Repentance and Forgiveness

Speaker: Patrick Severson
Series: Repentance
Sermon Info:
This is sermon #6 in the series on “Repentance unto Life”. In this sermon on Luke 17:3-4, we look at the role forgiveness plays in the process of repentance. Earlier Scripture readings are also included: Micah 4:1-7, Matthew 18:21-35.

A Community of Repentance

Speaker: Patrick Severson
Series: Repentance
Sermon Info:
This is sermon #5 in the series on “Repentance unto Life”. In this sermon on Matthew 18:15-18 we look at how God called the Church to be a community which nurtures and promotes individual repentance, and also how the church may be called to corporate repentance when needed. Earlier Scripture readings are also included: Ezekiel 14:1-11, Revelation 2:1-17.

Matthew 7:21-29 Reading

Matthew 7:21-29

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In this final section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus finished with powerful warnings about the nature of his divine authority. Jesus was not just some religious teacher like many others. Notice, Jesus claimed to be the divine judge at the end of time, “I will say… depart from me…” He was God in the flesh and claimed divine titles and power for himself. If you ignore Jesus, you are not just ignoring some good advice, you are ignoring the mercy of God’s appointed King and Savior, who told you exactly how to repent of your sins and find mercy at the end. The Judge himself has come down to point out the way of salvation. Wouldn’t it be foolish to ignore him?

The first warning Jesus gave here was to those who claimed to be true believers but in fact were not. They did not know Jesus even though they knew a lot about him. This is an ominous warning indeed. These are people who performed miracles like prophecy, casting out demons, and other “mighty works”. Jesus never denied their claims about these acts. But they still did not “know” him. They said, “Lord, Lord,” but still did not truly know Jesus. Judas Iscariot was a prime example of this. He preached and performed miracles along with the other 12 disciples, and walked with Jesus for 3 years, but Jesus called him “the son of destruction”. It’s possible for God to work through the labors of unbelievers. Jesus pointed out the mark of their failure; they did not do “the will of his Father” and were “workers of lawlessness.” In other words, they did not obey the Lord. They performed public works before the crowds in Christ’s name, but in their ordinary lives, they did not have a relationship of trust and obedience to the Lord. This is a theme we see often in the Sermon on the Mount; outward obedience but inward “secret” hypocrisy and unbelief. They thought they were doing ok because the crowd around them provided some affirmation. But they did not truly know and follow Jesus from the heart when no one else was watching. And notice, Jesus did not say “I knew you before you fell away.” No, he said “I NEVER knew you.” This is a good point for reflection. What is the substance of your faith? Are you just going through the motions, even good motions, without any vital relationship to Christ? Are you putting on a good public show, but ignoring God behind closed doors? Is your religion done only to please others, or do you truly seek to know and follow the Lord through the hard and narrow gate?

Jesus finished the sermon with another note of judgment. Those who build upon his Word are like those who build a house upon a foundation of rock. While those who ignore him are building on sand. Notice again, there is a period of time before judgment comes, just like the previous verses. It takes time to see the end of the wide or narrow road, or to see the fruit of false teachers, or to see the true nature of prominent leaders in the church, so it takes time to recognize whether or not your house will stand when the waves of judgment come crashing through. Before that time of testing, both houses may look impressive from the outside. So, how do we know whether or not we are building on the right foundation? Jesus told us, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them…” That is the objective criteria through which you measure and build your life. Do you listen to Jesus? Do you stand in awe of him and his teaching, like the people did here? Do you obey his teaching because that is how we were designed to live as people made in his image? Do you relate to God from the heart on the basis of grace, looking to him as your merciful and generous Father, not as a debtor who owes you for your good works? Is your devotion to God consistent, both in secret and in public? Will you forgive others the way God forgave your sins? Do you look to Jesus as your Savior and King, and live for his kingdom first? Is that the ultimate desire you build your life upon, even when no one else will? Is Christ the one treasure of your heart? If so, then you are building on the rock, and you have every assurance that you know Jesus and he knows you, and the waves of judgment will not harm you but leave you standing firm in eternal glory with him in the end.

Matthew 7:13-20 Reading

Matthew 7:13-20

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In these final sections of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded with some important warnings about false teachers and the importance of recognizing and trusting in His ultimate authority.

Jesus first warned about the hard road for disciples. Often people will object to the exclusiveness of Christianity saying, “if the truth is so clear, everyone should be able to see it” or “if it’s true, then it won’t be hard to follow.” But such objections don’t take into account the strong influence of our sinful hearts and communities. Jesus just finished saying we were “evil”. Our sinful hearts are hostile to God, love their sins and idols, are lazy and undisciplined, and they are dull and slow to understand. There are many other ways to live apart from God, many religions or philosophies to choose from, many more “comfortable” paths to follow, and there will be many companions to join you on these roads, but they all lead to destruction. Christ offers a narrow road, a road that excludes all the others. Only those who follow Christ will find eternal life at the end. And this road is hard, not just because the standards are high (as we’ve seen with all Jesus’ teaching before this) but because so many others resist you with what looks like an easier life. It’s much harder to commit to hard work when you think it is in vain compared to the perks others enjoy with much less labor. So, disciples must always keep the eternal perspective and end goal in mind when it comes to following Jesus. We are resisting a fallen world to pursue eternal life with God, through the only way God revealed it, through Christ.

Next, Jesus warned about false teachers. Another reason the way is narrow and difficult is because false teachers appeal to these sinful desires in our hearts by offering an easier or more attractive way than Jesus offers. Or some will even try to offer Jesus plus the satisfaction of our sinful desires. But the “fruits” of such false teachers will become evident over time. Their teaching may sound appealing and orthodox at first, but the trajectory of their teaching will gradually divide and attack the Christian faith and lead you away from Jesus and the gospel. Sometimes false teachers are obvious, but other times they are more subtle, “ravenous wolves” in sheep’s clothing. This will require patience, discipline, and study as you seek to love and follow Christ on the narrow road. But Jesus also included a warning specifically to the false teachers too; any tree not producing good fruit would eventually be “cut down and thrown into the fire.” Their teaching may sound smoother and easier but, like the wide easy road, it ends in destruction. In the end, you really need to ask yourself, what do you really want? Eternal joy, redemption, and life with Jesus? Or just your best life now with the crowd? You can’t have both.