Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lord Build Me in Repentance

Glory to God our heavenly Father who has made all the things we see, and the things we don’t see, and the world in it’s majesty around us. He’s made the bright shining sun, and the moon at night, the stars in the sky, the trees, the forests, the rivers, and the valleys, to the mountains high and the oceans deep, God’s glory is manifest all around us.

Indeed God is great, and mighty in power. So far beyond us. And at the end of our lives, we will appear before the judgment throne of God and answer to this great God. So we ought to humble ourselves before God.

To this point in our lives many of us were living for ourselves, to satisfy our own selfish desires. But now that we know God is real and He will judge us, we ought to humble ourselves before God. Give yourself over to God now, and change the path of your life. Do things differently. Change your weekly routine. Change how you live.

Many of you have done this. You’ve set your heart and your desires in a new direction. You are reaching out for God and seeking Him. And as a result of your new faith, you’ve had to endure a series of battles and struggles. You’ve had to endure health problems, temptations, difficulties, chronic pain, being attacked by people you trusted, being mocked, losing jobs, and even being physically attacked. Why? Because your new faith is being tested and refined through the fires of difficulty.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. That’s what you’re doing, when you pray, and when you seek God, and when you fight through a temptation or a struggle. You’re resisting the evil one. And these trials are making you strong and more like Jesus. Satan will flee from you when you resist him.

Come close to God. Seek God and find God. That is a simple, yet profound thing. Spend time with God. Instead of sitting in front of the tv, shut it off, and read a chapter from James, or from John. Spend some time in prayer, each day, in quiet prayer, in a quiet room. And what’s amazing, is that when you earnestly seek God, you come close to God, and then wow, God comes close to you.

Have you ever felt that? Maybe in worship and singing in dinner church, or during private prayer time, and you suddenly feel the presence of God. It shines in you. You feel Him. You sense Him. And you are amazed with His glory.

And it says, “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

And that is what I want to call you to do today, is call you to sorrow, sadness, and deep grief. We all do this to a certain extent in our lives, when we go struggles, when we have a breakup, or a big change happens in our lives. We grieve, feel pain, and struggle. We sit back in quiet rooms, and we ask big questions about life and ourselves.

For many of us, our loyalty is divided between God and the world. We live in an age of the church where so many Christians and churches are lukewarm. We’ve got one foot in the world, and one foot in Christianity. One foot with Jesus, one foot with the world.

Our scripture today said: “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.”

What a scary thought, that if we make ourselves friends with the world, we also become enemies of God. But what does God mean when he says “friendship with the world.” Well, I think it means that you’ve set your heart on loving the things of this life. You love movies, you love your house, your car, your elaborate vacations, and you don’t really care that much about God, or the next world, or God’s commands. It’s like becoming comfortable in the world, and kind of ignoring passion and love for God.

Now there are things in this world that I really like. Coffee is one, I really like coffee. I’m also a big fan of apples, not sweet apples, but more tart apples, that have a bite to them. I enjoy certain kinds of movies, I really like art, and I really like finding rare and interesting music, bands, and deep music. That’s all fine. There are things in this world that we like, and really enjoy. But I’ll tell you this, I love God more than any of that. And I would give up all of that stuff to be with God, and live with God forever in paradise.

One pastor said it this way, I can’t remember who, but he said, keep a light grip on the things in this world. Because you’ll have to give all them up eventually.

And I think it was Billy Graham who said, “I’m a pilgrim, just passing through this world.” One Christian commenting about the life of a friend of his, said he didn’t keep many things, his home looked as if he could pack up and leave at any time. It was like he knew he was just passing through this world and headed for another one.

Does that make sense? Yes it does.

Our scripture today also said this, “Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.[b] 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

“Do you think the scripture have no meaning?” That is a question I would ask many Christians in this day and age. Because they don’t really seem to believe the scriptures. They believe slogans, like “once saved always saved.” They believe what preachers tell them, but they don’t really study the scriptures for themselves.

God is passionate that the spirit which he has placed within us should be faithful to him. That’s very interesting. God is indicating that we need to be obedient to Him if we expect to attain to paradise. “But pastor I can’t lose my salvation by being disobedient can I? I can’t lose my salvation by being a friend of the world can I?”

“Actually, yes you can. Sorry if that upsets the apple cart of protestant reformada theology but I go by what the Bible says, not by the doctrines of man demand. If something in the Bible upsets my theology, I let it be upset. I live by the Bible not the theology of man. That's sacrilege in protestant circles, to value the word over the protestant ideology, but I don't care. I'm accountable to God, not the opinion of protestant evangelicalism. So I'll trust God's word over any theological doctrine that papers over certain difficult scriptures.

But our scripture also says “And he gives grace generously. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

If we make any mistake, if we mess up in any way, all we have to do is come to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, change our ways, and then he makes us clean again. That’s the great thing about Jesus Christ our savior. At any point in our Christian journey, if we screw up, make a mistake, get caught up in sin, all we have to do is come to Jesus, ask Him to help us get free from sin, and ask his forgiveness and boom, we’re clean again.

That brings us to this issue of repentance. It said in our scripture today, “9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

If we’re living in sins of the flesh, we need to get free from them. And this process is called repentance. That’s why I said earlier, find sadness, sorrow, and grief. That comes from God’s Holy Spirit inside us. We start to grieve over the sins we are struggling with. We keep thinking about it over and over. This needs to leave my life. I need to break free from it. And we feel the futility of trying to break free on our own. But then we’re reminded that if we cry out to God he will set us free and do the impossible. This process sometimes takes days, week, or months, of feeling this emptiness, this unsettled feeling about this sin in our lives. We feel in struggle about it. We feel sad. We feel empty and miserable about it. Then we realize, I can pray to God and express my sorrow to Him, and He will break every chain. We repent. And that sorrow drives us to break free, and that holy good feeling comes over us when we realize that God has now delivered us from that sin.

There may be times in the future when we feel tempted to sin in that way. There may be times when we have to grit our teeth and fight really hard against temptation. But slowly over time those temptations grow less and less powerful. And eventually, it’s a far off distant temptation, that barely even affects us. I’ve been free from alcohol for 7 years. In the first few months I would not even go near the alcohol aisle in the store. I was afraid. But now I can walk right past it, and it doesn’t bother me at all. The Holy Spirit has removed the power it used to have over me. Amen. Same with cigarettes, I quit 1 year after becoming a Christian. It was really hard. The struggle was insane. I was so tempted. I couldn’t be near people who were smoking. But eventually it’s power grew less and less until it was almost nothing.

Now, some try to play it both ways in the Christian walk. I’m gonna go to church on Sundays, and during the week I’m gonna have pre-marital sex, I’m gonna smoke, I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna do drugs, I’m gonna lie, steal, cheat, and gossip about people. But hey it’s fine I’m under God’s grace. No, it isn’t fine. No you aren’t OK. You are in great danger. And if Jesus returned today, which is possible, you would not go to paradise, you would go to hell. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt anyone's feelings, I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s my job to tell you without any bias what is the truth in the Bible. That’s the truth. You need to go through this process of sorrow over sin, conviction, and Holy Spirit empowered repentance.

This is the not so fun part of Christianity, repenting of sins you guys. It’s the tough part. But I want to tell you guys that it’s so worth it. The joy you find in the Lord, as you grow to look more and more like Him, is just amazing. And the truth is many of these sins suck the life out of us, they leave us feeling broken and miserable. When we’re finally free of them, we feel so much better. We feel so much closer to God. It’s amazing. It’s so worth it. Is it hard? Yes. Is it painful at times? Yes. Is it worth it? 100% yes. So worth it. The truth is deep down I desperately want God to change every part of me to be like Jesus. Just remember it’s not all gonna happen at once. This is a process that goes through our whole lives, month by month, and year by year. So embrace it. It’s good. It’s tough, but I love it. Amen.