Saturday, October 06, 2012


16 September 2012

I. Introduction
-- turn in Bibles to Revelation 3:1-3

Revelation 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

-- I once read a story about a group of women who were studying the Book of Malachi together -- as they were studying Chapter 3, they came across Malachi 3:3 -- "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness" -- but they didn't really understand what this verse was talking about -- what its point was about the character and nature of God and how they could apply it in their own lives
-- they decided they needed to know more about the process of refining silver so they could fully understand what this verse was talking about -- one of the women offered to do some research and report back at their next Bible study
-- that week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him work -- she didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining
-- as she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up -- he explained how, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were the hottest in order to burn away all the impurities -- as she watched him put the silver in the fire, the woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot in our lives
-- she remembered that Malachi 3:3 said that God would sit as a refiner and purifier of silver -- she asked the silversmith if he had to sit and hold the silver in the fire the whole time -- he replied, yes -- not only did he have to hold the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire -- if the silver was left in the flame even a moment too long, it would be destroyed
-- the woman was silent for a moment -- then she asked the silversmith how he knew when the silver was fully refined -- he smiled and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image reflected in it"
-- this morning we are truly going to finish up our series on holiness -- for the past several weeks, we have been talking about pursuing holiness in our lives -- and I have pointed out that holiness is nothing more than the desire to see God's image reflected in all aspects of your life -- behavior -- thoughts -- and attitude
-- last week, we talked about how leaning on our true identity in Christ is one key to walking in holiness -- today, we are going to talk about another key in the pursuit of holiness -- the gift of repentance
-- that's what Malachi 3:3 is really all about -- it's about God refining our lives through the crucible of continual confession and repentance so we begin to reflect His image more and more each day

-- repentance is a word we use in the church a lot, but usually only in the context of evangelism -- when we are witnessing to someone about Christ and their need for a Savior, invariably the question will be asked, "What must I do to be saved?" -- and we respond with the same words that Peter used in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" -- for us, repentance is mostly an act of new believers
-- but, when you realize that the majority of the New Testament was written to the church -- to men and women who were believers -- then you'll quickly realize that the call to repentance -- the need for repentance -- never goes away
-- for the unbeliever, repentance results in salvation -- for us, repentance is a work of sanctification -- a means of grace that God uses to make us holy

-- let's look at this passage in Revelation and let's dig deeper in this subject of repentance
-- before we look at this again, let me give you a little background on Sardis, the church that these verses are written to -- Sardis was the capital of the Lydian empire and one of the greatest cities of the ancient world -- it was about 60 miles inland from the port city of Ephesus
-- it was a very wealthy and prosperous city, and people took pride in the wealth they had amassed -- they built elaborate homes and businesses and places of worship -- not only was the temple of Artemis there, a temple that was double the size of the Parthenon, but also a large Jewish synagogue located right in the middle of the city
-- it was to these people -- the wealthy and prosperous believers in Sardis -- that Jesus had John write these words

-- look back at verse 1

1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

-- the first thing that jumps out to us here in this verse is that this message is written to the church -- it is written to believers -- to men and women who had already come to Christ for salvation -- who had repented of their sins and received forgiveness through God's grace
-- but, look how they're living now -- Jesus says, "I know your deeds -- I know what you're doing -- you look like you're alive -- you look like a church -- you talk like a church -- but you are not who I called you to be"
-- every member of this church had surrendered their will at one point to God -- they had come to Him and said, "we can't do anything on our own -- we can't deal with our own sin -- forgive us and cleanse us from our sin"
-- but, now, they were living in their own strength -- rather than relying on God, they were relying on their own wealth and their own power and their own deeds and trying to do church based on that
-- and even though the people around them applauded them and they had a reputation for doing good, Jesus said, "You are not alive -- you are dead"
-- it's easy for us to look good on the outside -- it's easy for us to look better than we are -- to look like we've got it all together when in reality, we're dying on the inside -- that what was going on with this church at Sardis

-- verse 2-3

2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

-- look at what Jesus tells this church to do -- they're trying to be Christians in their own strength -- they're trying to manage their sin and to live a holy life on their own -- and Jesus tells them, "Wake up! -- open your eyes to the truth -- remember what you have received and heard -- remember the message of grace -- that you are saved by faith and not by works or by any effort of your own -- remember and repent"
-- there's that word again -- "repent" -- but this time, it's not given to unbelievers -- it's given to the saved from the lips of Jesus Himself
-- what is He asking them to do? -- what is the biblical meaning of "repent?"

-- the word literally means "to change your mind" -- it means to make a U-turn
-- I'm going to pick on Kim this morning -- not long after we moved back to Georgia, Kim was out riding near our house and she took the wrong road -- and she quickly realized it, but she thought to herself, "There has to be a road that connects this one to the one we live on" -- so, she kept driving and driving and driving
-- while she was driving, she passed a church -- Kim, what did the church sign say? [God allows U-turns] -- so, she woke up -- she opened her eyes to the truth and turned around and went back to the right road
-- that's repentance -- changing your mind -- changing direction -- turning around and turning to God
-- that's what Jesus was telling the church at Sardis to do -- "you need to repent -- you need to change your mind -- you need to change direction -- because I am not going to sit idly by forever -- before you know it, I will come as a thief in the night -- will I find you ready for My return?"

-- the same is certainly true for us -- while our sins have been forgiven, all of us still have that sin nature that dwells deep within that still leads us to make the wrong choice when we are tempted
-- I think all of us can agree with what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 -- "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."
-- we still sin -- it happens -- more than we would like to admit
-- but we know what to do about it, don't we? -- Jesus said repent -- change your mind -- turn from sins -- live a different life
-- you've all heard that before, right? -- you've all done this before, right?
-- but, let me ask you this -- how's it working out for you? -- are you still sinning? -- are you still doing that same sin that you repented of?
-- yeah, if you're honest with yourself, repentance doesn't seem like it really does much, does it? -- it makes us feel better -- it takes away the guilt of the sin we just committed -- it puts us back right with God again
-- but, what good is repentance if we just turn right back and sin again? -- that is the crux of the matter

-- the problem is that we have the wrong idea of repentance in the church today -- and that's why there is no power in our repentance
-- what does repentance look like in your life? -- does it look something like this?
-- you give in to temptation and sin -- you know you've sinned -- the Holy Spirit convicts you of this sin -- you know you've done wrong and disobeyed God
-- so, as a good Christian, you go to 1 John 1:9 -- you confess your sin and repent of it -- you say, "God, I messed up again -- I sinned here -- I agree that what I did was wrong and I'm repenting of my sin -- I turn away from it and I turn to you -- I won't do it again"
-- have you ever prayed that prayer or something like it? -- yeah, we all have
-- and then what happens -- we resolve in our hearts that we're not going to do that sin again -- and we don't -- for a little while -- it might be days -- it might be weeks -- heck, it might even be years -- it all depends on how strong you are and how much will-power you have -- but one day, you're going to find yourself giving right back into that sin again and you'll be right back into that same old cycle of "sin -- confess -- repent -- resolve" that you just were in

-- so, what's the problem? -- the problem is a misunderstanding of what Jesus means when He tells us to repent of our sins
-- it's really kind of funny, when you think about it -- we tell unbelievers that there is nothing they can do about their sin -- they can't work their way to heaven -- they can't buy their way to heaven -- only God can forgive them through His grace because of Christ's atoning death on the cross -- only God can deal with their sin
-- but, once someone becomes a believer, we give them the idea that it is their responsibility to finish cleaning up their lives -- now that they are a believer, they are supposed to repent and stop sinning and become holy all on their own -- we kind of get the idea that it is our job to deal with sin once and for all

-- do you see what we're telling people? -- to the unbeliever we say, "Trust God to take care of your sin" -- to the believer we say, "you have to take care of your own sin -- sure, God will forgive you if you fall, but it's your responsibility to repent and not do it again"
-- here's a truth we need to get deep in our hearts -- and this is critical when it comes to understanding biblical repentance -- we can't do anything about our sin -- let me say that again and make sure you get it -- we can't do anything about our sin
-- we couldn't do anything about it before we came to Christ, and we can't do anything about it now -- just like we need the power of the Cross to bring us to salvation, we need the power of the Cross to defeat sin in our life once and for all -- we can't do it on our own, and that's where repentance comes in

-- the problem with the church's idea of repentance is that we have turned it from a work of grace into a work of man -- when we repent, we try to solve our sin problem on our own -- in our own strength -- through our own power
-- this is nothing more than sin management and it doesn't work -- we don't need to try to manage the sin in our life -- we need to have it removed once and for all -- but, it's something that we can't do
-- only the power of the cross can break a pattern of sinful behavior -- grace alone resolves sin
-- if we could have resolved sin on our own, then there wouldn't have been any reason for Jesus to die on the cross -- but, because we could not break the power of sin in our lives, Jesus took our place and died on the cross -- not just for our salvation -- not just for the forgiveness of sins -- but also for our sanctification -- for the power to overcome sin in our lives right now
-- true biblical repentance isn't about us doing something about our sin -- true biblical repentance means admitting we can't do anything about our sin, and trusting God to work with us to overcome it
-- that's the difference between true biblical repentance and the church's idea of repentance -- true biblical repentance means God works with us -- the church's idea is that we solve sin on our own

-- I'm running out of time -- let's get to the heart of the matter and to what's most important for you -- Jesus told the church at Sardis and He tells us, "Repent" -- so, how do we do that?

-- look back at verse 2 -- the very first words -- Jesus says, "Wake up!" -- what does this mean?
-- it means to open your eyes -- open your eyes to the truth of God's Word -- compare what you are doing in your life to what God tells you to do -- our standard for living is not the world or what the world says is acceptable -- our standard for living is the Bible
-- Jesus says, "Wake up and see how your life is not lining up with what I have called you to do" -- the first step is to see our sin
-- that was the problem with the church at Sardis -- they couldn't see their sin -- they couldn't see that they were doing wrong -- they thought everything was okay
-- the first step in the repentance process is to wake up and see that you are a sinner

-- the second step comes from 1 John 1:9 -- confess your sins -- what does it mean to confess? -- it basically means to admit your sins to God -- to agree with Him that you have sinned -- that you have disobeyed His word
-- confession is a surrendering of your ideals to God's ideals -- it is saying, "I was wrong in what I was thinking -- I was wrong in what I was doing -- when I compare myself and my actions and my thoughts to your Word, it doesn't line up -- I agree that I have sinned against You"
-- now, you need to keep in mind that confession doesn't resolve your sin -- feeling sorry about what you have done doesn't make your sin go away -- admitting our sin is an important part of the process, but words do not resolve sin
-- confession is an alignment of the mind to God to prepare the heart for the next step

-- look back at verse 3 here in Revelation 3 [read vs. 3a]
-- the third step is remembering what you have heard and received -- what is that? -- that is nothing more than the gospel message -- remembering that Jesus died on the cross for us to forgive us from our sins and to break the power of our sin nature
-- this is where last week's sermon comes in -- remember who you are and remember what Christ did for you -- we are not the same person that we used to be -- we are new creations in Christ -- we have new strength and new power through the very presence of the Holy Spirit within us
-- we do not have to live with sin any longer -- those chains were broken at the Cross -- as Paul wrote, we no longer live, but Christ lives in us and He has defeated our sin through His body and His blood

-- the final step is here in verse 3 -- repent
-- and here's where the rubber meets the road -- we have already woken up and seen our sin -- we have confessed our sin and agreed with God that we have disobeyed Him -- and we remember the work of Christ on the Cross -- we remember who we are -- we remember grace
-- now, when we repent, we repent through that grace and not through our own power -- we don't try to manage our own sin, but we trust in what Jesus has already done

-- flip over real quick to Acts 5:30-31

Acts 5:30-31 (NIV)
30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.
31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

-- notice what it says right there -- Jesus died on the cross and ascended to the right hand of God so that He might give repentance and forgiveness to the world
-- we all know that Jesus gives us forgiveness -- that's grace -- the gift of God that came to us on the Cross
-- but, look what else it says -- Jesus gives us repentance -- what this means is that true biblical repentance is an act of faith -- it is about trusting, not willing
-- here's where I was saying that most of the church is getting this wrong today -- repentance is not an act that we do -- it is not self-will
-- many, many Christians do not trust God in the process of repentance -- they view repentance as something they should do, but this preempts the power -- perhaps they have been taught that when they sin, they only need to confess it, to agree it's wrong, but what's missing is the hope of it being defeated
-- repentance is grace -- it is a gift from Christ -- it is something that He gives us, not that we give Him

-- the thing we need to remember is that every act of repentance depends on an act of redemption -- to redeem means "to liberate by payment, or to release from debt or blame" -- willpower, no matter how sincere, cannot buy you this freedom -- there is no dealing with any sin without a redemptive act
-- as Christians, we depend on the redemptive act of Christ on the cross and in His power, not only to save us from our sins but to resolve and remove the remaining sins in our lives
-- when you start to realize that repentance is not something you do but something that God does, you realize a real power over sin for the first time in your life -- the work of Jesus is for every sin, not just for the forgiveness of sin, but for the healing from those sin
-- repentance then is trusting that Jesus has already forgiven you of your sin and believing that He will work with you to give you victory over the sins that remain
-- "It is the complete reorientation of your life in response to the work of God in Jesus Christ." [Source: Discipleship Journal. -- Rene Padilla]
-- through repentance, you change your mind about who does the work in saving you from your sin -- you no longer bear the burden, but you let Christ bear the burden for you as you trust in His grace and deliverance from sin

-- so, let's bring this home and wrap up what we've been going over for the past several weeks

-- first, let me remind you that sin is a choice -- James tells us in his book that all sin begins with our desires -- with our thoughts -- when we are tempted, we are given a choice whether to obey or disobey God
-- we can choose to obey God -- we can choose not to sin -- that is the first step in living a holy life -- but, we also have to remember that we do not have the power to act that out on our own -- here's where we have to remember who we are and that through Christ we can do all things
-- we make the decision and then trust and depend on Christ and His power to help us to do what is right

-- however, we know that we all make the wrong choice from time to time -- we all choose to sin and let our desires lead us into disobedience -- that is when we go through the process of repentance:
-- we wake up and see our sin
-- we confess and agree with God that we have disobeyed Him
-- we remember who we are in Christ and what He has done for us
-- and then we receive Christ's gift of repentance and we trust that He will give us the power and strength, through His grace, to overcome this sin in our life once and for all

-- the big thing to remember is that repentance is not a work that you do, but the grace of God working through you

-- so, when you choose to sin, this is the type of conversation that you need to have with God:

-- "God, here we go -- I did it again -- I made a wrong choice -- I sinned against you -- I agree with your holy Word that this was an act of disobedience
-- God, I remember what Christ did for me on the cross -- I remember that I am a new creation because of Him and that He broke the power of sin in my life with His death and resurrection
-- God, here is a sin I trust you to do something about -- I am convinced I cannot deal with this sin -- I trust what you did at the Cross is powerful enough, not only to bring me to heaven one day, but powerful enough that it can break this very sin's power that is now plaguing my life
-- God, I repent of my sin and I put my trust in You and Your power to heal me of this sin -- Thank you for what you have done and what you will do through your Son in my life -- Amen"

-- let's pray

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