Repent, but for God’s sake, do it right.
MARCH 7, 2023
Repent, but for God’s sake, do it right. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He doesn’t want to be your guru and he’s not trying to be your mother. He just opens the Bible and gives you the simple truth that will make you free. Steve is a lifelong broadcaster, author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you’ve been with us this week, we’re talking about repentance. Life is hard, then you die. That was a fun bunch of programs. Life is hard, then you get angry. That was a little bit better. And now we’re talking about life is hard and then you repent. All of these themes are a part of a book I wrote on laughter and lament. And if you were listening yesterday, I talked about my friend Brant Hansen and his book on self-righteousness. You know something, the hardest chapter I ever had to write, and I’ve written a lot of chapters and a lot of books, was a book on self-righteous, a chapter on self-righteousness. The title of the chapter is, Self-righteousness is a lot Worse than You Think It Is. Now, let me ask you something. How do you write a book on self-righteousness, the way Brant did, or a chapter on self-righteousness the way I did without being self-righteous? In fact, you can’t do it. It’s, I started that chapter, I’ll bet you 30 times. And I just couldn’t pull it off. Well, Brant did in his book on self-righteousness. And if you’re looking for a title, you ought to read it. It’s The Truth About Us: The Very Good News About How Very Bad We Are. Brant opens the first chapter with a note to his readers.
Dear everybody, we have a serious problem. All of us think we’re good people, but Jesus says we’re not. Sincerely, Brant P. Hansen. p.s.. The rest of this book is the p.s.
And then he writes this.
Our goodness is our biggest self delusion. And all of us seem to be living with it. It’s an delusion we seldom talk about, but Jesus is relentless in addressing it in a thousand ways. He publicly blasts upstanding citizens for being clean on the outside, but not on the inside. He still tells stories like those of the prodigal son to illustrate how a seemingly good person can be utterly lost without knowing it. He tells the chief priest that prostitutes will enter the kingdom, before they do. He tells an apparently law keeping good guy that no one but God is good. Jesus keeps emphasizing that all of us, without exception, need to repent and repudiate ourselves.
That’s so good. At the heart of the Christian faith and the Christian anthropology, there is a very negative view of human nature and it’s personal. Jesus said he came specifically for sick people, that’s like you and me, all of us who aren’t good. He said in Mark 2:1.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
If you think you’re a good person, that you’ve made mistakes, but others are a lot worse than you are. You know you’re a sinner, but not a bad one. And someday Jesus will say to you, well done, good and faithful servant. Let me say, with as much kindness as I can muster, you’re not even a Christian. Well, actually, you may be a Christian, god decides that, but you’re a confused one. If you read what I just wrote or listened to what I just said, and agree with it, believe it or not, that’s called repentance. On the other hand, you may be sure that I got what I just said wrong, and that repentance is about change, getting better and better in every way, every day. Lots of luck with that, pride, and if it doesn’t work for you, come back and you can get an archive of this broadcast on our website. Or if you have the book, go back and read this chapter again. Repentance may lead to change and it often does. Or it may not lead to change, but that isn’t what repentance is. Now listen up, and I’m going to tell you, I’ve told you this before, but you never listen to me. Listen up, the word comes from a Greek word meaning a change of mind. It is not an action, it’s an attitude. It is the recognition of who God is. He’s holy, righteous, sovereign, and good. And who you are, not holy, not righteous, not sovereign, and not good, and going to God and agreeing with him. The natural demeanor of repentance is lament. Sometimes that lament is with tears and great sorrow or great shame, and sometimes it’s just agreement with God without excuse or spin. The sister of repentance and lament can be seen in the words of the prodigal son when he returns home to his father and not in the words of the righteous brother who never left home. That’s Luke 15. Repentance and lament are clearly expressed by the man who prayed in the temple who knew he was bad and he could ask for nothing but mercy and not in the righteous man who didn’t think that he needed mercy. That’s in Luke 18. At the heart of lament is helplessness. That’s obvious. For instance, when a lament is over the death of a loved one, there is little one can do to fix death. But it may not be so obvious in other areas. Our rebellion and sin are of course sad, but not on the level of lament because death, cancer, and poverty, because they are big. With our sin, we can repent and change. No, we can’t. We can turn around, do better, and become the good person we want to be. Actually, we can’t. It’s just hard to admit it, but listen to me, when you admit it, that’s Biblical repentance. There are three classes of sin and I don’t know if I can justify all of this from the Bible, but I think it’s true and I think it is Biblical. One is simple sin like saying the word damn at a woman’s tea or simply resolving not to do that again and stopping it cause that’s not an appropriate thing to do. That’s the first level of sin. The second class of sin is called often besetting sin like anger and lust and greed. Sometimes we get temporary victory, but it still comes back and bites us from time to time. But the third class of sin is obsessive sin, that’s where one is totally helpless to change and to do what is good and pure and righteous. There’s so much one could say about those three classes of sin, but that’s for another book. However, when we think that the damn is worth a tear, the anger, the lust, and the greed is worth more tears. And the obsessive sin worth true lament and sobs. We never lament with the power that lament gives. The Bible teaches that all sin is obsessive and therefore lamentable. Once we begin to get that, we have taken the first step on the road to freedom. Not the spurious freedom that comes from going from being a bad person to being a good person, but the freedom that God gives to people who now know it is impossible for us to pull ourselves up with our own bootstraps. Psalm 51 is in a sense a lament, it’s David’s lament, after committing the horrible sins of adultery and murder. And in that Psalm, we can get a sense of the great pain of David’s lament as he cries out.
Have mercy on me. O God. According to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with burnt offerings. The sacrifice of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Now, that’s genuine lament, but more than that, it is genuine repentance. It’s placing the ball in God’s court and trusting that God will do something. You think about that. Amen.
Thanks Steve. We’re continuing our unhurried, guided tour through Steve’s latest book, Laughter and Lament. And today we started to untangle what in the world we mean when we say the word repent. A lot of counterintuitive takeaways today. And as always, I encourage you to visit us at keylife.org and listen to this episode again. It’s free, so you know, why not? Well, believe it or not, Easter is almost here, and to help prepare our hearts, I want to tell you about a sermon Steve gave a while back called Why Jesus had to Die. In this talk, Steve addresses some really big questions about life and death and the resurrection of Jesus. And good news, we’ll actually mail you the sermon on CD, for free. Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also drop an e-mail to [email protected] to ask for that CD. And if you’d like to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Again, just ask for the free CD call Why Jesus Had to Die. While Key Life is all about sharing the message of God’s radical grace. And you can help us with that mission through your giving. Simply charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or you can now gift safely and securely through text. How does that happen? Easy, just grab your phone, you know it’s right there. Just grab your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t even matter. Text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.