♦ We come here each month, get to know a bit about you, I thought today I’d tell you a bit about me: I’m Paul, I work in a lab at the hospital doing blood tests. I’ve been married just over 7 years to Rhoda and we have one daughter Hannah who is six years old. So she is at school now, exciting to see her learn to read and write and grow up. It happens so fast. She goes to Linwood North school – they do their best to be involved with the community and help with parenting in a lower socio-economic area. Each week they send home a newsletter – mass of information you get to read. The principal gives a little comment and a thought for the week. This is what was in the newsletter a few weeks ago [OHP]: “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy, you can’t build on it, it’s only good for wallowing in”. What do you think about that for a thought? Is it good advice? Do you agree with it? Is regret a bad thing? Well, you read all this stuff, don’t take that much notice – then I got to thinking about that statement, and the more I thought about it the more stupid it seemed. So I wrote a letter to the principal…..
♦ The “more proven source of wisdom” that I quoted in that letter was, of course, the Bible, God’s Word. [OHP] It was a verse referring to the preaching of John the Baptist who came on the scene just before Jesus to prepare the people for His ministry. It is found in: [Matthew 3:1-2 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”] John preached a message of repentance – this was necessary because the Kingdom of God was imminent. God was going to rule and we all are accountable to the King. Have we been living under the rule of the King or by our own rules? Paul referred to John’s ministry: [Acts 19:4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”]
♦ The message that Jesus preached was exactly the same: [Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ] [Mark 1:14-15 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”] That was at the beginning of His ministry, at the end it was just the same. When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples, this is what He said in some of His last words to them: [Luke 24:45-48 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “You are witnesses of these things. ]
♦ This is exactly the same message that the apostles and the early church preached: Paul said: [Acts 20:20-21 I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.] [Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,] – that verse says that the basic foundational teaching is repentance and faith.
♦ So here are two basic elements of the Gospel, the good news: repentance and faith. And they are both regrets [OHP]. Regret is not bad, it is essential!
♦ Firstly it is regretting the way you have lived, your behaviour, your way of life – to repent. To repent is to turn around 180 degrees and go the opposite direction. There is a nice picture of it in the story of a little man: [Luke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”] Here was a man who extorted his fellow country men, he lived to make a buck and get rich, but after meeting up with Jesus he was giving all his money away – a complete turn around! That is repentance! To repent is to stop the way you’re going, going your own way; turn around and go God’s way. That is the way you come to Jesus. It is the way the Bible proscribes and it is the only way.
♦ I don’t know if there are things you have done in your life which you regret, wished you could live your life over and do differently – most of us have. But this is something even deeper, not just a few incidents, but your whole way of life! To repent also means to change your mind – change your whole mindset, your world-view, your whole way of thinking. You see when John and Jesus preached the Good News it was the good news of the Kingdom. Do a study and you will see that the Good News was always the good news of the Kingdom. They proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was near! That is not good news to most people – Helen Clark won’t like it because it does her out of a job. She doesn’t run the country but Jesus does. But we are the same, we think that our life is our own, we control it and decide what to do, do what we want, have our aspiration, desires, goals. We think that we are kings of our own life! But the Gospel was that the Kingdom was coming – that was the reason to repent. Paul, you’d better stop running and ruling your own life because the King is nearly here! We will soon have to stand before the King and give an account of the way we have lived and for what we have done! You see we have got our whole way of thinking wrong! My life isn’t my own, the King is coming and I have to give an account of the life which has been entrusted to me. Have I submitted to the King’s rule or have I run my own life? [Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;]. Do you know what Paul said when He met up with Jesus in a blinding vision on the road to Damascus? – [Acts 22:10 “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’] – he wasn’t ruling any longer, Jesus was. His whole thinking changed – from thinking Jesus was a heretic whose followers must be destroyed to doing His bidding even in the face of death. A complete turn around! I am not meant to live for myself, for my glory, but for the glory of God. Instead of bringing glory to God I have lived for my own desires, comfort, ambition and wellbeing – we are all the same: [Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.] My whole mindset is wrong – my thinking has to change completely. I need to regret my self-centred thinking and be God centred. The Bible speaks of:[Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.].
♦ So we need to regret our behaviour, our way of thinking – that is to repent. But Jesus also preached not only that we repent but that we believe; have faith in Jesus, in the Gospel. What is this faith? Is to believe in Jesus just to accept that the story of Him is true, that He really did live and die and rise from the dead? No, to believe is not just to give mental assent – it is to place your whole reliance, your total life and being on Him. And that is why it is another thing that we must regret – you see, we are all self-reliant. A man in Philippi suddenly realised this – he’d been living his life, doing his job – he was a warden – ran a prison. Suddenly, one night there was an earthquake, broke the prison apart. Now if his prisoners escaped he would have to pay with his life – he’d be put to death. Life had been going along as normal – then in moment there he was facing death! Everything fell apart, all he’s been relying upon dissolved. He was face to face with death and he wasn’t prepared. He cried out [Acts 16:30- “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”]. But we depend on ourselves, rely on our own goodness. We get accused, we defend ourselves. We try to live a good life, I go to church, I pray, I read my Bible, I do good to my neighbour, treat others as I want to be treated, do my best. It is all self-reliance – depending on what I do. We rely on our goodness – the Bible calls the very best that I do “filthy rags”. I don’t only need to repent of the bad things I have done but also on my “goodness”. You see, my goodness doesn’t make the grade. Jesus said “there is none good but God.” None lives up to His standard. God gave His standard in the Law – no one ever has been able to keep it. And Jesus didn’t make it easier, He made it harder. The Law said” “Don’t commit adultery” Jesus said that if you looked at a woman lustfully you were guilty of adultery. The Law said: “Don’t kill” – Jesus said if you despised your brother you were guilty of murder. There was only One who made the grade, was without sin – and that was Jesus. He was good, therefore He is God! When Paul said to the jailer “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” – it meant that the jailer saw that Jesus was God Himself! He had to throw all His reliance upon the goodness of God, in Jesus who by His death carried out the death penalty that he merited. And who now lived, relying upon His righteousness given to him instead of his own deeds. [2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.]. That is the way to be saved from death. But all this time I have been depending upon myself, on my goodness, when I should have been relying on Jesus’ goodness. Depending upon His righteousness instead of my own. The whole place of my reliance has been wrong! These are things we must come to deeply regret: our sinful behaviour, our thinking, our independence of God and our self reliance. Now is the time to repent and put your faith solely in Jesus and what He has done when He died on the cross and took the punishment you deserved and rose again to prove that He was sinless, death had no claim to Him. We must change our direction of living, our thinking and our reliance. Repent and believe because the Kingdom of God is near! – soon we will have to stand before the King and give account to Him.