March 7, 2021
The Beauty of Repentance
This is the third Sunday of Lent. This lent we have been working our way through a series titled the life and death of Jesus. As you know, Lent is a time of repentance. Repentance isn’t one of those things that sits easy with many of us. But there is a beauty in repentance.
Repentance is changing direction towards God. If you are running away from God, then repentance means a 180 degree turn so that you are running towards God.
But most of you aren’t running away from God. But some of you are not running directly towards God either. Repentance means making the course correction – so that you are running directly towards God.
I grew up on a farm and we had this three ton dump truck. It had really loose steering. You had to turn the steering wheel about a quarter turn before it would start to turn at all. So, I am driving this truck through the field and I would be constantly yanking the steering wheel from one side to the other.
My life has sometimes felt like that truck – a series of constant course corrections – so I could keep heading towards the goal. Those course corrections – That is called repentance.
I have had to make course corrections in my marriage – in fact if I hadn’t Lynda and I would not have made it. I have had to make course corrections in ministry – if I hadn’t I would have been a disaster. I had to make course correction in my life – wow, I would not have been any fun to be around if those wouldn’t happened.
What would have happened if driving that truck, I just would have said – it would be a lot easier to take my hands off the wheel. I don’t need to course correct. It would have been a disaster. I would have crashed into fences and rocks and other machinery. The lack of Repentance is costly.
Before we get to our stories, I want to walk you through the life of Jesus in regard to repentance. This is what Matthew records.
Matthew 4:17 (NIV)
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Did you catch that – the topic that Jesus preached all the way through his ministry was this – repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. If you were to sum up the sermon on the mount in one sentence, this would be it – repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. If you were to sum up the message to the disciples, it was repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Make a course correction because God is near.
When Jesus talks about why he hung out with people who the religious leaders of the day did not approve of – he tells us why he came to earth.
Luke 5:32 (NIV)
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
One of the main reasons that Jesus came to earth is to call sinners to repentance.
Here is the thing – we tend to think of this as something that we do to become a follower of Jesus. But there are times in our lives, where we do what we are not supposed to. Our tongue gets out of control, we judge, we hold onto anger too long, we bring trouble rather than peace. If you can see yourself there, then know this, one of the reasons that Jesus came is to call you to repentance
Back to Jesus. At the very end of Jesus’ ministry, he was explaining to his disciples why he had to die and what their mission was. This is what he said,
Luke 24:46–47 (NIV)
He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Do you see what Jesus is calling his followers to preach – repentance and forgiveness. From the beginning of his ministry, throughout his ministry, at the end of his ministry and his commission to his followers – Jesus preached repentance. Why, because the kingdom of God is at hand. For what? For the forgiveness of sins.
Other than the Kingdom of God, repentance and life are the two most significant theme of Jesus ministry. And repentance brings life. So, if repentance was one of the most significant themes in Jesus ministry we should probably take it seriously.
Here is why Jesus preached repentance – he wanted you to know life rather than death. He wanted you to know spiritual wholeness rather than be spiritually crippled. He wanted to keep you out of the ditch. He wanted to save you a lot of pain. He wants the best for you. He knows this – The lack of repentance is costly.
With that as background come to our passage. I preached this passage in January using it to show that Jesus doesn’t buy into the lie, we are blessed because we are good, and bad things have happened to us because we were bad. This morning I want to use this passage to focus on repentance.
Luke 13:1–5 (NIV)
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
This passage talks about repentance at a macro level – then I want to show you how the same principle works on a personal level.
People in Jerusalem had he heard the news – Pilate had some Galileans killed while they were sacrificing at the temple. That was big news, and in other news of the day, a tower fell in Jerusalem and killed 18 people. After telling each story he uses the curious phrase, – “But unless you repent you too will perish.”
If you are going to understand what is going on then you need to know is that Jesus is talking to 1st century Jerusalem about first century issues. Just a few verses earlier he say, you know the signs to be able to interpret the weather that is coming He says this,
Luke 12: 56 (NIV)
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
Jesus is saying to the people, you don’t understand what is going on right now in front of you.
Now about a year later – it is Psalm Sunday. Here is what Luke records
Luke 19:41–44 (NIV)
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
That prophecy would be fulfilled when Jerusalem would be overrun by the Romans about 35 years later. Jesus says this happened because they didn’t recognize the day of God’s coming.
Now we go back in time to our passage. Jesus warns the crowd, you are missing the signs all around you. You are not getting what is going on right now.
Then he tells the story of the Galileans who had their blood mixed with the sacrifices, and the people who had the tower fall on them, and he says unless you repent, you will likewise perish.
He is saying there is still time to see that God has come to you. Repent and it will bring you peace. It will bring the country peace.
Before we go on in our passage, I want you to see that Jesus is saying, Repentance has the power to change history. Repentance has the power to change the course of a nation. Here is what I want you to know – Repentance has the power to change the course of your life. Remember that – Repentance has the power to change the course of your life. The Lack of Repentance is costly.
Now let me push on in our scripture,
Luke 13:6–9 (NIV)
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
Again, this parable has to do with the nation of Israel. The man in the parable represents God. There is no harvest coming from the fig tree and it is just taking up space. So, he suggests cutting it down. The man tending the fig tree, says lets do what we can to help it bear fruit, but if not – we will cut it down.
These stories are connected. A lack of repentance equates to a lack of fruit. Well you know the story. They failed to recognize Jesus for who he is. They crucified him. They missed the fruit that would have come with repentance.
Now that is repentance on a macro level, but let me personalize it. Failing to respond to God’s course correction put them in a ditch.
Come with me to John 15:1–8 (NIV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Now I could take the next hour or two to look at this passage, but I am not going to do that. Let me just make a quick disclaimer before I show you something important. Some people read these verses that when the gardener cuts off branches and burns them – he must be talking about hell. No that is not where this passage is going at all. So, don’t let the devil cause fear where there doesn’t need to be any. But he is talking about how useless fruitless vines are.
When you read this passage two things stand out. We need to remain in Jesus or abide in Jesus or stay connected to Jesus -however you want to picture that. That must be a reality in our lives.
The second thing is that God really wants us to bear fruit. We bear fruit by being connect to Jesus – but we bear more fruit because of the pruning of the gardener.
2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Now we go back to the previous story – repentance was connected with fruitfulness. Repentance was connected with avoiding disaster.
When we think of God pruning us, how does he do it. Does he just pluck things our of our lives? Does he just pluck a little branch of envy and a little branch of greed our of our heart? That is not the way it works. God always works on us in cooperation with us.
He points to the unfruitful or sinful branches in our heart. We respond to his revelation by confession and repentance and he is the one who deals with it.
Jesus says to his disciples in verse 3 – you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you. You have been in the process of being pruned.
Let me tell you how this works in practical terms. There are usually one of three things we need to repent of. Remember, repentance is a course correction, so we are heading directly towards Jesus.
The first and obvious thing that we need to repent of are behaviors. When we do something wrong, we need to confess and repent – course correct – so instead of heading away from God we are heading towards God.
Another thing that we need to repent of is the lies we believe. When Jesus shows you a lie that you are believing, then the first thing that we need to do is repent of believing that lie, and replace the lie with the truth. That is a course correction.
The third thing that we often need to repent of is the mediation of our heart. Now, I don’t mean bad thoughts that pass through our mind, but rather bad thoughts that we allow to camp in our mind. Stuff like lust, or covetousness. The mediation of our hearts also includes the judgements that we have made against ourselves or others. Those need to be repented of.
For you to be fruitful, you need to stay connected with Jesus, and God is going to prune you. Here is how it works. You and Jesus are walking down the spiritual journey together. Let’s say you are walking through a beautiful meadow together.
But something in your life happens and you judge someone else – Jesus has continued to walk, but you have turned slightly away. Before you were walking side by side, now there is a little distance.
Something else happens and you choose to gossip about it. Again, you have veered slightly further away for Jesus. And the further you travel the further apart you get.
Now Jesus knows at edge of the meadows there are burrs that are going to catch you. And if you go further, there is mud that is going to weigh you down. And in the forest, there are wild animals that want to threaten you.
Jesus comes to you each step of the way and says repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Each step you have a choice to make, do you keep on walking spaced apart from Jesus – Oh, you can still see him in the distance – but you are not close. Or are you going to turn towards him. Remember, the lack of repentance is costly.
Jesus wants what is best for you. He doesn’t want you to scratch yourself on the burs, or get stuck in the mud or be threatened by wild animals. But the lack of repentance can really mess you up.
As I have been speaking today, some of you know you are far from Jesus. I don’t know if your behaviors, or the lies you have believed or the stuff you let dwell in your mind, or maybe all of the above – but there is distance between you and God.
Jesus is asking you through me, will you come back to me? Will you turn towards me?
In a moment we are going to take some time to be silent. If Jesus brings something to your mind that you need to repent of then here is what you do. You pray a simple prayer something like this,
Lord Jesus please forgive me for – and you name the behavior or lie or wrongful meditation that he brings to mind. I turn from – name the sin – and I turn back to you. Forgive me for walking far from you. I can only live the way you want me to if I am connected to you.
You see in repentance you are not only confessing what you did is wrong, you are turning away from that and turning towards Jesus.
Repentance is God’s way of setting you free to live the life you were meant to live. It is God’s way of protecting you. In this season of lent, will you engage in repentance.
Sermon Questions – The Life and Death of Jesus – Part 3
The Beauty of Repentance – Luke 13:1-9
1. What is one thing of your list of things that you are grateful for today?
2. When you think of repentance – is it a positive though or negative thought? Why?
3. The definition of Repentance is “a spiritual course correction.” Can you remember a time when you have made a spiritual course correction?
4. Read Matthew 4:17, Luke 5:32 and Luke 24-46-47. What do each of these verses tell us about the value that Jesus puts on repentance?
5. Read Luke 12:54-56. What is Jesus’ complaint against the people he is talking to?
6. How does Luke 19:41-44 (Palm Sunday) put Luke 13:1-5 into perspective? (Obviously read both, and look at what Jesus is saying about repentance in the Luke 13 passage.)
7. Do you believe that the lack of repentance is costly? Why?
8. Read Luke 13:6-9. How does this parable relate to repentance?
9. Read John 15:1-8. In the scripture passage fruitfulness was related to two things – abiding (remaining) in Jesus and being pruned. The sermon connected pruning and repentance. What is the process of pruning that God uses in our lives?
10. Repentance is God’s way of setting you free. Take a moment and asked the Lord if there is anything that you need to repent of.
Lord Jesus please forgive me for _________ (name the behavior or lie or wrongful meditation that he brings to mind.) I turn from – _________ (name the sin) and I turn back to you. Forgive me for walking far from you. I can only live the way you want me to if I am connected to you.