I want to do. I don't want to dishonor Him. I don't want to offend Him because He is my Father.”
And then next, what does it say? “What fear, what longing.” What longing; an ardent desire. A desire, a “want to,” an internal pressure to do it because you see the smile on His face. It's not repentance because you have to, it's repentance because you can't believe how much He loves you and how much is costs Him for you to be His child. And it changes not just your duty and the things that you’re supposed to do, it changes what your very heart longs for in the real you, in the inner you, not just the outer.
And then notice “zeal;” “what zeal” the passage says. The person who is truly repentant is going to have a zeal. Now zeal's one of those things that's kind of interesting to define. I found a great definition. The definition is love and anger compounded together. You know it's okay to be angry about the right things. It's alright for a husband to be angry when a wife looks differently or looks somewhere else, or a wife when a husband looks — it's usually that one — looks elsewhere. It's alright to be jealous in certain cases because God is jealous. He's jealous of us. Zeal is that great picture, that enthusiasm. Why? Because of love and because of ownership. Remember the words of God to Abraham? “I will be your God and you will be My people.” Now God has a zeal for us because we are His people, but we should have a zeal for Him because He is our God. Love. And then that anger when He is not honored. Love of Him because of what He's done, but a concern for the holiness of His name. That love of Him but a concern when others disrespect Him. A zeal. And how that applies to our sin and repentance is that we long not only to do what pleases Him, but to see it done in others as well.
And then notice the next one. A real interesting one — “what punishment.” We are to put sin to death, we are to mortify sin in our fleshly bodies. We’re not to put up with sin and so true repentance is going to be that which works toward getting rid of, avoiding, fleeing sin, because it offends and because it dishonors our Father in heaven and it makes light of what our Savior has done for us in taking our penalty upon Himself.
You see therefore why I say that repentance is like breathing out, getting rid of sin, getting rid of that which can hurt, getting rid of that which can destroy us, and seeing it as something not good. You know I'm not a “green person.” You know, CO2 is good for them trees, but it's not good for us. We have to breathe it out. If we don't breathe it out, we die. But inhale, if we don't just turn away from our sin but we turn to Christ. I love the illustration that I used for many years on the college campus so I see one of my former students out there and they've probably heard it before, but guess what? They get to hear it again!
You’re out in the Gulf, you’re on your raft, you’re getting a great tan — you've been working on it for the last, oh, thirty or forty minutes you know — and you realize you've fallen asleep and you wake up. And here you are laying on that raft and you look up and you don't see the shore but you see a fin cutting through the water coming straight for you. You know you need to turn away from what which will kill you, so you turn around and there's the shore. You've turned one hundred and eighty degrees, now you’re facing the shore, and you’re safe! No. You turn, you face the shore, there it is, and then you start paddling like crazy, doing everything you can because you know the shore is where safety is. Repentance is turning away from the shark and turning to the safety of the shore, turning away from that which can eat you alive and turning toward Him who you feast on His flesh because He died for you. Oh, trust in Christ, lean on Him.
Look back on page eight hundred seventy five and let's look at what the Catechism says about what faith in Christ is. “Faith in Jesus Christ” — question number eighty-six, sorry I kind of jumped in there. I figured y’all can see it, I can see it, y’all surely can see it. Question number eighty-six on page eight hundred seventy five — “What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace” — you can't do it yourself — “it is a saving grace whereby we receive” — we don't get something, we receive something. It's done from outside of us, but offered to us and given to us. “And rest upon Him alone for salvation” — alone for salvation — “as He is offered to us in the Gospel.” It's turning to Jesus Christ because I cannot do it myself. You see, that's to me what's so interesting about the good news. The good news is that Christ does it all. Christ satisfies divine justice. Christ took your sin and your punishment. Christ did everything necessary for you to be His child. Everything. But to acknowledge that you have to know that you've sinned. You have to turn away from your sin and turn to Him as your only hope, but that's hard to do when you’re trying to be self sufficient. That's hard to do when you think you, or I think I, and the answer to every question that I have.
Tonight, as we were, this afternoon —Marian wasn't watching the football game, and I wasn't, I was preparing the sermon, but we watched the end of this movie and Vincent Price was in it, and he played this man who didn't acknowledge anybody else — his own way. But as we were eating lunch and kind of seeing it go by on the screen I was thinking, “What arrogance!” How do you live and think in this world that you know all the answers? I know, there's probably somebody in here that does, but it's beyond me. I keep bumping my nose, bruising it here and there over things I can't do. Over and over my inabilities — okay I must be the only one in here that has them so maybe that's what I always have a bumped nose. You see it's all kind of squished up. But it's over and over. If you live in this world, where does self sufficiency come from? Even if you accomplish great things, you never accomplish them by yourself. Faith is coming to Christ and resting on what He has done because you can't do it yourself. That's good news. If I was told that there was one thing I had to do to gain that salvation, I'd despair because I probably couldn't do that. The good news is that the Son of God has done it all.
Now I am preaching to the choir as I look out here tonight, but I know that there's bound to be someone here who still sees that they can do whatever they want to and that they will be good enough in some way or another for God, if He's there, to accept them. And if He's not, they’ll ease through life that way. But if you ever hit a bump, if you ever hit a wall, or if you come face to face with your own inability to do anything good or to do some good or to be perfect, remember that Jesus Christ has done it all. Saving faith, saving faith, receiving what Christ has done, resting on Him alone, not on yourself, not one your mama or daddy, not on your husband or wife, not on your goodness, not on your supposed goodness, but on Him alone for salvation. See, you get the two sides of breathing out of the bad and acknowledgement of the good.
But let me ask you a question. Some of you knew that when you came here, didn't you? Some of you know that. You know it. How do you live it? How do you breathe every day? Not just how did you breathe to cry out to God — you saw your sin, you saw Christ, and you said, “Christ, save me!” — the noise you make as a Christian, “Christ, save me!” came about because you breathed, you saw your sin, you exhaled it, you took in Christ and you said, “Save me!” Okay, some of you fifteen years ago, I hope you've been breathing since then. What is the daily breathing that mirrors repentance and faith? What is the evidence as you walk through your daily life that you are a kingdom child who is constantly and continually repenting and trusting Christ? It's called confession.
Think about it. The first thing I had to do when I hit that S-curve and I thought about doing it was to say to my wife, “Here I am. I'm not really a good person inside. Where did that come from?” Well, it's because I'm a sinner. “Lord, forgive me for even thinking that way.” The first thing to do was to confess. Confess simply means to agree with. I agreed with the conviction that God gave me through His Word that I shouldn't be splashing water on people when I'm cutting a curve. That's Hezekiah 6:1 if any of you were worried about it. (laughter) No, I was supposed to treat them as I would treat myself. Okay, that's Biblical. I'm supposed to treat them better than I would treat myself. You see, confession of sin, we know the Scriptures teach that, we know that we're to confess our sin don't we? 1 John 1:9 — “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You go to Psalms. Oh how it hits you in the Psalms. Psalm 32 — “I acknowledge my sin to you and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” There's David. Or Psalm 51 — “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgments. All we like sheep have gone astray and turned every one to his own way, but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Confession, the breathing out, should be anytime that we find sinful thoughts, sinful actions, sinful deeds, that we, contrary to what everyone else does, kingdom children are quick to admit their sin. If they’re not, maybe they repented once, maybe it's not true repentance because if you repent and you trust Christ, the reality will be it will become a constant habit, not just because you sin all the time but because you want to be in good fellowship with your Savior. You will confess your sin.
But that's not the only thing the Scriptures tell us to confess. We don't just agree that we're sinners. You can't get away from it — I don't see how you can help but see it — but we agree that we're sinners, but we acknowledge that, but we acknowledge something else at the same time. It's amazing to me, as I dealt with students over the years, how many students knew they were to confess sin, but they didn't know the other part — breathing out saying, “Oh yes, I've sinned.” What's the right word for it? I know it feels good when you confess sin. I know that it comes across that you've unburdened yourself. That's not what we're talking about because that's the breathing out. It's the breathing in that gives you life. It's the breathing in that gives you strength to keep going. What is the breathing in? What is the confession that you also make? “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” We don't just go around saying, “Yes I've sinned, I thought wrong here.” We go around saying, “Thank you Jesus for dying for me.” We don't just say that we're sinners. We are those who constantly are acknowledging that the only way we walk, the only way we breathe, the only way we do anything is because Christ has saved us. And so we walk around breathing constantly, “Lord, forgive me. Thank you Jesus for dying for me. Lord, forgive me for that one. Lord, thank you for dying for me.” And so we can give thanks at all times. We can rejoice without ceasing because most of us have to deal with our sin that much, don't we?
Are any of you tired of sinning? Any of you been fighting a sin for fifteen, twenty, thirty years? I’ll bet you know what it means to breathe. We cannot live or move, we don't even have our being, apart from Jesus Christ. It's not just a question of whether or not you’re in the kingdom, it's a question of whether you’re breathing every day.
I remember — as we were driving over here Marian was reminding us that the first time I had my daughter, my newborn daughter, wasn't real big — all wrapped up and I had her all by myself, and I ain't never had a baby before and I sure couldn't find the instructions on her little tail end. And she was sleeping so good — oh, is she breathing? I wasn't sure. I called Marian — “Well go get a mirror and stick it in front of her nose.” “Why?” “Because if she's breathing it will fog up the mirror.” Is your mirror foggy whenever you hold it up in front of yourself — foggy because you’re exhaling, you’re confessing your sin, you’re repenting of your sin, and breathing in faith and trust in Christ, breathing in the beauty and the glory of the One who died for you? Is your mirror foggy? Let's pray.
Father in heaven, thank You for the salvation that is ours through Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus. Thank You that He has paid it all and that that is such good news. Thank You for working in Your children that they do not obey out of duty, but they obey because they are sons and daughters who know what it has cost for them to be so, and who long for fear of our God, love and zeal to serve our God to please Him. Thank You for changing our desires so that we no longer desire to please ourselves, but that our overwhelming thought pattern is to confess our sin to You and to acknowledge Lord Jesus that You have bought us. Father, I pray for those here who this makes no sense whatsoever to. I pray that You would bring them to the point where they cannot trust themselves any longer and that You will show them that You are there and that You will give them repentance and faith so that they too will cry out, “God, save me. Be merciful to me, a sinner.” These things we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Let's stand for God's benediction.
And now may grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, be and abide with each one of you both now and forever. Amen.
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