Foggy Mirror?

Sermon by Billy Joseph on January 27, 2010

Mark 1:14-15

Download Audio

The Lord’s Day Evening

January 17, 2010

Mark 1:14-15

“Foggy Mirror?”

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.

I. Repentance.

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.

II. Faith.

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.

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.

Print This Post