This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled “re:THINK”. In this series, we’ll be dealing with the issue of repentance. Repentance is a churchy word that’s been given a bad reputation by critical and judgmental people and churches. However, repentance is necessary and really quite encouraging. Repentance is all about re:THINKING and repurposing our lives in order to live them in complete freedom and to their fullest potential!
Last week, we learned about what repentance actually is and this week, we’re going to cover what our response should be whenever we find out that we need to re:THINK our perspective, purpose, or behavior (whenever we need to repent).
One of the best ways to learn about how we should respond whenever we’re called to repent (re:THINK) is to take a look at scripture and at an example of this happening with real people just like us. One that the Lord brought to my mind right away was Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. This was a church that Paul had planted during his missionary journeys found in Acts chapter 18. We find this letter in our Bibles as the book of 1 Corinthians. For obvious time’s sake, we’re not going to read through the entire book together, but as you do, you’ll find that this church had some issues.
That’s the awesome thing about God’s word, it doesn’t only record God’s direction to us, it also includes accounts of people being people; making mistakes and correcting them by God’s guidance and strength. The church in Corinth was no different. Let’s take a look at what Paul wrote to them about, first of all the good thinking that they possessed, then the list of things that Paul was telling them that they needed to repent of, or the things that they needed to re:THINK! Since Paul was in spiritual authority over this church, he loved the people there far too much to allow them to continue some of their wrong and destructive perspectives, purposes, and behaviors without warning them about them!
Lacked no spiritual gifts
Enriched with all kinds of speech and knowledge
Everyone came to church ready to share a word, song, tongues, interpretation, or new revelation
Divided over whose leadership they are following
Jealous, arrogant, quarrelsome, and worldly
Boastful in themselves instead of the Lord
Accepting of sexual immorality
Church members taking one another to court
Marriage, singleness, and divorce
Being stumbling blocks to one another over food that can be eaten
Not providing material needs for their preachers
Not participating in communion together
Disorder during church services
Not using the spiritual gifts in love
Preaching against a resurrection
Can you imagine receiving this letter as a church from our spiritual authority? This was quite a list of areas that this church needed to repent of! Can you imagine being one of the church members that was called out in that letter recorded in scripture and used as an example for the rest of time? How would you respond personally? How would we respond as a church?
Well, let’s take a look at how the church in Corinth responded to this call to re:THINK all of these areas. In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, we read about their response to the first letter and its call to repent. We’ll read this together and see what we can learn from this in order to know how we should respond to a call to repent in our own lives.
2 Corinthians 7:2-13
2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
First of all, we find evidence that some responded by closing Paul and his fellow leaders out of their lives; they had closed their hearts toward him. This is a natural reaction that we have when someone hurts us – we close ourselves up toward them. However, as followers of Christ, we have been called and commanded to love others.
Paul follows up with his plea that they make room for he and his fellow leaders in their hearts. He defends that he is not being unreasonable by reminding them of truths about the other leaders and himself. First of all, he uses pronouns “us” and “we” indicating that the call to repentance wasn’t just his idea or opinion, but that he had received wisdom in a multitude of counselors with the other apostles and leaders of the church.
Secondly, he reminds them that his intent was not to bring them harm. He reminded them that neither he nor the other leaders had wronged anyone, corrupted anyone, nor exploited anyone. He reminded them that they have a significant place within their own hearts – that the call to repentance was motivated by love and not malicious in intent.
He also reminded them that he, personally, was very proud of the church in Corinth, despite their many serious issues, and that he cared for them so much that he was not only willing to live with them, but that he would die for them. They still brought him great joy and encouragement.
Whenever someone calls us to repent and we feel our hearts growing cold toward that person, we also must remind ourselves of the truth. Remembering the facts that this person only called me to repent because they really do care that much about me, remembering that this person has never wronged me in the past, remembering that this person has sacrificed so much for me – these things keep our hearts softened toward that person so that we do not shut them out of our life.
The enemy desires to cause division and strife and to harden our hearts toward God’s truth. God desires to bring unity and maturity. The enemy wants to destroy us, God wants to build us up. We must remember the words of Ephesians chapter 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but it is a battle that lies in the heavenly realms. We must choose not to close up our hearts to our brothers and sisters in Christ who love us and only want to see the best for us and especially our leaders who give up their lives for us! Paul reminded them of the severe harassment that they had received for preaching the gospel – of the sacrifices that their leaders personally made all for their sake.
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 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 and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.
As a spiritual leader, I can tell you truthfully from firsthand experience that calling someone to repent, or re:THINK, their perspective, purpose, or behavior is one of the hardest things to do. It’s difficult to do because you know that it is going to hurt someone that you care very much for. It is going to hurt someone that you would be willing to give your life for. It is going to cause a deep sorrow in their lives because true, Biblical repentance impacts the deepest parts of who we are and what we care about. It calls us to re:THINK things that we have accepted as being OK and even things that we stand on for our own identity. However, for us to grow in the Lord, for us to mature in our faith, for us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created, for us to live a life of abundant blessing, repentance is absolutely necessary.
The letter found in 1 Corinthians caused the church in Corinth deep hurts and sorrow. At first, Paul regretted having written that letter. However, Titus, who visited the church and then reported back to Paul, brought him great news that changed Paul’s regret into happiness!
Titus reported that the Corinthian church didn’t just throw a pity party for themselves after receiving his letter. They didn’t band together and cut ties with Paul and his fellow leaders and start a new church. They didn’t join with another church that agreed with their behavior. They didn’t revolt against their spiritual authority and turn to those who would agree with their sin and comfort them in it.
They chose to sit down and seriously re:THINK all of the matters that Paul pointed out to them! They repented! They turned away from their sin and toward God’s perspective, purpose, and behaviors! What could have broke the church and tore apart it’s people instead built the church and encouraged the people all because they chose to respond in the right way!
Whenever we are called to repent, how do we choose to respond? Do we first pray, turn to God and His word, to see what He has to say about the matter? Do we first honestly analyze our lives and see if there is any offensive ways within us? Do we have a change of mind about ourselves and trust that God’s ways are better than our ways and His thoughts are better than our thoughts? Do we go to mature, Godly people and receive wisdom from them? Do we repent?
Or, do we post our grievance on Facebook and watch people come to our rescue? Do we turn to people who we know will reaffirm our wrong thinking? Do we attack the person who asked us to re:THINK ourselves? Do we seek out revenge to hurt others as deeply as they have hurt us? Do we leave the church and find another one that will accept our wrong thinking? Do we close up our hearts toward that person and live with a grudge against them the rest of our days?
The difference is in our sorrow. Yes, we will be hurt deeply! Yes, we will be wounded!
Worldly sorrow brings death – it is an infection within that wound that spreads throughout our entire bodies. Worldly sorrow lives out the rest of its miserable days with regrets that we ever allowed that person to hurt us.
Godly sorrow brings life – it is a soothing salve that binds up and heals that wound. Godly sorrow leads to salvation, which includes healing and freedom, and it leaves no regrets. Look at what godly sorrow did within the people’s lives in the church of Corinth! It produced: earnestness, eagerness to clear their selves, indignation, alarm, longing, concern, readiness to see justice done. At every point, they changed their ways and, in doing so, proved their selves to be innocent.
Whenever we are called to repent, do we choose to embrace worldly sorrow or godly sorrow? Do we pity ourselves, or do we change?
Throughout this series, we will all be hurt by the word of God as we are called to re:THINK ourselves. I implore each one of us, myself included, to allow the hurt that comes to cause growth and maturity in our lives. I implore us to allow God to heal our hurt and build us up into better people. I implore us to have a longing for God and a readiness to clear ourselves of any sin.
In closing, we must choose to repent of one thing before we go into specific subjects. We must re:THINK the wrong mindset that God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace are extended to us without repentance. We must stop thinking that we can ask God to forgive us for sinning and then keep right on doing that same sin and think that we’re in right standing with God. Forgiveness in scripture is always coupled together with repentance. God forgives us AS WE turn from our wicked ways. Grace is not a ticket to receive an endless supply of God’s forgiveness. Grace is what enables us to be forgiven AND ALSO is what empowers us to overcome that same temptation and avoid sin.
We must consider the cost of deliberately sinning according to the word of God. This should put a good and healthy fear into our lives which motivates us to commit to faithful church attendance, to avoid the trap of sin, and to live the life of freedom that Jesus paid the price for us to live! It should motivate us to truly live life and to accept no less for ourselves than God’s very best!
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
My brothers and sisters, we simply cannot deliberately keep on sinning, we cannot trample Jesus under our feet – treat Him like dirt, we cannot insult the Holy Spirit who gives us grace, and still think that we’ll receive a red carpet welcoming into the Kingdom of God! We should be ashamed of living such a life! Though we may be that person now, praise God, that’s not who we have to remain!
When we realized that we have sinned, our hearts should be gripped with sorrow. If we are Christians, if we actually have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we WILL be overwhelmed with grief over our sin. We WILL choose to repent and turn away from those things.
This morning, we’re all here still drawing another breath. That means that this word still rings true for each of us:
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God knows that we’re treating His son like dirt. God knows that we’re heaping insults on the Holy Spirit. God knows that we are choosing to deliberately keep on sinning. He’s being patient with us and calling us to repent, calling us to re:THINK our perspective, purpose, and behavior. He’s waiting for us to turn away from our sin and to Him. He wants to give us life and life to it’s full. He wants to give us a purpose so much greater than we could ever forge for ourselves. He wants to give us hope and a future.
The altars are open this morning and the Living Waters team is available. Let us all choose this day to repent, filled with godly sorrow, and allow God to bring healing to our lives and to give us a new purpose. Let us come running to God to receive His mercy, grace, and forgiveness – not so that we can keep on sinning – but so that we can find new life in Him!