Friday, 9 August 2013

acts26v20



I have sinned...
READ: ACTS 26:1-23 TEXT: v20 [REPENTANCE]

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 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. 

You don't have to be soldier in the Salvation Army or suffer any lessening of your commitment to the Reformed Faith to admire General Booth and his evangelistic zeal for God. I admire particularly his prophetic foresight when he said: 

“In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century [20th] will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”

Such days have arrived with a vengeance. I want to take up this thought that men will preach forgiveness/sins without repentance because even within the Evangelical Church, there are those who clearly advocate such a position. I'm not speaking here about deficiencies in preaching that might well be repaired afterwards in the counselling rooms, but speaking of some who pronounce the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9 upon those of us who insist (like Booth and all the old faithful preachers) that repentance is necessary to have sins forgiven.

But why quote men like Booth or Spurgeon or other "big names"? Great men as they were, they were not inspired of God. Let us rather slip out of the more recent centuries and go back to the days/Apostle and to (arguably) the greatest of them all i.e. Paul

Passage: he stands arrayed in chains before Agrippa (25:22-26:1)
Paul begins to relate four things:

[i] How he was converted to Jesus Christ (v2-17)
[ii] How he received a call into the Christian ministry (v16-18)
[iii] His faithfulness to that ministry thus received (v19-20)
[iv] His troubles as a result of that faithful ministry (v21)


It is in the section under faithfulness of his ministry that he relates this thought of preaching repentance: Starting in Damascus, then into the theological cockpit of Jerusalem and then throughout all Judaea and then world-wide to the Gentiles he showed men  that they should repent, turn to God and then bring forth works fit for repentance.The Apostle Paul would be rejected in many professing Evangelical churches today  as a preacher of a false gospel! 

Let's look at this great subject of repentance towards God. There is no salvation without it:

1) REPENTANCE  - THE MEANING OF THE WORD

Repentance is described by all leading authorities as "a change/mind"
Hence: God is not a man…repent (Numbers 23:19) i.e. change his mind -:
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29)
Does not impart these gifts/calls - only to change/mind and recall them
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father/lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
We mention God in this aspect to give a clear definition of repentance
It is a change of mind - something which God does not do
 
Note: When it does say that God repents, it means that He changes His outward providential dealings - not His inward purposes
The point is: There is a change of direction

B/ When Paul preached repentance, he was preaching to sinners.
He was urging sinners to have a change of mind
God does not have the problem of sin and therefore a moral repentance  is not required, but it is required of sinners

Example: In Athens, (Acts 17) Paul was upset when he saw them given wholly to idolatry and so he tackled this matter head on: He disputed with them in the market place (nicely) and sought to lead them away from their idols - change their minds/perceptions (v29) Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
In other words, quit seeing these altars as religious devotions and therefore acceptable and view them as the abomination they really are
Significant: next verse (v30) urges repentance as a command/God

C/ If there is no change of mind in the issue of what men think and do, then there will be no salvation, but a remaining of the status quo.
For sinners, this just won't do - default is sin and Hell. No change  means no salvation and so repentance is vital. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:5)

2) REPENTANCE - WHAT IT PRACTICALLY INVOLVES

A/ OK, we have a change of mind on the matter of sin.
Things once loved/ justified are no longer seen to be so loveable at all.
The preacher has been declaring God's hatred against them (not necessarily by roaring/shouting etc., but firmly nevertheless)

B/ The sinner listens and gets concerned - He is guilty - God is angry - Hell is waiting - time is short - his little world is caving in.
Has the  sinner repented -  in the Bible sense/word - that he merely shows concern about his soul? 
We answer "No!"
The Bible speaks of many who have come to see that, but gives no indication that they really/truly repented

C/ Repentance in the Bible is always linked to faith in Jesus Christ
In our text, Paul preached that men should turn to God
We can only turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ
He died the Just/unjust to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
Repentance/Bible is always coupled with faith
Not the same thing, but they are Siamese twins
Therefore we exhort men to repent and believe the gospel
Paul preached repentance towards God and faith/Lord Jesus Christ
True repentance is faithful…true faith is repentant

D/ What is the difference between repentance and remorse?
Remorse has a change of mind, but no faith
Remorse leads to despair e.g. Judas
Repentance leads to God through faith e.g. Peter
Peter came back to Christ in repentance and faith

E/ Repentance: Not only a change/mind, but also a change/direction 
Peter did not sit weeping all his days…he got up/returned
Think of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15)  
He had a change/mind about the things that once he loved: Riotous living just wasn't that good after all
But if he merely sat on in the field with the pigs, his repentance: vain
He would have perished in that field - broken but not healed
So he got up and he returned home to his Father
No excuses offered - His sorrow for his past deeds was real
Vital to see: True repentance is an active thing - not merely passive

F/ The idea that a soul can partake/pardon without expressing sorrow for sin is utterly unscriptural
The soul is called up on to rend his heart before God (Joel 2:13)
Such is the deceit/human heart…that wicked men would put forth their wicked hands to take pardon for sins they want to live on in
Men want to sin and get away with it
Sad: Preachers who practically encourage them to think they can
But not the Bible preachers
Paul called for works meet for repentance i.e. for practical evidence that the heart was truly sorry for its guilt/sin

3) REPENTANCE - WHAT IT MOST CERTAINLY DOES NOT INVOLVE:

A/ It is here that a tremendous battle rages even within evangelicalism
The old timers among us say that repentance expresses sorrow for sin
A more recent emerging section declares that this constitutes a form of works, especially if we insist that there must be a turning from it

B/ We reply to their attacks by declaring that expressing sorrow for past deeds cannot be viewed as a work before God
Even if we retain the passive repentance idea…surely a change of mind that declares sins, once loved as now being hated, must carry within the element of sorrow that we once engaged in them?
Can I really say: I see that these actions etc., were wrong, but I have absolutely no sorrow? Such would be a contradiction
There are no works involved in declaring this sorrow
It carries no merit before God
It may be a good thing to do…but again: no merit before God

C/ Again, while we insist that repentance will invariably lead to a change of life…yet we do not require this either before salvation or as a condition of salvation, but rather as an evidence
No repentance preacher would dream of saying to the Prodigal:
Clean up your life before you dream of returning home to your father
That would be a Pharisee's gospel, so  we tell the Prodigal:
"You know that you have done wrong - you also know that your Father will take up back again if you return - But you cannot go back if you are going to retain the attitude/policy that led you to leave home in the first place - If you go back, it will be to live according to the ways of your father's house again - so with all your rags and poverty - go back and throw yourselves into the loving/merciful arms/Father"

D/ Again, we must insist: There is nothing meritorious in there
Good works before/after salvation carry no merit before God
We do not believe/repent in order to gain merit…but to avail of the offered mercy/grace that, by definition, exclude any such thing

4) REPENTANCE - HOW OBTAINED AND EVIDENCED:

A/ True repentance for sin is the gift of God: Acts 11:18
The goodness/God leads men to repentance: Romans 2:4
This is a repentance that is not to be repented of (2 Corinthians 7:9)

We say to those who have not yet repented:
Let's emphasise man's responsibility: What are you waiting for?
God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30)
 
Let's think of a short parable which Jesus told which will help us here:
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)
[i] Do you recognise the loathsomeness of your sin? If not, you are likely to repent of it - you probably think we 're getting all het up over nothing! If you don't so hate it, then you have very low views of the holiness of God and very little idea of the danger you're in 

[ii] Do you see and believe that God graciously has made provision for you to escape not only the guilt of your past sins, but to enable you to live godly in Christ Jesus? Do you want it for yourself?
 
[iii] If you answer in the affirmative to both these questions, then what is there to stop you from bowing your head and heart right now and asking Jesus Christ to save you?
 
Appeal

THE END

OTHER EVANGELICAL LINKS ON REPENTANCE:

*  WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH: here
* SPURGEON'S SERMONS: here and here 

* SPURGEON'S CHAPTERS FROM "ALL OF GRACE" here and  here
* RL DABNEY (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY): here
* JOHN WESLEY'S SERMON: here

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