A Call to Repentance
A Call to Repentance
Responsive Reading – Luke 13.1-5
Text: Zechariah 1.1-6
Introduction: The main purpose of Zechariah’s prophecy is to provide encouragement, hope and solace. Nevertheless, there is no more fitting beginning than sounding the keynote of all true spiritual activity, to repent and turn to God. Nothing is more important and of greater urgency. This call to repentance is conditional; if you do not, then these are the consequences; if you do repent, then this is what will happen. I want to speak to you concerning “A Call to Repentance.” In doing so, I want to look at the call to repent, the consequences of not repenting and then the consequences of repenting.
I. There is a Historical Background to this Particular Call to Repentance.
A. First, there is a reason why there is a need to repent. “The Lord has been very angry with your fathers.”
B. 2 Chronicles 36
Ezra 3.1-3, 6
Ezra 4.13, 21-24
Ezra 6.1-3, 6 and 12
Haggai 1 we find the Lord getting to the issue of this particular call: They were putting off building the temple. But that was not the main problem, it was engrossment in the work of repairing their private fortunes and comforts of life instead of a full and diligent pursuit of the things of God.
II. A Call to Repentance – “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Turn unto Me.” “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.” Zechariah 1.3 & 4
A. This is a message of true repentance. It fitting that a book of the Lord’s mercy and grace should begin with a Call to Repentance. Unbelievably, this is one facet of modern age of preaching conspicuously missing. Listen to just a few quotes concerning the issue of repentance and then we will compare them to the Scripture:
Lewis Chafer, in his Systematic Theology, lists repentance as one of “the more common features of human responsibility which are too often erroneously added to the one requirement of faith or belief.”
The Ryrie Study Bible, in a synopsis of doctrine, lists repentance as “a false addition to faith.”
Another says, “The Bible requires repentance for salvation, but repentance does not mean to turn from sin, nor a change in one’s conduct.”
Now consider what the Lord says:
He had called their fathers to repent and they did not.
He calls them to repent - “Turn to Me. Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.”
John’s message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus’ message was “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Peter preached, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
Paul preached, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”
This is clearly the message to men from the Lord. Always has been and always will be.
B. Turn from your evil ways and your evil deeds. This involves both attitudes (ways) and actions (deeds).
C. When would be the best time to repent? “Turn now from your evil ways and deeds. Today is the Day of Salvation. Their fathers came to a point when they did repent, but it was too late. They found the Lord to be right. “So they returned and said, ‘Just as the Lord of hosts determined to do to us…so He has dealt with us.’”
D. However, they found this to be too late. Judgment had come. “It is appointed to every man to die and then the judgment.” You will bow your knee now or then. Hell is full of those who would not turn to God. “Do not be like your fathers.” Do not be unrepentant. Do not be stubborn. Do not do evil. Don’t end up in hell with them. Repent. This involves a wonderful thing. You don’t have to be like Daddy. “Every one shall die for his own iniquity.”
III. The Two Conditions
There are two possible conditions from our response to this call; if you do turn and if you do not turn. However, I want to take them out of the order in the Scripture. I want to look at the negative response first and then consider the positive response to this Call to Repentance.
A. Negatively – We can be just like our fathers. “They mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets.” They would not turn. There are the results of such a response.
Results – He gives them in three questions. We will take the first two questions together.
1. Where are your fathers?
2. Where are the prophets?
The fathers are all gone. We have a very short time on this earth. As the flower of the field, we too will pass away. No sooner has the sun risen with burning heat than it withers the grass’ its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. All men are like a vapor appearing for a little time and then vanishing away.
Our own discoveries of the Lord are here but a while and gone in a moment. Consider all the things we have hashed out and learned concerning the Lord. They will be gone and another generation will have to fight for these things again for them selves.
The young man’s strength is but a few years.
A young woman’s beauty is gone very quickly.
Our intellect may be tremendous in our youth, but in our latter years we loose it all.
Our lives are but brief, momentary and transient. I grew up only block from the Mississippi River; but it wasn’t until I was with my father-in-law as he lay in the bed, his life hanging by a thread, watching the ships that went by that night. There must have been 20 or 30 large cargo ships that night. I never knew it. That is how our lives are. No one realizes before they have come and gone.
Where are the Prophets? They are gone as well. All of them through the centuries are gone. Never to be heard from again. I was thinking of Charles Spurgeon. We have all the sermons he preached, but I have no idea how he delivered them. Reading some of Martyn Lloyd-Jones works only sparks some questions I would like to ask him. But as much blessing these men have been to us, they are gone. There are those who have preached to us here at the camps who are now gone. There will be shortly, more and more, until finally, all of them will be gone. Those who preach to you now will one by one be gone.
At best, we are dying men preaching to dying people. What does this question tell us? That as men our lives are fragile, mortal and passing.
The last question:
3. Were they not overtaken? Whether men who do not repent, men who do repent or the prophets that preach to them, they are all overtaken by the Word of God.
This word overtake makes me think of a lion or tiger overtaking it prey. It matters not whether you believe or obey the word of God, it will over take you. For good or evil, the word of God will overtake.
If you do not repent, believe and obey the Word of the Lord, it will overtake you to your destruction. Their fathers found this out, although too late. (verse 6) All of God’s wrath, His fierce judgment and eternal fire will burn hot against you and destroy you.
However, if you do repent, believe and obey the Word of the Lord, it will overtake you in blessing and promise fulfilled. It may appear total destruction is on the forefront, but His promises will overtake you. Truth stands regardless of the lie and slander. We do not have to worry about the truth. The Word of the Lord is eternal and enduring. It is constant and unvarying.
Permeating the theme of these six verses is the phrase, “Thus says the Lord of Hosts.” The message is not Zechariah’s. He did not sit around trying to come up with something to preach. Look at verse one: “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah…” It was so impressive, the prophet remembers when it came.
B. Positively –as was the response of the Prodigal Son who arose and came to his father and said, “Father I have sinned against You” so is the response to turn unto God. However, the results are marvelous, just like the message of this book. “If you turn to Me,”
Then “I will Turn to you.” How wonderful is the Lord? After all of the evil and wickedness, if any man turns, then God will turn to him. How gracious and full of mercy! This is the glory of the Lord that Moses saw, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
He is just like the father of the Prodigal Son. Luke 15.20-24
Never should we get the idea that God will not turn to someone who has turned to Him. If someone says, “I tried to find God, but could not.” You know that to be a lie. But never forget that God cannot turn to someone who has not turned to Him first. He cannot because it is against His character of holiness. He is light. He is truth.
What is your state this morning? You say well, you don’t know my condition or my state, maybe not. But, I know this that if you turn to the Lord, He will turn to you. “Draw nigh unto Him and He will draw nigh unto you.”